ATN: What are the targets of EUROCONTROL under your leadership?
FB: European ATM now has a range of targets, in particular as a result of the Single European Sky Performance Scheme. I welcome this development as it means that everyone is now much more focused on improving the performance of European ATM, something that is very clearly needed.
EUROCONTROL has the objective of helping European ATM to meet these targets. In part, this is by making a direct contribution – for example in our ANSP role in Maastricht, our tactical role as Network Manager and the very significant contribution to cost-efficiency, as EUROCONTROL has committed to its Member States to contribute fully to the RP1-RP2 cost-efficiency performance targets.
However, just as important is our role in helping stakeholders meet their own targets. This can range from very specific actions, such as collaborating on the introduction of Free Routes Airspace, to more general programmes, such as our Centralised Services initiative.
ATN: What is your opinion on the observers in FABs?
FB: EUROCONTROL has 40 Member States, extending much wider than the EU. We also have the role of Network Manager so we are in a position to see very clearly the growing importance of the network. If we are to achieve the levels of improvement in performance that Europe needs, we must take action across the entire network. The Single European Sky has to be expanded to be a Single Pan-European Sky covering the whole of Europe, not just the EU 28.
I welcome anything that can help make this a reality. That includes expanding the existing coverage of the FABs and also making best use of the pan-European nature of EUROCONTROL. Indeed, we are currently investigating further expansion of our membership, including perhaps to countries that are not in ECAC.
ATN: Can the flexible use of airspace between the military and the civil airspace actually work in practice?
FB: Flexible Use of Airspace not only can work in practice, it already does! A recent survey found that EUROCONTROL’s role in helping civil and military to achieve a close cooperation is well recognised by our stakeholders and is considered to be a priority for the future.
Improvements are always possible and indeed one of our proposed Centralised Services is AFUAS, or Advanced Flexible Use of Airspace. The intention is to make the process much more responsive so that, for example, if some airspace is freed up by the military sooner than expected, then this can be immediately made available to civil air traffic. That means making sure that the airspace users have access to the very latest information across the whole of Europe, as well as the tools they need to optimise their flight plans to reflect any changes.
ATN: Can you please compare the NextGen with the SES?
FB: There are a lot of similarities and consistencies. Technically we work hard to make sure that aircraft will be able to operate in both systems and here there has been a lot of progress at ICAO level – for example at the recent Air Navigation Conference.
There are also many differences, not least because the two continents have very varying challenges. Here in Europe we are faced with a more expensive system than necessary, largely as a result of fragmentation. We have particular issues on, for example, airport capacity.
NextGen is focusing at the moment a lot on the implementation of Performance Based Navigation (PBN). Both continents are faced with the challenge of investing for the future at a time when money is very tight. We need to make sure that our investments yield clear benefits and we therefore have to ask the question as to whether we want to continue to deploy every piece of equipment in each Centre or TMA.
ATN: When the single European sky will be reality?
FB: There is no one point at which we can suddenly say “We now have a Single European Sky”. It is inevitably a progressive process with a series of milestones rather than one single event. We have already made more progress than many people realise. For example, SESAR has gone through a definition phase and is now delivering ideas for products. Our appointment as Network Manager has been a concrete and measurable success. But the most significant change has been the creation of the Performance Scheme which is starting to change the mindset of everyone in the industry.
There is still a long way to go. For example, we have not yet seen much in the way of results from the Functional Airspace Blocks. Here EUROCONTROL is organising workshops so that we can share best practice and accelerate the process of making the FABs work.
But we are sure that, without the Performance Scheme as part of the SES, we would not have the developments resulting in more efficiency which we currently see.
ATN: What is the cooperation EUROCONTROL has with airlines?
FB: We have an excellent level of cooperation with the airlines, which welcome the progress that the Network Manager has made since its appointment. There is a liaison officer from the airlines at our Operations Centre and this has been extremely useful, especially at times of disruption (eg strikes or inclement weather). In fact, this has a real benefit in general because we are developing a better understanding of what the airlines’ problems are and how we might help them.
An example of this is the work done with the Hellenic service provider on the Greek island airports. Here the Network Manager, the ANSP and the airlines worked together to address a shortage of ATC controllers that was causing very significant delays.
ATN: What are the future plans for EUROCONTROL?
FB: We are currently in discussions with our stakeholders on our Vision and Strategy. It is based on how EUROCONTROL can help to drive excellence in ATM performance and is structured around twelve vision points – areas where we see we have a key role to play or development to make. A key part of this is developing and strengthening our role of Network Manager.
One particular way in which we plan to achieve this is the Centralised Services initiative. The basic concept is that there are some services, mostly to do with the handling of data (something that is increasingly important in ATM), that can be performed more effectively and at a lower cost when organised at a pan-European level rather than being deployed in each FAB, ANSP or even in each Control Centre.
ATN: What do you think the air transport industry will look 10 years from now?
FB: We do expect that traffic growth will return, even if at a slower rate than we have previously experienced. This will mean increasing pressure on the busiest airports – some of which will be operating at close to capacity for much of the day. This will mean that there will be an even greater need for more efficient coordination and planning of traffic across the entire network.
The trend for greater focus on performance will continue and the industry will be come more efficient at making the most effective use of resources, such as operating Free Routes Airspace, optimising the use of airports and making better use of the technology already on aircraft
ATN: Do you have any additional thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of Air Transport News?
FB: EUROCONTROL was founded over fifty years ago on the concept that European ATM would be more efficient if it operated in partnership. Since then technology has changed hugely and we have grown from just six members in 1960 to forty at the beginning of 2014. However, the basic concept remains valid. Indeed, more than ever, we cannot afford to operate in isolation. The sky does not end at a national boundary and every country needs to manage its airspace in coordination with its neighbours.
EUROCONTROL is committed to helping to make that happen.