EUROCONTROL Think Paper #19 - ATC Mobility and Capacity Shortfalls

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Can improving controller mobility help reduce costly capacity and staffing delays?

So far in 2022 ATC capacity and staffing delays in Europe have amounted to 7.43 million minutes, costing airlines over €800 million. Our 19th Think Paper looks at whether and how ATCO mobility might help improve capacity and scalability – and cut this high level of cost.

ATCO mobility includes both the situation where a controller moves from one centre to another – and also where ATCOs take control of airspace outside their usual area in order to help another control centre that is stretched.

In both situations there are significant challenges to be overcome for this to happen but, in the case of remote operations, there are also real success stories of virtual centres and cross-border operations. On the regulatory side, we already have the European ATC Licence, with a common rating system and rules to mandate mutual recognition. However, national requirements still present difficulties.

“Europe’s challenging commitment to achieve net zero emissions has put the idea of establishing a common unit rate firmly back on the table; this highly topical analysis confirms that it would be both technically feasible, and desirable in terms of bringing environmental gains. Additionally, no longer incentivising airlines to fly longer routes where this would save on unit rates will help EUROCONTROL as the Network Manager to improve airspace utilisation, which is set to become a key challenge as traffic fully recovers and finally exceeds pre-pandemic levels in the years ahead.”    

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EUROCONTROL Think Paper #19