Press release

All civil and military air traffic controllers to use the same system to manage Belgian airspace

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EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC), the Belgian Ministry of Defence and the Belgian air navigation service provider skeyes are jointly developing a new air traffic management system, known as the Shared Air Traffic Services System 3 (SAS3) that is expected to become operational by 2027. The three partners signed an agreement to this effect today. This development will make air traffic control in Belgium even safer and more efficient.

Air traffic control services in Belgian airspace are currently provided by three independent organisations using two different systems. skeyes manages air traffic at the Belgian airports and in the airspace up to about 7,500 metres using the Eurocat air traffic control system. Traffic in the upper airspace (above 7.5 km or 24,500 feet) is handled by MUAC, which is located in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Defence deals with all military air traffic at and around the military airports as well as in the training zones made available for that purpose. The Ministry of Defence and MUAC are already using a joint ATC system, known as the Shared Air Traffic Services System 2 (SAS2).

Breakthrough

The fact that all air traffic management organisations in Belgian airspace will be using the same system is a real breakthrough in air traffic control in Belgium. The biggest gain lies in the real-time exchange of air traffic data between civil and military air traffic controllers that will lead to increased safety and a more efficient use of airspace, resulting in fewer delays and greenhouse gas emissions.

In the agreement, the three partners also lay down provisions for contingencies, i.e. solutions in the event of incidents that will ensure maximum safety and business continuity in Belgian airspace.

“The fact that Belgium – the host country of EUROCONTROL’s headquarters – takes this important step towards the Single European Sky concept of ATM data service provision is highly symbolic. I am delighted today to sign this cooperation agreement with our Belgian partners and take a step forward in service provision cooperation.”

“The Shared ATS System is based on a proven Virtual Centre Concept developed and deployed by MUAC and the Royal Netherlands Air Force in 2013 across various sites in the Netherlands, trialled in Slovenia and implemented with the Belgian Air Force since 2019. The system is robust, and we have every confidence that our Belgian colleagues have made a good choice. As the MUAC system is upgraded and further developed, the improvements will automatically flow to the Belgian air traffic control sites served from MUAC, securing economies of scale through common development and maintenance resources. An additional spin-off of this project is that at MUAC the knowledge base will cover not only civil upper and lower but also military airspace and functionalities.”

"The deployment of a joint ATM system (SAS3) in Belgian airspace is one of the main cornerstones of the Belgian Airspace Vision 2030. Our positive experience with SAS2 – with special attention to the functionalities specific to the military – will certainly contribute to a successful implementation. This strategic and operational choice confirms current and future civil-military cooperation."

Ministry of Defence of Belgium

"We can confirm the benefits. The fact that the three air navigation service providers in Belgian airspace will be working with the same system will ensure smoother coordination and communication, which in turn will benefit flight safety."

Lieutenant General Frédéric Goetynck & Major General Thierry Dupont Director General of the Directorate General Material Resources & Commander of the Air Component of the Belgian Defence Force

“The ATM en-route system is the core of our activities, with which we ensure air traffic safety. Our civil and military air traffic controllers and MUAC colleagues are working on it 24/7. It is therefore difficult to overestimate the importance of this investment, both financially and operationally.  SAS3 is one of the ‘future-proof’-projects of skeyes, together with digital towers and drones. These are innovative and strategic investments for the future. This is how we stay on track to keep on playing our role in air traffic control in Europe.”

Johan Decuyper CEO, skeyes

Photos from the event

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Note to editors

About EUROCONTROL

EUROCONTROL is a civil-military intergovernmental organisation committed to supporting European aviation to become safer, more sustainable, more efficient and more cost-effective.

Operated by EUROCONTROL on behalf of four States, EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) provides civil and military cross-border air traffic control in the upper airspace of Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and north-west Germany (from 7.5 km or 24,500 feet). Some 1.9 million flights (pre-COVID-19 figures) pass through MUAC’s area of responsibility each year, making it the third busiest air traffic control facility in Europe in terms of traffic volume. During the summer, peak days see over 5,700 flights. MUAC’s international area of responsibility is a perfect example of the simplification and harmonisation of airspace in Europe and is fully in line with the objectives of the Single European Sky.

More information at www.eurocontrol.int/muac

About the Ministry of Defence

The General Directorate of Material Resources (DGMR) is responsible for the implementation of Defence material resources and for their integrated management during their complete lifecycle and for all technical and logistical support (weapons systems, communication and information systems, infrastructure, equipment and support products). The equipment made available to the Components must be modern, efficient, available in sufficient quantity, and adapted to the circumstances in which it will be used, while being managed in an economical and sustainable manner. The principles adopted by DGMR to achieve these objectives are to acquire equipment already in use from our partners and requiring little or no additional development (commercial/military off-the-shelf – COTS/MOTS). This makes it possible to limit the risks related to development (costs, delays, technical problems during initial implementations, etc.) and ensures a high degree of interoperability during operational deployments. The acquisition of certain equipment in an international context also provides Defence with access to high-tech equipment at a reasonable cost. Vehicles, flying equipment, ships, armament and protection, communication systems, etc.

More information at www.mil.be

About skeyes

skeyes ensures the safety and efficiency of air traffic in Belgium 24/7. Its air traffic controllers manage over 3,000 flight movements every day, which adds up to over one million flight movements a year. The autonomous public company is active at the heart of Europe, in one of the busiest and most complex airspace sections of the continent. skeyes operates at Brussels Airport and at the airports of Antwerp, Charleroi, Kortrijk, Liège and Ostend. Thanks to its CANAC 2 control centre, skeyes manages the flight movements above Belgium and part of Luxembourg up to an altitude of 7,500 metres (*). More than 900 experienced staff members assist our numerous customers: airline companies, airports, the aviation sector and the authorities. skeyes is also developing innovative services in relation to drones and is contributing to a sustainable future for the aviation sector, inter alia with regard to the environment.

skeyes is a member of FABEC, a joint airspace block incorporating Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, France and Switzerland, with the aim of improving the efficiency of air navigation in the heart of Europe in the framework of the Single European Sky.

(*) The upper airspace of the Benelux countries and North West Germany is managed jointly with the EUROCONTROL centre in Maastricht. 

More information on: www.skeyes.be

For further information:

EUROCONTROL
Belgian Ministry of Defence

Johan Lievens, Head of Communications DGMR
Tel: +32 (0)2 4 419 419
Email:
dgmr-com@mil.be