Cap-strapped ATC joins forces with Eurocontrol

Europe’s air navigation providers have lent their support to Eurocontrol in an effort to help solve the capacity issues that brought the network to its knees in some part of the region this summer

An intergovernmental organisation, Eurocontrol supports European aviation by working closely with its partners to develop a seamless, pan-European air traffic management system while maintaining a high level of safety, reducing costs and respecting the environment. Eurocontrol also works closely with EU institutions and provides technical support to the European Commission for the implementation of the Single European Sky

At a high-level CEO meeting yesterday, senior representatives of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) in Europe met Eamonn Brennan, the director general of Eurocontrol, to discuss how the two organisations can work more closely to address the pressing issues of airspace capacity across Europe.

The meeting focused on defining how CANSO and Eurocontrol can jointly address the challenges posed by the growth in European air traffic in the context of the Single European Sky. With a broad and high-level focus, it agreed common lines of action and priority issues to be addressed at working level over the coming months.

Brennan said Eurocontrol was focused on supporting European aviation. “With traffic estimated to grow by 1.9 per cent a year over the coming 20 years, and delays in 2018 hitting record highs, we need to address the capacity gap and ensure that passengers can rely on the aviation network to get them to their destinations on time. Both Eurocontrol and CANSO need to work even more closely together right now and into the future so that our sector is able to provide an efficient ATM system that can deliver the capacity the airlines need.”

CANSO Europe chief Jan Klas said: “While right now the focus is rightly on capacity building, we mustn’t lose focus of other equally important factors in the context of the lifecycle of air traffic management (ATM) planning. Eurocontrol, including through its role as the designated Network Manager, has an important role to play in working with air navigation service providers to plan for the future. The rich sources of data that it consolidates can help increase understanding of the interplay between cost efficiency, capacity, safety and environmental performance and ensure we find sustainable solutions to the challenges of strong traffic growth. We look forward to working with Eurocontrol in ensuring a high-performing ATM network across Europe.”

Comment The reality is that some air traffic control service providers in the core European area simply failed to take account of low traffic forecast in their planning and consequently invest in new air traffic controllers with the return to growth this summer. The consequence of this mismanagement is that they will be short of staff over the next few years and so delays will continue to plague the network. There is little the industry can do in the short term other than trying to divert traffic from bottlenecks to neighbouring areas that are less congested. While this may reduce delays it increases the impact on the environment due to the longer routes flown. Next summer, air traffic controllers will need to be prepared to work more during the summer and at weekends, possibly postponing their own holidays – otherwise the effects of the capacity crunch could well be worse than this year.