Brussels’ transport chief demands progress on the “Single European Sky” airspace project

The origin of the pressure to concentrate flight paths from UK airports is the European “Single European Sky” (SES) project. It aims to meet future European airspace capacity and safety needs,  and make use of airspace more efficient, with the aim of cutting delays and costs for airlines. It would make it possible to fit in as many aircraft as possible in European skies. It would ensure planes travel the most direct route, and not extra distance because of moving between differently controlled blocks of airspace.  SES is supported by the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme, which will provide procedures to modernise and optimise the future European ATM network. Part of this process is the increased use of precision navigation, and thus the concentration of flight paths – which has recently proved so controversial in the UK. Now the new European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, has called for countries to show more flexibility in integrating air corridors, to implement the SESAR programme. However, getting agreement has been difficult, and air traffic controllers fear streamlining would mean fewer ATM jobs. They also raise safety fears.

Brussels’ transport chief demands a single European sky to end ‘air traffic gridlock’

Zig zags make average filght 50km longer, claims Bulc
By Kelly Fiveash

8 Nov 2014

EC officials are pushing for countries in the 28-member bloc to bring an end to “gridlock in the skies” above Europe, by urging them to be more flexible about national airspace.

The EU’s transport commissioner, Violeta Bulc, said during a speech in Rome, on Friday that attitudes needed to change to address what she claimed was “approaching the limit of what our [air traffic control] systems can manage.”

She alarmingly warned that failure to be more open about how EU countries control flights, which apparently involve around 28,000 air traffic movements a day, could prove to be a huge blow to the economy.

Bulc, who is from Slovenia, added:

The vast majority of flights cross a border; you can cross a whole country such as mine within minutes. Yet, too often, the aviation system still remains confined to national boundaries. With zig-zags making the average flight nearly 50 kilometres longer than it could be. With tens of millions of minutes of delay each year. All these add confusion and they add cost.

This has a high price tag. Fragmentation costs €5 billion every year; 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year; it’s costing us growth and it’s costing us jobs. This is what we could get back with a Single European Sky.

I want to be clear: this is not a challenge to European diversity or the sovereignty of any country. It is not about procedures, powers or prerogatives. No: it is about our people. About finding a better system that can support what they need, and what the aviation sector needs. About how we can change, and best meet those needs.

She claimed that such a move would lead to a better deal for European consumers.

However, according to Reuters, the delay to a planned revamp of air traffic control systems continued after the commissioner failed to strike a deal with EU transport ministers and watchdogs at the meeting in Rome.

Bulc appeared upbeat, despite the latest setback.

“We cannot deal with a reality based mainly around international flights with national systems,” she reportedly said.

“Be flexible, we will find the right compromise.”



EU Commission urges flexibility in air traffic reforms


Nov 7 (Reuters)

New European Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc called on Friday for EU countries to show more flexibility in integrating air corridors as she pressed for completion of a long-delayed overhaul of air traffic control systems.

Speaking at an informal meeting in Rome of European Union transport ministers and regulators, Bulc said a deal on the so-called Single European Sky was a chance to reduce delays and inefficiency for passengers and airlines.

“We cannot deal with a reality based mainly around international flights with national systems,” she said, according to a statement after the meeting.

“Be flexible, we will find the right compromise.”

Friday’s meeting ended without any substantial agreement. Italian Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, thanked participants “for the frankness of the discussion” but a scheduled news conference after the meeting was cancelled.

A statement from his ministry said the meeting laid the groundwork for more progress at the European Council meeting in Brussels on Dec. 3 when he is expected to present draft proposals for a reform.

Agreement on the ambitious Single European Sky project has proved difficult, with airlines pushing for a streamlined system of controls and air traffic controllers arguing that the reforms could hit safety and jobs.

The present system divides air traffic control among EU member states, with each country responsible for managing flight paths in its own air space.

The Single European Sky proposal, first launched a decade ago, would arrange the continent’s air space in transnational “blocks” in the biggest overhaul of the European aviation system in decades.

Airlines argue it would cut flight delays, reduce emissions of CO2 and save billions of euros for airlines and passengers.

Air traffic control unions in France and Germany say the proposed changes are aimed mainly at cutting costs and could affect safety in European skies, which are among the most crowded in the world.





Information from EuroControl

What is the Single European Sky?

The European air traffic management (ATM) system currently handles around 26,000 flights daily. Forecasts indicate air traffic levels are likely to double by 2020. Moreover, European ATM costs an additional €2-3 billion every year, compared to other similar systems in the world. How will the European airspace accommodate the increasing air traffic flows, whilst cutting costs and improving its performance?

The answer came with the initiative of organising airspace into functional blocks, according to traffic flows rather than to national borders. Such a project was not possible without common rules and procedures at European level. The Single European Sky (SES) was born to meet this need.

Launched by the European Commission in 1999, its primary aim is to meet  future capacity and safety needs through legislation. With the Single European Sky second package (SES II), a step forward was made towards establishing targets in key areas of safety, network capacity, effectiveness and environmental impact. The Single European Sky drove the transformation of the role of EUROCONTROL, which could become the Network Manager of the European ATM network.

On the technology side, SES is supported by the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) Programme, which will provide advanced technologies and procedures with a view to modernising and optimising the future European ATM network.




Civil Aviation Authority
Future Airspace Strategy for the United Kingdom                 2011 to 2030

This is an executive summary of the CAA‟s Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) document.
The need to modernise UK airspace to further improve safety and
 UK airspace will require modernisation if it is to achieve the following:
 Deal with current „hotspots‟ of congestion within the current system.
 Enable and facilitate continuous improvement in safety within the airspace system.
 To develop a genuinely sustainable framework to guide the aviation industry in its
investment and technological development.
 Take advantage of technological developments to improve efficiency.
Implement Single European Sky proposals to increase the overall safety, capacity
and efficiency of the international Air Traffic Management (ATM) system, whilst
making commensurate environmental improvements.
 Sustain access to sufficient airspace for non-Commercial Air Transport users.
 Be responsive to Government policy and decision-making.
 Provide flexibility within the system to enable future development and

In achieving the above, it is intended that airspace will not become the restricting factor
for the current or future operations of airspace users. In particular, the Strategy aims to
build on the existing excellent UK safety levels and help to minimise the impact of
aviation on the environment.



Performance-Based Navigation

“Performance-Based navigation (PBN) has the potential to unlock many of the safety,
efficiency and capacity targets facing the aviation industry, and not surprisingly, it plays an important role in airspace modernisation programmes such as NextGen and SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research).

It has the support of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Air Transport Association (IATA), national governments and industry, but its implementation remains fragmented and irregular. A series of new initiatives starting in 2010 are expected to raise the profile of the PBN concept and accelerate its implementation.”


Ian Jopson, of NATS, in a blog on 3.4.2014 said:

Precision RNAV, otherwise known as RNAV1 is a capability that uses the aircraft’s Flight Management System (FMS) to fly routes with an accuracy of 1 mile or better. In practice this is a minimum standard and the aircraft actually fly very much more accurately than that. The advantage over conventional procedures is that routes can be designed to optimise trajectory for fuel burn, noise, air traffic control capacity and safety without being constrained by the position of traditional ground based navigation aids.

With aircraft being able to follow a defined route much more accurately, it is possible to concentrate them over a smaller area, radically reducing the number of people exposed to aircraft noise. The problem of course is that those under the new departure route could potentially experience more noise.