As early as 1953, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) defined the responsibilities of the Aeronautical Information Service (AIS) with respect to aeronautical charts, Aeronautical Information Publications and notices to airmen (NOTAMs). The aim was to ensure that these services have a high degree of uniformity. Such uniformity already is evident in the conspicuous black "C" on a yellow background that is used worldwide to indicate the location of Aeronautical Information Services at airports.
However, many services in European countries still differ. In Germany, for example, the Aeronautical Information Service includes the filing of flight plans, direct assistance in preflight planning, and search and rescue service. But in the UK flight plans must be filed with air traffic management and not with AIS.
In 1999 the European Commission launched the Single European Sky initiative for the harmonization of the European airspace and air traffic management system. Single European Sky regulations, which now have been implemented, also refer to Aeronautical Information Services. The European Commission is encouraging national air navigation service providers (ANSPs) to cooperate more closely. This includes exchanging operational data and jointly providing services, as well as slowly introducing more market orientation into such services. The European Commission also seeks harmonized Airfield Guides.
As a company under private law, which was corporatized in 1993, DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung welcomes this development. Employing some 5,500 employees, DFS manages and develops navigation services in Germany. Its air traffic controllers handle several thousand aircraft movements daily and more than 2.5 million movements every year. To this end, the agency operates Europe's largest air traffic control center in Langen, near Frankfurt, as well as other radar control centers in Berlin, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich.
DFS focuses on offering airspace users efficient, customer-oriented services and products. The state-of-the-art Aeronautical Information Service Center in Frankfurt supports this approach, offering preflight briefings and all the data required for flight preparation from one central location.
The Airfield Guides are the first harmonized products to be sold in other European countries. These visual operation charts for visual flight rules (VFR) flights in Europe all have the same look and feel. This was inspired by the European Commission's Single European Sky initiative and a customer survey conducted in 2003 with regard to the German Aeronautical Information Publication. Although the feedback was largely positive, customers still had one criticism: the charts are restricted to the national territory of only one state. As soon as a pilot flies out of country--which is quite easy, considering the proximity of Europe's 38 nations--these charts become unusable, and the pilot must become acquainted with the different layouts of other charts.
For this reason DFS is supporting the harmonization of the chart layouts, a program known as Airfield Guide Europe. The Polish Air Traffic Agency (PATA) and DFS were the first two organizations to cooperate in producing an Airfield Guide with harmonized charts. In November the Air Traffic Controllers Association (ATCA) cited DFS for the Airfield Guides Europe program with the Chairman's Citation of Merit award. And the European Commission welcomed the cooperation between the two air navigation service providers. Michel Ayral, the European Commission's former director of air transport, commented that the Airfield Guide cooperation between DFS and the Polish Air Traffic Agency "is encouraging." He added, "We also appreciate [their] efforts to put the request of your customers into the focus of your activities."
In addition to the Airfield Guide Poland, the Airfield Guides for Denmark and Germany also are available. Further Airfield Guides will follow shortly. Due to the increased use of handhelds and other GPS equipment, the Airfield Guides also are to be made available in an electronic form.
Cooperation among the national air navigation service providers in Europe is well on its way. Successful projects of the past -- such as the joint provision of aeronautical data by GroupEAD Europe S.L., a subsidiary of DFS and the Spanish air navigation service provider, Aeropuertos Espanoles y Navegacion Aerea -- will be further expanded. The basic ideas surrounding Single European Sky -- such as the use of synergies and partnerships, uniform airspace structures, and the provision of efficiency without compromising safety -- thus are being put into practice.
Frank Brenner is the director of business unit aeronautical data management of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH.