ECAC stakeholders discuss future of European air traffic management

Participants at the ECAC Expert Consultation for the European ATM Master Plan launched on 12 April 2018 at EUROCONTROL’s Brussels Headquarters.

Participants at the ECAC Expert Consultation for the European ATM Master Plan launched on 12 April 2018 at EUROCONTROL’s Brussels Headquarters.

Europe’s aviation sector needs to get digitally ready for the forecasted traffic growth of conventional aircraft and drones. This is an ambitious job which can only be done collectively. These were some of the key messages voiced at the ECAC Expert Consultation for the European ATM Master Plan launched on 12 April 2018 at EUROCONTROL’s Brussels Headquarters.

This expert consultation, which allows feedback from a wide range of stakeholder at an early stage of drafting, is organised by EUROCONTROL within the SESAR R&D Programme and under the umbrella of the EUROCONTROL Agency Advisory Body (AAB), an ECAC-wide joint civil-military body that advises the EUROCONTROL Director General, Eamonn Brennan, on strategic, policy, operational and technical matters affecting aviation as a whole.

The event brought together representatives from a wide range of aviation stakeholders, including the Civil Aviation Authorities of Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece,  Portugal and the UK; Czech Republic Ministry of Transport; Air Navigation Service Providers from Austria (Austro Control), Belgium (Belgocontrol), Czech Republic (ANS CR) Germany (DFS), France (DSNA), Hungary (HungaroControl), UK (NATS), Denmark (NAVIAIR), Poland (PANSA), Spain (ENAIRE) and Switzerland (Skyguide) as well as ANSP alliances (Borealis, COOPANS), the air traffic management industry (Leonardo), airports (Heathrow), European bodies and professional associations (CANSO, EBAA, EDA, ERA, ICB), military national representatives and international associations (IATA).  

Participants expressed the pressing need to tackle the current and predicted air traffic congestion. They pointed to the need to explore new digital and automated technologies as a top priority alongside the integration of drones and the rationalisation of Europe communications, navigation and surveillance ground (CNS) infrastructure.

Philippe Merlo, EUROCONTROL’s Director of ATM, welcomed the participants by emphasising that “As a founding member of the SESAR Joint Undertaking […] and as an international organisation, it is EUROCONTROL’s role and duty to make sure that ECAC-wide Member States and stakeholders can provide input in this process”.

The ECAC consultation is expected to provide early inputs on the potential of technological advances and the key development and deployment activities needed to bring Europe’s aviation infrastructure into the digital age. The results will be used by SESAR 2020 Project 20 in the further drafting of the proposed European ATM Master Plan which will be delivered to the SJU as a baseline for a formal stakeholder consultation phase followed by a target approval by the SESAR JU Administrative Board by the end of 2018.

The approved Master Plan will then constitute the roadmap for the modernisation of the European ATM.  It will also constitute Europe’s input into the 2019 Global Air Navigation Plan from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Commenting on the consultation, Denisa Osmani of Albanian CAA said: “Delivering a high-performance aviation for Europe requires all actors to work closely in addressing the major weaknesses in the ATM system, defining the best solutions and ensuring better harmonisation in the era of digitalisation.”

Michael Loeffler of Austro Control, on behalf of CANSO, said that the consultation offered: “a unique opportunity for ATM stakeholders and airspace users to share information and improve their mutual understanding of each other’s needs”

For Manfred Mohr, IATA representative, the Master Plan must be “innovative, with a clear performance-driven approach and a modern CNS strategy, with a real focus on ATM resulting in air traffic control capacity improvements. This would bring back the trust of the airspace users and demonstrate that all stakeholders have understood what we, the airspace users, are looking for”.