Once again Europe's airborne collision avoidance system (ACASII) programme is facing a setback, with many operators standing no chance of meeting this month's deadline.

As with earlier European equipment mandates, the ACAS II programme has faced delays. But unlike other programmes, it has been hit by adverse circumstances completely out of the control of operators and Eurocontrol, which was tasked by European states to implement it.

Europe's ACAS II problems began a long time ago with the later-than-expected release by the US Federal Aviation Administration of the technical standard order for the new generation Version 7 equipment. The reverberations from that have rippled through the whole programme. As hard as Eurocontrol, equipment manufacturers, operators, certification authorities and others have tried to catch up, they haven't quite made it.

Eurocontrol is not letting up though, and neither should it. Only those operators with genuine ACAS installation and certification issues will get a reprieve - and only a limited one at that until the end of September this year.

ACAS II implementation needs to be viewed in a wider context to appreciate its significance. It is not an isolated programme, but one piece of a much larger jigsaw. Not only can it significantly reduce the risk of mid-air collision or near mid-air collision - by at least a factor of two - but it is also vital for new measures which are intended to ease Europe's capacity problems. Chief among these is the crucial capacity-enhancing reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM), the safety case for which is dependent on successful ACAS II implementation.

European states have long been calling for measures to reduce the continent's airspace problems and now it is up to them to ensure that ACAS II implementation is followed through to ensure that capacity-enhancing measures can be realised. All states need to be tough on those operators not meeting the ACAS II mandate.

Rogue operators beware, as the larger states are already planning to step up ramp inspections to ensure the ACAS programme is the success that it is intended to be.

Source: Flight International