[Avionics Today 01-06-2015] 2015 is a huge year for the European Commission's attempt to unite its fragmented airspace and more efficiently manage more than 30,000 flights per day. More organized airways, satellite-based approaches and landings and data link messaging between pilots and Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs), are among the technological and procedural advancements Europe is trying to implement.
Lufthansa Airlines Boeing 747-8. Photo, courtesy of Boeing.
With the European Commission recently making more than $3.7 billion available to move Single European Sky (SES) deployment ahead at full speed, a collaborative effort between manufacturers, civil aviation authorities, Airspace Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), pilots and more will need to continue. But more importantly, there will also need to be increased input from the more than 30 air carriers that serve Europe's commercial air transportation market. During his keynote speech at European regional airline event in October, International Air Transportation Association (IATA) CEO Tony Tyler said that the achievement of the fuel reduction, safety improvement and flight efficiency benefits of the Single European Sky remains as far away as ever. "Each year it fails to be implemented means around 8 million tonnes of carbon wasted, and more than EUR11 billion of unnecessary costs loaded onto airlines, their passengers and the European economy,” he said.
Avionics Magazine reached out to the industry to take a look at six things airlines would like for the newly formed SESAR Deployment Alliance Committee to focus on in 2015 and beyond.
1. Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs): This is the top need for the improvement of Air Traffic Management (ATM) efficiency in Europe. The European Commission's task is to reduce the number of national Air Traffic Control centers in Europe from 29 down to nine. This is a difficult task, asking independent nations in Europe to give up management of their airspace in favor of a central unified structure such as that of the United States is a huge request.
"FABs suffer from a fundamental governance deficit because all progress depends on the approval of all members States involved in a FAB," Michael Nachtigaellar, head of SESAR for Lufthansa, told Avionics Magazine. "Accordingly, if an airspace optimization projects brings benefits for the FAB as a whole but results in disadvantages for an individual state participating (e.g. less service units for its ANSP), that state tends to oppose the project or to demand compensation. This blocks progress in terms of flight and cost efficiency. FAB governance structure need to be amended correspondingly."
2. Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC) Mandate: Under the original timeline of the Single European Sky project, operators would have been required to retrofit their aircraft with CPDLC avionics that enabled text messaging between an aircraft's Flight Management System (FMS) and Air Traffic Controller (ATC) computer screens by February. The European Commission has indicated that this deadline will be moved in order to ensure the reliability of the data link communications that will occur as a part of this aspect of the Single European Sky.
You can read more about the tweaks needed to improve CPDLC deployment in Europe in this month's
issue of Avionics Magazine
3. Pilot Common Project: In 2014, the European Commission adopted a regulation that requires the implementation of the Pilot Common Projects, which is the first set of ATM functionalities that have been identified by the European aviation community as being ready for wide scale coordinated deployment. The SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU) lists the following six ATM functionalities for the Pilot Common Projects derived from its Research and Innovation Solutions group: extended arrival management in the high density terminal maneuvering areas of airspace; airport integration and throughput; flexible airspace management and free route concepts; network collaborative management; Initial System Wide Information Management (iSWIM) and Initial Trajectory Information Sharing (i4D). All of these different ATM infrastructure functionalities can help to reduce flight times, fuel and carbon emissions while also increasing flight safety and situational awareness for pilots.
"We expect that, because of the common projects, the European airlines will have the opportunity to be more punctual, more profitable and therefore more competitive," Biuro Prasowe, a spokesperson with LOT Polish Airlines told Avionics Magazine. LOT wants the SESAR Deployment Alliance to use the $3.7 billion recently made available to them by the European Commission as a "as a financial push enabling a real start of the projects aimed at increasing the European airspace capacity, enhancing current air safety standards and improving performance of the European ATM,” he added.
4. Performance Based Navigation (PBN): PBN procedures are the most effective way to improve flight efficiency and safety for airlines. PBN refers to a redesigning of air routes into, out of and around airports and airport systems that rely less on legacy ground-based runway navigation aids and more on satellite-based procedures that take advantage of modern GPS, auto pilot and FMS navigational avionics. "Deployment should focus on steps, which lead to better quality of service and higher flight efficiency: reduced delays, no holdings, fuel-efficient routings, high predictability," Nachtigaellar told Avionics Magazine.
5. Single European Sky 2+ (SES 2+): This is another critical regulatory aspect of Single European Sky initiative that airlines want to see as a focus for SES deployment in 2015. The European Parliament has approved the SES 2+, which is an update of the SES rules that provide the regulatory framework for the shift from ATM entities independently run by European states, to the previously mentioned FAB model. The SES 2+ frame work features a performance scheme and a performance review body, a network manager in charge of centralized Eurozone-wide ATM management as opposed to the current independent states model and, most importantly, full organizational and budgetary separation between national authorities and the ATC organizations that they oversee.
"The most important issue in relation to the relaunch of SES 2+ is the requirement that the EU member states stick to what their transport ministers once have signed. An independent economic regulator for European air navigation performance must be respected. Applying strict targets in the performance scheme will have a substantial effect on the results of the airlines," said Eriksson.
6. Future Oriented ATM Structure: This was one of the key aspects that Europe's largest airline, Lufthansa, expressed as a need for SES deployment. "2015 requires the successful setup of an effective deployment manager organization, establishing an efficient implementation program management structure and prioritized realization of Quick-Wins," Nachtigellar said.
Lufthansa's head of SESAR deployment wants the deployment phase of SESAR in 2015 to support de-fragmentation in Europe and improve the efficiency of the ANSPs by standardizing working positions and working processes (e.g. inside virtual centers, with common controller cockpits) and by "realizing the synergy potential of improved business models by using latest technology. EASA and Eurocontrol shall accompany the process. The deployment requires a future oriented architectural design of the ATM system. This should be developed based on 'unbundling' of [Air Navigation Services] ANS towards centralized ATM services and data services enabling ATC from virtual centers,” he added.