By embracing diversity & accelerating innovative technologies, aviation can raise the bar & meet its future challenges

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Raúl Medina

Raúl Medina, Director General of EUROCONTROL

We need to start telling our story better. That is for me the standout message in this SKYWAY edition, because it is so central to achieving our goal here at EUROCONTROL of raising the bar for European aviation.

Aviation has a great story to tell. Technology is transforming our industry, from the progress being made in digitising the sector, to the new entrants that are being integrated into lower and higher airspace, to the new energy sources that engineers are looking to harness to enable aviation to achieve its challenging net-zero goals by 2050.

All of these are exciting topics, among the most interesting and challenging in any sector. As Rannia Leontaridi says in her interview in this issue, we need to be making that argument so that we can attract the brightest young minds to our sector. Central to that effort will be improving how we address diversity and inclusion, implementing the policies and approaches that will progressively deliver on the goal of making our sector more diverse, and particularly addressing the historical gender gap. Aviation has amazing careers to offer, and some of the most exciting challenges to work on, but we must raise awareness among young people and make them want to join our industry.

This SKYWAY showcases a number of our most interesting and fast-developing areas of work. In the all-important netzero debate, with climate change the greatest of all challenges facing society, we look at what aviation is doing to make our sector climate-neutral, from electric aircraft and other revolutionary technologies to sustainable aviation fuels, and more efficient air traffic management which includes flying greener routes. We assess how airspace digitisation is accelerating as the EUROCONTROL Network Manager looks to transform the way air traffic is managed across Europe. And we examine how airspace needs are rapidly evolving, from the rapidly expanding drone market which is already reshaping airspace needs and complexity, to brandnew airspace entrants that will need to be accommodated in higher airspace, ranging from slow-moving balloons to ultra-rapid supersonic vehicles and space launches.

All of these are huge challenges, and they come as traffic starts to close in on pre-pandemic levels. I am very proud that close coordination between all aviation actors led by EUROCONTROL has enabled traffic to recover to over 90% of 2019 despite increasingly complex airspace. Today’s network however continues to be significantly impacted by war in Ukraine, leading to closed or restricted airspace, heightened military activity, and major negative economic effects triggered by the war and subsequent energy increases. And major changes will be needed: if today’s ATM network is already looking stretched with a predicted 10+ million flights this year, imagine the pressures that 16 million annual flights (our forecast for 2050) will place on it.

As ever, the solution will come down to the intersection between technology and people. We need to develop the right technological solutions – and we need the right people to make that happen. Which brings us back to the red thread of this edition: the people we hire now, and the culture we put in place, will be crucial in determining how aviation – and ATM in particular – will meet the challenges over the next three decades.

In conclusion, we are on the right path: we need to have the courage of our convictions, and make those arguments to enable our industry to evolve and thrive.

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