The Borealis Alliance – looking at the way forward

ATM had the opportunity to speak with François Huet about his recent move to the Borealis Alliance in the midst of an unsure and challenging time in our industry.  Today’s post is part two of a two part interview.  If you missed part one, you can view it here.

Q – What are you hearing are the biggest challenges currently facing your ANSP members?

A – To this, I would like to add, first, the development of the framework enabling the function of ATM Data Service Provision (ADSP). Contained in the Airspace Architecture Study developed by the SESAR JU, this function aims at enabling the high-quality cross-border flow of data needed for the dynamic airspace configuration, cross-border air traffic services and “capacity on demand”. Achieving this will allow the system to become more resilient and scalable, which is what we need to better face crises like the one we are going through at present, and better accommodate traffic growth when it comes back.  Borealis is actively taking part in this development and is identifying the opportunities for being among the first movers’ as soon as scenarios clarify, when the current Commission study will have delivered its results.

Finally, the last main challenge I am thinking of at present is the need to safely, but quickly and efficiently, allow the integration of unmanned aviation – drones- into all categories of airspace, controlled or uncontrolled. These “new entrants” in the aviation world know an exponential growth. We all want to allow this new business to blossom, develop, create jobs and participate in the economic wealth, and do so safety for manned aviation. We also want to show that, industrially, Europe remains in the leading league against its competitors from other regions of the world. Monitoring the discussions on the EASA opinion 01/2020 on the “High-level regulatory framework for the U-space” and contributing to the improvement of the text, giving ANSPs opportunities and a proper role, respecting their obligations and preserving the safety of the airspace, will certainly be a key challenge for the coming months.

Of course, to this short list we could add the evolution of the role of the Network Manager, the future of SESAR deployment, of the SESAR JU itself with an expected new partnership for a “SESAR 3” programme, or the adoption of CP1, resulting from the merger of the reviewed pilot common project and the reviewed proposal for a CP2. There are certainly more…The ATM world is not short of challenges in the current environment!

Q – Do you see that ongoing technology infrastructure and member collaboration projects could be delayed by COVID-19?

A – The last months have seen a dramatic shift of priorities from addressing aggressively the delay situation to cost-efficiency measures, needed for the survival of both airlines and ANSPs. Environment is also crucial as a consequence of the European Green Deal. As a result, the projects that are only addressing the capacity issue, such as the airspace reconfiguration, are temporarily to be put on hold. Unfortunately, the same goes with the projects towards scalability and resilience: Whilst the current crisis demonstrates the absolute need for a more modular and scalable ANS system that would have made our network more resilient (how  efficiently could we react today to the closure on a ACC due to the pandemic affecting its operational staff?), the magnitude of the change needed to achieve this is currently unaffordable for ANSPs and probably undeliverable by the manufacturing industry. But, in the Borealis Alliance, we know that this “de-prioritisation” is only temporary. Being on the leading side in terms of data sharing, cross-border service provision and dynamic airspace management, we intend to put these issues back on the top of its list as soon as the post-crisis scenarios will be better known.

Q – How can the Alliance help ANSPs through this tough time in our industry?

A – In a European context, speaking in a single voice is always powerful and more likely to be successful. The philosophy with which I approach my role is to always at least try to come with solutions rather than problems. Better results are always achieved with constructive and proactive proposals leaving room for honest discussion, rather than with a defensive approach. This approach is the one adopted as a principle by the Borealis Alliance, and this is why I already feel comfortable in my new role. My hope is that this philosophy, coupled with my knowledge of the European ecosystem will allow me to bring added value and make the Borealis Alliance positions and proposals known and respected. ANSPs are part of the solution to the ATM challenges and Borealis intends to be a driving and constructive force in the months ahead of us.

For the last 5 years François Huet has been serving within the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) team as Master Plan Programme Manager and has managed the 2015 and 2018-2020 ATM Master Plan update campaigns. Previously he was Head of the Cabinet Office of the French Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC), a member of the EUROCONTROL.