Eurocontrol role proves decisive in delivering peak season ATM capacity

Eurocontrol’s efforts to help improve ATM efficiency and effectiveness demonstrated how the Brussels-based organisation helped optimise airspace capacity, minimise disruptions and improve environmental performance during the busiest summer on record.
Over the three summer months of June, July and August, there were 3.2 million flights in the Eurocontrol network, up 0.9 per cent on last year. This is an average of nearly 35,000 flights a day, with peaks of over 37,000.
The improved performance followed efforts by European air navigation service providers and Eurocontrol to jointly address the challenges posed by the growth in European air traffic in the context of the Single European Sky through addressing common lines of action and priority issues.
Insufficient capacity and rising demand across the region has already prompted the European Commission (EC) to look for new solutions. Speaking at a June conference, the head of the EC’s Single European Sky (SES) unit Christine Berg said the framework put in place over the past 15 years had not fulfilled its objectives: “We need new scenarios and remove some of the existing ones to meet the challenges and opportunities on the horizon.”
Brussels is now mulling options although an enhanced role for the Eurocontrol Network Manager (NM) looks certain with a much more important role potentially expanding tactical flow management activities and synchronising operations and technology. An expert group which earlier this year published the ‘Wise Persons Report’ also called on the NM to ‘identify the ATM infrastructure needed to support the future development of the network’, including ‘transition towards a digital environment in consultation with ANSPs. Supporting this process, the Commission said it planned to release proposals for a new Common Project by the end of 2019.
The ANSPs which made the most contribution to easing the summer congestion were not identified but speaking through industry body – the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) – which met with Eurocontrol last week, they outlined how innovation and partnership in the ATM industry had helped to tackle these unprecedented levels of air traffic.
Eurocontrol reported that ANSPs had worked better together to re-distribute traffic; taking a more Europe-wide rather than national approach to managing traffic; and gaining access to airspace normally reserved for military use.
Tanja Grobotek, CANSO’s director of European affairs, said it would continue to deliver strong Europe-wide performance while also addressing the challenge of the environmental impact of aviation and implementing the newest technologies.
Eamonn Brennan, Eurocontrol director general, welcomed progress and said it proves that managing Europe’s airspace as a network can and does help reduce delays. “However,”he said, “we still have much work to do to return to the performance levels of 2017.  There are structural problems and we need to reform the way we do business,” adding that Eurocontrol  would continue to support CANSO members to deliver this.
In June, CANSO launched its 2035 Vision highlighting the active role that ANSPs play as key industrial partners in addressing the capacity and environmental challenges the European aviation sector is facing. CANSO members have also published a series of unique insights into the specific measures being taken by ANSPs to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of air transport.