Eurocontrol warns business aviation traffic growth could be stunted by politicians

Geneva
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A keynote speaker from Eurocontrol at the European Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (EBACE) has warned that a failure in political will could stunt growth in Europe’s business aviation.

Despite the fact that business aviation growth in Europe is expected to exceed airline traffic increases by 50%, according to a just-published Eurocontrol study, the agency predicts that air traffic management (ATM) capacity can expand sufficiently to cope with it.

But Alex Hendriks, Eurocontrol’s head of airspace management navigation, warns this depends on political buy-in at all stages during progress toward the Single European Sky (SES).

According to Hendrix there are some apparently simple problems that will need a resolution quickly.  

One is that some states are running out of transponder code allocations, to the point that some busy European ATM units will have to delay departures soon because they do not have unique codes.

Business aviation movements in Europe are predicted to grow by 4-6.5% per year compared with an airline growth rate of 3.3%, according to the Eurocontrol study. Growth of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) is unpredicted but expected to be massive once it is integrated, as it will be, says Hendriks.

The capacity problems created by VLJs will show themselves first in the vicinity of major hubs like Amsterdam, says Hendricks. And because VLJs are expected to replace many turboprop business or private aircraft they will be competing more for the same airspace the airlines use, he predicts. Flying at flight levels above those the airlines use - an option often employed by business jet users - is going to become more difficult because airlines are increasingly using levels above FL350 (35,000ft / 10,600m), the Eurocontrol study reveals.

The problem of lack of transponder codes can be overcome by issuing them centrally - in Europe via the Central Flow Management Unit (CFMU) - rather than via the International Civil Aviation Organisation to nations, Hendriks explains. Eurocontrol has a system for this but it has yet to be approved by states.

Although Hendriks professes optimism about European ATM capacity, he does not promise the political will to ensure it, and he also warns about air navigation service provider (ANSP) opposition to improved airspace design if it might reduce their income.