Eurocontrol has announced a decision to move forward with establishing six Centralized Services (CS) centers, achieving a major milestone in the
Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program.
The decision was announced following approval from 40 Eurocontrol member states to establish the CS facilities, which are aimed at providing
Air Traffic Management (ATM) services that will eliminate the current fragmented structure separated by individual air navigation service providers (ANSPs) state by state. Along with establishing the six CS facilities, Eurocontrol will also deploy feasibility studies for three future CS facilities.
“We anticipate savings in the range of 1.5 to 2.0 Billion € over a ten-year period after the start of operations," said Alberto Varano, principal director of resources at Eurocontrol. "The Airspace Users have been very supportive of the program, subject to the condition that the Centralized Services are really centralized and there is an obligation by the European Commission and the Member States to avoid duplicating the technology and service on national level and that subsequently there is a commitment from the ANSPs to provide the data needed for the good operation of the services and to use them."
SESAR shares some similarities with the NextGen project in play in the U.S., but the overarching goal is much different. According to a recent report by the European People’s Party (EPP) group, one of the main goals for SESAR is reducing the number of zones of major Air Traffic Control (ATC) centers from 29 to nine, so that aircraft can fly more direct routes, instead of constantly changing centers even on short haul routes.
For example, the Brussels, Germany to Geneva, France route, an 80-minute flight, transfers pilots to five different national ATC centers. Industry experts estimate European airlines spent an extra $4 billion in fuel costs on extra routing in 2011. The independent ATM authorities across Europe's 44 states have a tough task though, to maintain the traffic within their legacy system while shifting to the more centralized structure.
"As a next step, we will be developing this market for ANS support services in Europe in full transparency with all stakeholders," said Varano.