Article

The European ATM Master Plan and EUROCONTROL’s role in wider ATM transformation

Marouan Chida

Marouan Chida, Head of the EUROCONTROL's ATM Transformation Unit

The new European Air Traffic Management (ATM) Master Plan will be a key resource in the transformation of European ATM into a high performing, digital and sustainable ecosystem. EUROCONTROL’s mission is to support European aviation stakeholders in navigating this transformation and to support strategic, data-driven investment decisions

By the end of 2024 a new edition of the European Air Traffic Management (ATM) Master Plan is due to be endorsed by the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking (SJU) Governing Board, following a wide stakeholder consultation up to the Single Sky Committee and EUROCONTROL Provisional Council. For Europe’s ATM community this is a pivotal document – the agreed roadmap for ATM modernisation to achieve the performance objectives of the Single European Sky (SES).

The current edition of the ATM Master Plan (published in December 2019) defined the vision of a Digital European Sky by 2040 to be reached in 4 successive phases A to D. It outlines the essential operational and technological changes that will be needed to deliver Single European Sky performance objectives. But Europe’s aviation industry has undergone some seismic changes since 2019, so a campaign to update the Master Plan by 2024 was officially launched in October 2023 at the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking's second annual conference (see “Planning for European ATM transformation by defining success criteria”).

EUROCONTROL has a key role in supporting the development of this important strategy for Europe. The Agency leverages its data and knowledge to inform on future investment priorities (in research and deployment), to help build consensus on some fundamental issues (civil-military cooperation, new entrants, sustainability, network capacity, cyber…) and most importantly maintain the big picture through modern Enterprise Architecture.

“It is important that stakeholders themselves head the working groups developing the transformation planning process of their own business,” said Marouan Chida. “We are the humble servant of the community; we provide all the heavy lifting and the technical knowledge and we are very happy for our partners to be the flag carriers.”

On the international front, EUROCONTROL is an active member of #TeamEurope, working closely with all European institutions (European Commission, European Aviation Safety Agency [EASA], SJU, SDM, EUROCAE, State representatives) to ensure global harmonisation. The Agency discusses with international partners such as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Singapore and the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO) important topics such as trajectory-based operations, new entrants and automation. EUROCONTROL also actively contributes to ICAO activities leading to the development of the eighth edition of the ICAO Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) (2025) which sets the global agenda.

Delivering this Master Plan is important, but it is not the end game. This is just the beginning of a new era of ATM modernisation. “The hard part will remain implementation, where EUROCONTROL must continue supporting its stakeholders – regulators, investors, operators – in climbing this rock. The Agency also needs to support an effective performance monitoring of the system,” said Marouan Chida.

“We are creating a new brand of ATM transformation. The Agency has a broad remit. We look at the big picture and leverage available resources around architecture, economics, network data and wider aviation market intelligence to provide curated information which help stakeholders translate the Master Plan concepts into concrete changes in their business.”

In collaboration with Solutions projects, EUROCONTROL has developed a digital twin of SESAR’s major developments, called the Digital European Sky Architecture. This gives all stakeholders a unique understanding of how change will impact their technology, processes and business.

“Say you are a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of an air navigation service provider (ANSP) and are interested in the Virtual Centre Solution for ATS delegation. You want to know how it works and whether you should consider it in your portfolio of investments,” said Marouan Chida. “The Digital Twin can give you a specialised report, for example on the systems and operational impact of a given design choice. We can then calculate what performance impact will specifically be brought to your organisation and provide a high-level estimate of the cost. Through simulations we can also assess the long-term benefits at local and network level. We start from the pain points of our stakeholders. If it is a question of capacity issues, runway occupancy times for example, we can see what new technologies and processes are available based on an investment now or in 10 years’ time.”

It is not just the smaller ANSPs who are benefitting from this service. Larger ANSPs can use this view of Europe’s future ATM capabilities to understand how to cooperate with neighbours in sharing services, optimise operations in conjunction with other capabilities developed by the Network Manager or even support new business-opportunity offerings to the global ATM market.

Future architecture

At the heart of the transformation process is the idea of breaking the silo-based approaches to technology acquisition that have evolved over decades and move instead towards platforms that buy services instead of equipment. Marouan Chida believes there is a growing realisation among both ANSPs and industry that this is the way forward, especially among the new generation of ANSP chief technology officers. But he also sees there is a growing acceptance of the direction of travel the industry needs to take by CEOs, for whom digitisation of ATM services is vital in being able to adapt service delivery more flexibly to market demand and manage ressources in a more optimised way. The iNM flagship programme at EUROCONTROL is a great example of that.

“It’s not about a big bang but more of bending the arc of the future,” said Marouan Chida. “With the Master Plan and ATM transformation we want to capitalise on European ambitions for the industry, whether you’re a big or small player. ANSPs and airports are increasingly aware they can talk to us about common requirements for their future systems independently or not from their supplier. We can work on the architecture together, benchmark various options and see how change in this area fits in with the overall picture.

And one of the things I realise is that not everyone is starting from the same place. We have to understand that everybody may want a Tesla for example, but if you have just bought a car, you’re not going to throw that away. This is why we need to bring ATM transformation to a more local, and tailored level.”

Planning for European ATM transformation By defining success criteria

The EUROCONTROL-led AMPLE3 project supports the SESAR 3 JU in executing the European ATM Master Plan update campaign and ensuring alignment with stakeholder needs. The update campaign involves a wide range of stakeholders from across the ATM community, including regulators, ANSPs, airlines, airports, the military, manufacturers, research organisations and users, with the aim of establishing Europe as the most efficient and environmentally friendly sky to fly in the world.

At the October 2023 launch event, a joint SESAR 3 JU / EUROCONTROL / EASA discussion paper was presented and a Joint Industry Declaration issued, committing to rapid and united action to make European airspace the most efficient and environmentally friendly sky to fly in the world.

The following European ATM Master Plan campaign Success Criteria (SC) have been confirmed by the campaign Steering Group:

  • SC1: Define the critical path for establishing Europe as the most efficient and environmentally (CO2 and non-CO2 ) friendly sky to fly in the world with safety as a paramount feature, and putting that transformation into perspective with the planned introduction of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and the next generation aircraft for zero-emission aviation.
  • SC2: Provide the supporting Digital European Sky service-oriented target architecture and a data-driven/cloud technology-based delivery model for a fully scalable and resilient ATM in Europe.
  • SC3: Set out the future roadmap for the evolution towards an integrated European CNS service delivery infrastructure ensuring a higher level of connectivity and automation of systems on the ground and in the air as well as the convergence of the ATM and U-space environments.
  • SC4: Ensure the integration of new entrants and enable in particular Innovative Air Mobility services by elaborating advanced U-space services.
  • SC5: Define the civil-military interoperability and coordination roadmap taking into account the security dimension of ATM.
  • SC6: Include strategic deployment objectives that (a) cater for voluntary or mandated deployment of SESAR solutions and (b) encourage investments by early movers and accelerate market uptake supported by EASA’s European Plan for Aviation Safety.
  • SC7: Perform a network performance impact assessment to demonstrate how and when the SESAR vision will contribute to achieve the SES performance objectives and improve passenger experience. SC8: Shape the European position to drive the global agenda for ATM modernisation at ICAO level.

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