Brussels has weighed in on the contentious issue of how to proceed with getting the troubled datalink project back on track.
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A study published earlier this year by technical experts at the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SJU) demonstrated that the technology which Europe had adopted is already near to exceeding its capacity limits and concluded that Europe now needs to adopt a multi-frequency approach as a matter of priority.
A year earlier the A6 Alliance of European air navigation service providers had secured European funding to define the best way to provide datalink. It was at that time agreed that alliance members and Eurocontrol – which had earmarked providing datalink as a future centralised service (termed CS9) – would hold joint talks on hammering out the technical, organisational and governance requirements.
The partners were also charged with determining the most appropriate business model for such services, including a full cost-benefit analysis. It now appears that the Eurocontrol strategy for the CS9 process to lead the deployment has hit a dead-end after the alliance raised concerns over the approach taken by the Brussels-based organisation.
Concerns focussed on Eurocontrol’s latest proposal which featured only a superficial cost benefit analysis and lacked a full assessment of the economic impact of any centralisation of what is termed European Air/Ground Data Communication Services (EAGDCS).
The European Commission therefore drafted a decision that was ratified last month at the Council of Ministers which instructed member states on the policy they must adopt at the Eurocontrol Permanent Commission going forward. This body represents member states at ministerial level and formulates general policy.
It still wants the EU member states’ air navigation service providers to collaborate with Eurocontrol on the development of a technology demonstrator but additionally directs them;
- to take full account of technical work performed by the SJU on the demonstrator so it avoids any ‘misalignment’ between ongoing and possible future work of itself and Eurocontrol in the development of a future centralised service;
- to ensure that EASA is involved given that the European aviation safety regulator will be in charge of the certification and oversight of any centrally provided service. “This should avoid potential mismatches in this area and thus ensure that funds, coming from route charges, but also from Union support, are spent most efficiently”;
- to not pursue any framework governing the future procurement, deployment and operation of such a centralised service in the Single Sky region ‘so as to maximise cost efficiency’.
As one Brussels observer pointed out to Air Traffic Management: “CS9 is no more an option and its successor EAGDCS is now being pursued on the SESAR track as requested by the Commission.”
“This policy indicates that the Commission wants to closely manage the evolution of what Eurocontrol originally proposed as CS9 and for which the A6 has got [European] funding to do further work,” said another senior industry source.
He added that the datalink subject will be a good test of how the SESAR Deployment Manager will position itself compared to Eurocontrol. “It will be interesting to see what the A6 does through the Deployment Manager and what they do outside on datalink service provision. The Commission will no doubt control the Deployment Manager’s actions and datalink service provision is complicated enough to be a good test of the role they give it,” he said.
A spokesman for the SESAR Deployment Manager said: “The Council’s decision to be taken on behalf of the European Union on centralised services, is directed towards the technological and safety aspects of this issue. The SESAR Deployment Manager is not involved directly with this as is it not within the mandate we received from the European Commission. Presently, we are not ready to assess what the impact will be on deployment aspects.”
Read European datalink crippled by ATN capacity show-stopper