France is hobbling Single Sky progress: Senate

French air traffic control must learn from its mistakes and make significant efforts if it is to handle the ever-increasing levels of air traffic with renewed efficiency, according to a Senate report which proposes a raft of sweeping measures.
The report by Senator Vincent Capo-Canellas (Union Centriste – Seine-Saint-Denis) takes French air traffic control to task and makes several recommendations on how the modernisation of air traffic control under Direction of Air Navigation Services (DSNA) should proceed if it is to get back on track.
The report forms part of a budget review in which Senator Capo-Canellas, a special rapporteur of the finance committee, conducted around 15 hearings in the Senate and made several visits to area control centres in addition to Brussels to meet representatives of the European Commission and Eurocontrol.
According to the senator, “the current state of French air traffic control is worrying due to the obsolescence of its systems which, if they do not pose a safety problem, create much of the delay and makes France seem an obstacle to the Single European Sky.
“The various delays accumulated – in terms of minutes as part of modernisation efforts – are making France look like a real stumbling block compared to our European partners, with whom we are building a Single European Sky.”
He said France is struggling to complete the major technology programmes that DSNA has been leading since the beginning of the 2000s and whose total cost is now estimated at €2.1 billion. “Deadlines are constantly being pushed back and the maintenance costs of the current system are rocketing,” he said, adding that more capacity-building systems could increase controller productivity considerably. “All the major European countries are managing to deliver on this,” he pointed out.
Air traffic controlled by DSNA is growing by 4 per cent per year and the question of a ‘capacity wall’ is looming, although Capo-Canellas warns that neither the equipment and software nor the workforce organisation are adapting to this challenge. French air traffic control, alone accounts for 33 per cent of delays throughout Europe although manages only 20 per cent of its traffic, he pointed out. “Everything suggests that the situation will deteriorate in the coming years. Drastic solutions must be sought to get it back on track,” he said.
The other major issue for managing more traffic  focuses on the workforce with Capo-Canellas judging that controllers must become much more flexible and adapted to the seasonal traffic flows especially during peak periods.
“It is essential to limit the impact of the French air traffic controllers’ strikes on the organisation of European air traffic. These strikes represented from 2004 to 2016 nothing less than 67 per cent of the days of air traffic controller strike action in Europe,” he said, noting that France is routinely blamed for this on the international stage.
He said the current system of requisitioning 50 per cent of controller staff during industrial action  leads to sharp reductions in the number of flights even though the number of unionised controllers is actually quite low. The senator suggests that the Diard law which obliges staff to declare whether or not they intend to strike could be adopted in adapted form for ATC staff.

1 Comment

  1. Looking at article’s title there is a slight misunderstanding about the FR Senate report observations regarding Single European Sky (SES) legislation.
    Part I chapter B title is “LE CIEL UNIQUE EUROPÉEN, UN PROJET AUJOURD’HUI À L’ARRÊT” = The Single European Sky, a project now halted.
    chapter C title is : “LE BILAN DES TROIS POLITIQUES-CLÉS DU CIEL UNIQUE EUROPÉEN DEMEURE POUR LE MOMENT RELATIVEMENT MODESTE” = the current achievements of the three key policies of the SES legislation remain small.

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