Brussels mulling EUIR upper airspace region

Brussels is to examine establishing an upper airspace region across the whole of the European Union to offset the impact of future strike action by air traffic controllers.
The European Commission announced today that it is to launch a pilot project to investigate strengthening the architecture of European airspace in an effort to improve the continuity of air navigation services across Europe.
It said that a European Upper Information Region or EUIR could well offer a way in which neighbouring air navigation service providers (ANSP) could assume responsibility for aircraft overflying countries by creating a specific airspace zone where the same procedures and operational concept would apply.
It noted that while European airspace is today divided into national flight information regions (FIR) – specific regions of airspace in which flight information services are provided – the EUIR concept is already enshrined in Single European Sky legislation. If applied, this would allow establishing a unified flight information region over Europe by grouping existing national FIRs.
“Grouping FIRs into a unified EUIR does not affect sovereignty of member states over their airspace. It materialises the concept of a block of airspace where the same rules and procedures apply, including for addressing contingency aspects and ensuring the continuity of air traffic services,” the Commission said. “The EUIR would result in operational benefits, such as better use of available capacity, environment benefits, cost effectiveness and fully harmonised operation.”
The Commission notes that Single European Sky rules already allow ANSPs to enter into cooperative agreements, on bilateral or multilateral bases, to improve the flexibility of the airspace in crisis situations, as contingency measures. “Under such ANSP cooperative agreements, ANSPs may determine on a case-by-case basis the rules and procedures allowing other ANSPs to take partial control of their airspace in order to relieve the capacity disruptions,” it said.
Some member states such as Italy, Greece and Spain have already adopted measures intended to preserve continuity of service for 100 per cent of flights crossing the airspace of an affected area. “Although in certain cases, an amount of delay cannot be avoided, this practice allows overall for a decrease of the traffic disruption and limits the negative consequences of the strike on the overall network,” the Commission said.
It added that the study has been launched following a request made by the European Parliament to explore the establishment of an EUIR.