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How Will Europe Fix the Flight Delay Problem?

Between March and April, I attended two events in Europe. The first being the Aerospace Technology Week in Munich, Germany and a month later I attended the 2019 annual Airlines annual Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) and Avionics Maintenance Committee (AMC) general session in Prague.

During both trips, the return flights coming back to the United States were each delayed by nearly an hour, on connecting flights through Munich Airport both times.

So it was ironic to read the joint Eurocontrol-FAA report analyzing air traffic delays between 2002 and 2017, published April 9, 2019, which showed that flights at Europe’s top 34 busiest airports are three times more likely to be held at the gate or on the ground for en route constraints than they’re in the US.

A key aspect of those delays are that they’re caused by en route constraints, or congestion among flight operations occurring within high altitude airspace. Over the past five years, Avionics International has closely covered progress with air traffic management modernization projects in Europe such as those lead by the Single European Sky ATM Research Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU).

Among those efforts have been the deployment of controller to pilot data link communications, and navigation improvements with the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). Most recently, flight tests have began for evaluating avionics capable of enabling 4D initial trajectory sharing at EasyJet and a modified Dassault Falcon 20 at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) is flight testing the use of a prototype L-band Digital Aeronautical Communications System (LDACS.

But how will those efforts translate to improving the number of delays occurring right now on flights within Europe? How much of it will actually become a measurable benefit observed by actual passengers? In this month’s issue, we analyze Europe’s 2035 future airspace architecture study, which proposes key changes in Europe’s air traffic system to address delays and other inefficiencies that lead to delays. I also provide insight on some disruptive new automated test and airborne data loading technologies, including the world’s first robot for cockpit control panel testing. Nick Zazulia also provides an overview of the FAA’s progress with integrating commercially operated unmanned aircraft systems and future electric hybrid air taxis into the National Airspace System. We also have contributors looking at electric taxiing system trends and a discussion of how DO-326 and ED-202 are becoming mandatory for addressing cyber security within airworthiness.

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