Benavent to lead network operations initiative to meet capacity challenge

ENAIRE’s Xavier Benavent is to lead the operations directors from the air navigation service providers that are members of Eurocontrol.

Appointed by Eurocontrol’s Network Management Board, Benavent’s new responsibilities come at a complex time, marked by the challenge of maintaining safety while managing growth in air traffic and capacity, delivering efficient airspace use and improved punctuality.

Benavent, an air traffic controller, commercial aviation pilot and communications engineer, was appointed ENAIRE’s operations director in 2017.

The executive group, formed of the main operational managers in Europe, was created to promote measures for new flight paths, create an interface of flight flows between countries, improve availability of operational resources and support European network management.

Eurocontrol, an intergovernmental organisation with 41 member countries, is implementing an action plan that includes specific measures, such as diverting almost a thousand flights per day, between April and November, so that traffic flows are reduced in the saturated areas of Karlsruhe (Germany), Marseille (France) and Maastricht (the Netherlands), all of which are facing capacity problems.

Spanish provider ENAIRE said it is actively working to be part of the solution to Europe’s air traffic congestion and will take on more than 160 additional flights per day during summer, through 48 new ‘overflow’ routes. Between June and August, ENAIRE is expecting to manage 660,000 flights and is preparing for this by driving a series of cross-cutting measures across its five control centres, as well as bespoke measures at each of them.

Germany’s DFS meanwhile said it had also initiated various measures to provide more capacity this year including increasing the number of trainee air traffic controllers. This year, 122 new employees will commence their training, with 146 planned for 2020. In addition, air traffic controllers are being relieved from special tasks, project work for example, so they can spend more time at their working position.

In cooperation with Eurocontrol, DFS said it too is launching an initiative to distribute air traffic more evenly across Europe by allowing lower level flight; diverting traffic around particularly busy airspace and ensuring flight plans are followed more precisely.

DFS estimates that there will be 3.5 million flight movements in 2019, an increase of 3.4 per cent over the previous year – an average of 420 flights more every day than in 2018.

Seven Network-Wide Measures for Summer 2019

Enhanced NM/ANSPs network measures for summer 2019 A number of ANSPs will continue to face structural airspace and staff shortage issues in 2019.. The successful NM/4ACCs initiative of last summer will be expanded in 2019 to include more centres and interfaces between busy neighbouring sectors.

Preparation of the Network Operations Plan (NOP) 2019-2024, including sector opening schemes and rostering The new edition of the Network Operations Plan will cover a six-year period (2019-2024) to include the full third Reporting Period three (RP3) and respond to the requirements of the Performance Scheme IR, covering ANSPs’ expected capacity requirements for RP3. Updates will be made, as necessary, following the decision of the European Commission on the new RP3 targets.

Network Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) process for the management of en-route weather There was a significant amount of bad weather in summer 2018. Large areas were simultaneously affected, generating a very high amount of weather delay; the lack of structural capacity in some areas exacerbated the weather’s impact.

A more network-oriented approach is needed to handle the situation when large areas are affected by weather. This will be addressed through:

  • new network procedures for managing en-route weather
  • the definition of roles and responsibilities
  • more NM-oriented decision-making on en-route weather management.

Harmonisation of Flexible Use of Airspace (FUA) application and Enhanced FUA procedures While civil-military cooperation has made significant progress over the past years, more must be done to achieve true harmonisation of the FUA application in highly congested airspace.

New procedures are being planned for the availability of civil-military airspace and for the network synchronisation of the utilisation of civil-military airspace at times of high/complex traffic, and during bad weather. We will be paying particular attention to the harmonisation of procedures between Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Network CDM process to optimise ATFM regulations In summer 2018, a significantly high number of ATFM regulations were recorded. A number of those regulations were unnecessary, and created demand volatility and unnecessary delay in the network.

A more network-oriented approach to the application of ATFM regulations is needed. This will be achieved through:

  • new network procedures for applying ATFM regulations
  • better definition of roles and responsibilities
  • more NM-oriented decision-making on applying ATFM regulations.

Addressing structural airspace bottlenecks In summer 2018, a high number of ATC control centres (ACCs) showed structural sectorisation problems with high traffic demand being recorded in elementary sectors.

There is an urgent need to start addressing a number of structural airspace design problems in order to avoid further aggravation in the longer term.

To this effect, NM will create three major seamless airspace re-sectorisation projects which will be developed on the basis of operational requirements.

ANSPs to work with social partners to avoid strikes or to provide improved notification to airlines and NM ANSPs are expected to continue their work with social partners to avoid industrial action as far as they can. When this is not possible, it is expected that strike notification procedures will be followed precisely so that appropriate notification can be given to airspace users and NM in order to allow for the timely preparation and coordination of the consequent network mitigation measures.