Cooperation is “not a sentiment — it is an economic necessity.” So said Charles Steinmetz, the inventor of alternating current.
In that vein members of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) gathered in mid-May to see how air navigation service providers (ANSPs) could cooperate to improve efficiency and service. At CANSO’s annual general meeting and CEOs’ conference in Brisbane, Australia, cooperation was discussed from every angle: ANSPs cooperating with ANSPs, ANSPs cooperating with end users (airlines), and ANSPs cooperating with equipment suppliers. CANSO members hashed over the legal and political obstacles to cooperation and examined the different types of cooperative arrangements: strategic alliances, joint development, technology sharing, common procedures and mergers.
Why the emphasis on cooperation? One reason is that it simply represents an industry trend, and ANSPs need to catch up. The airlines have established strategic alliances and the manufacturing community has consolidated in ways, ranging from technology sharing to company mergers. Technologies such as satellite navigation, too, have created an environment calling for greater teamwork within the aviation industry. “Satellites don’t see national borders,” stated Alexander ter Kuile, CANSO’s secretary general. A lengthy list of benefits to ANSPs from cooperative arrangements was cited at the CANSO event, including: rationalizing costs, achieving service quality and consistency, standardizing equipment and procedures, and simplifying the airspace system. But perhaps the No. 1 benefit to ANSP cooperation is that it represents a vital step toward worldwide seamless airspace. CANSO members admit that this is a long-term goal that they see evolving from regional collaborative initiatives — the Single European Sky being the best example.
Is CANSO up to the task of advancing cooperation among ANSPs? Russ Chew, the Federal Aviation Administration’s chief operating officer, suggested that such an effort requires “too much detail work…I don’t think CANSO can pull this out themselves.” Ter Kuile admits his organization is young (eight years old) and relatively small (fewer than 40 member ANSPs, out of 130 ANSPs worldwide), with limited resources. However, he views CANSO as an “agent of change” that is growing and can increase its influence by cooperating, itself, with other organizations, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Changing the current, provincial ANSP environment won’t be easy. However, the ANSPs represented in Brisbane obviously feel the pressure to do so. One member said he didn’t want to still be discussing ANSP cooperation at the next CANSO conference. He wants to “see results” by then.