Airframers assert air traffic management influence

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Airbus and Boeing are staking a potent claim to be among the primary determinants of the shape of global air traffic management (ATM) for the future, particularly the implementation of Europe's Single European Sky plan and the US NextGen ATM project.

Speaking at the ATC Global Conference and Exhibition in Amsterdam yesterday, Airbus ProSky chief executive Eric Stefanello explained his company's confidence: "Aircraft manufacturers are the air navigation service providers in the sky," he says.

Since medium-term ATM plans are to devolve more autonomy to aircraft and their crews, that is not an empty claim.

At the same event, Boeing vice-president ATM Neil Planzer stated that there is a total mismatch between the impressive navigational capabilities of "fifth-generation jet aircraft" compared with what he calls today's "first-generation ATM".

Meanwhile, Airbus head of ATM programme engineering Pierre Bachelier believes that air navigation service providers are failing to take advantage of what today's aircraft can do, pointing out that the aircraft are already capable of four-dimensional navigation (the fourth dimension is time), which is a capacity that the ANSPs plan to offer but cannot yet deliver.

Stefanello says that Airbus is working closely with Boeing on the future of ATM, and both airframe manufacturers are committed to ensuring that everything they do regarding ATM promotes global interoperability. Stefanello points out that he is a member of the US FAA's Federal Advisory Commission on the USA's NextGen ATM programme because Airbus supplies about half of the new aircraft that operate in the USA.

On the European side, Boeing is a partner in the SESAR team for the corresponding reason. Stefanello also points out that no ATM programme can go ahead without the full participation of the world's two major aircraft manufacturers.