Although airspace is a common resource, air traffic management (ATM) in the European Union is still organised in a fragmented way. This fragmentation could potentially impact on safety; it limits capacity, and above all, it adds to cost.
The key to improved capacity and efficiency, enhanced safety and lower costs of air navigation services, is through enhanced cooperation and integration across borders. The establishment of functional airspace blocks (FABs) will lead to increased cooperation and integration in air navigation service provision.
What is a FAB?
A Functional Airspace Block (FAB) is defined in the Single European Sky legislative package, namely Regulation (EC) No. 1070/2009 amending Regulation (EC) No. 549/2004, as an airspace block based on operational requirements and established regardless of State boundaries, where the provision of air navigation services and related functions is performance-driven and optimised through enhanced cooperation among air navigation service providers or, when appropriate, an integrated provider.
The current reorganisation of the 67 airspace blocks in Europe - all based on national boundaries - into only nine functional airspace blocks is a major achievement.
Defragmenting European airspace
The FAB concept was developed in the 1st legislative package of the Single European Sky (SES I) as one of the main means for reducing airspace fragmentation. The 2nd legislative package (SES II) tackled the creation of FABs in terms of service provision, in addition to the airspace organisation issues.
The twofold objective of the legislative packagers is to optimise air traffic flows and increase the efficiency of air traffic services in Europe.
SES II lays down a definite commitment date for the Member States to improve performance by implementing FABs, i.e. 4 December 2012. Nine FAB initiatives have been taken; two of these have already been implemented, namely the UK-Ireland and Denmark-Sweden FABs:
NEFAB (North European FAB): Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway.
Denmark-Sweden: Denmark, Sweden
BALTIC FAB Poland, Lithuania
FABEC (FAB Europe Central): France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland
FABCE (FAB Central Europe): Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina