Europe's long-awaited Single European Sky initiative will see its first tangible service deliveries this year, according to Patrick Ky, executive director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking.
The introduction of four-dimensional en-route aircraft trajectory management on some routes and improved arrival control in particularly busy terminal airspace are two of the deliverables that Ky promises will be in place by the end of 2011.
In 4D navigation, the fourth dimension is time, and the benefit is that aircraft arrive at waypoints and their destination precisely when the system expects them and is ready to deal with them.
"We have to go beyond signing agreements and start delivering results," Ky told the ATC Global conference and exhibition in Amsterdam this week.
He is clearly aware of the need to show tangible results following almost a decade spent getting political agreement from European states, a legal charter from the European Commission, and co-ordinating the objectives for a research programme to be carried out by industry partners.
Ky's strategy for delivering the early components is to ease new, technology-enabled procedures into the system gradually, route by route, as soon as they are validated, so the system can gain confidence in them before deploying the techniques more widely.
The SESAR system refers to these system introductions as "releases", and it was the SESAR Joint Undertaking's "first release" that Ky announced in Amsterdam.
A number of airports and area control centres all over Europe have been working to validate programmes such as 4D trajectory management, terminal area point merge, and approach procedures with vertical guidance - all taking greater advantage of improved aircraft navigational performance capability than they do at present. During this year, says Ky, these will gradually be adopted as standard.