Summer is here and the traffic is growing

Four Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and EUROCONTROL as Network Manager have joined forces to tackle this summer’s capacity constraints with “The 4 ACCs Initiative.”

Last summer, according to the Network Operations Report for 2017 air traffic increased by 5.1% for June, July and August, compared with the year before.

All records were broken with 35,937 flights on 30 June and average traffic in July averaged 33,721 flights per day in 2017.

Still on this trend, we have already seen unprecedented growth this year - what will the summer bring? Probably even more traffic - and, with it, more delay.

Four Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) and the Network Manager have joined forces to tackle this issue. They have come up with a plan to help manage this summer’s traffic better: it is called “The 4 ACCs Initiative”.

Summer 2018?

NATS, DFS, DSNA and MUAC between them control some of the world’s most complex airspace. They have seen that a disjointed approach in dealing with traffic flows does not work. Cross-border solutions and a network approach with coordinated operational measures, they concluded, are needed to ensure that the best use of capacity can be made.

The ANSPs and NM selected four en route centres to prepare, manage and deliver a better service in this critical part of the network. They are: London ACC (Area Control Centre), Reims ACC, Maastricht UAC (Upper Area Control Centre) and Karlsruhe UAC. Another 11 ANSPs have been involved in the initiative to help promote better network performance.

The initiative

This joint initiative focuses on optimising the en-route flows through the centres’ airspace as a single whole, so as to increase overall capacity and throughput.

Mitigation measures were put forward by the 4ACCs - and five other ACCs, which would be affected by these measures while helping the network, agreed to them.

The four ACCS and NM together examined in depth all the issues confronting them and pinpointed those areas needing improvement. NM drew up a list of significant events and projects which are scheduled to happen this year - a number of them will happen at roughly the same time and all of them could potentially slow things down (the installation of new equipment or systems at air traffic control centres, for example).

ANSPs shared detailed data on their plans, configuration/sectorisation changes and sector capacities.

After making a detailed analysis of this information, NM consolidated a set of strategic traffic orientation measures, which were then discussed.

Further refinements were made and final decisions taken in February. Each ACC was given the potential individual impact of each measure and the global impact of all the measures.

It was estimated that the initiative will save 5 million minutes of delay or 0.5 minutes per flight.

What has been planned?

A cooperative Network Approach

Solutions have been predicated on a network level, with surrounding ACCs and lower-level ACCs accepting a significant amount of extra traffic. They know that in doing this, there is a risk that their own delay will be slightly increased - but they are prepared to do so because this is how they can contribute to a significant reduction in network delay overall.

A new ATS route in Poland

In order to facilitate the passage of traffic between northern and southern Europe, a new connection was designed in the western part of the Warsaw FIR (Flight Information Region). Poland promptly accepted this change and has implemented the new route, making for more efficient connections for a larger number of flows.

Network measures

Some RAD (Route Availability Document) measures have been adopted for a limited period of time; they should make for the lowest network delay and the minimum route extension.

Local measures

Karlsruhe UAC and Maastricht UAC, for instance, have introduced local measures, mostly level-capping for short-haul flights.

The upshot

Taking one minute of delay as costing €70 (according to a study conducted by the University of Westminster), this initiative is poised to save up to €350 million in 2018.

Last year we had 9.3 million minutes of delay in total. So far this year, we have already had 4.3 million minutes of delay. As result of strikes, capacity/staffing shortages and weather, we now expect 14.3 million minutes of delay for 2018 – a 53% year-on-year deterioration.

We hope that the 4ACCs initiative will help us circumvent the worst of this and, combined with other strategic plans, bring the delay down to more manageable proportions.