Developing nations have urged the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to establish an international aviation monetary fund to help them finance implementation of communications, navigation and surveillance/ air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system programmes.

Bolivia, Pakistan and the 53 African ICAO member nations were among a host of countries pressing for assistance to undertake CNS/ATM programmes at the international aviation body's Worldwide CNS/ATM Systems Implementation Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 11-15 May.

"We must ensure that Africa is not left out of the initiative to implement CNS/ATM globally. We have simply not addressed the particular African problems. Africa does not come here begging, but seeking assistance," said the Ghanaian delegate, reflecting the views of his regional colleagues.

African airspace deficiencies have attracted much criticism in the past 18 months. "CNS/ATM is a great opportunity for Africa to address these," says Ghana.

Low traffic density and other urgent demands for scarce finance in many African states mean that air navigation service providers in the continent will not be able to attract financing through normal channels, according to Flight International sister publication Air Navigation International.

Funding in general remains the key hurdle to be overcome before CNS/ATM can be implemented. The technology to allow global CNS/ATM implementation is in place, and the plan of action - in the form of ICAO's Global Air Navigation Plan for CNS/ATM Systems - is complete, Jack Howell, director of ICAO's air navigation bureau told the 800-plus conference attendees.

The delegates comprised ICAO member states, governmental and inter-governmental organisations, equipment manufacturers and financial institutions. "Getting the financial commitment remains," Howell warned.

Potential sources of funding for air navigation services projects will vary considerably from state to state. ICAO suggests that these could include contributions from national or foreign governments, including bilateral organisations, development banks and funds and the United Nations Development Programme; commercial sources through debt financing; depreciation and retained profits from the operation of air navigation services; the issue of bonds; equity financing and leasing rather than the purchase of buildings or technical equipment. Cost recovery will be in the form of user charges. "We need to look at truly creative financial arrangements in this revolutionary process towards CNS/ ATM," says ICAO.

Although it is not the "perfect system", the aviation community is committed to its implementation as it is vital for the future development of the industry into the next century, says Howell. Implementation is set to bring four major benefits - cost savings, capacity improvements, safety improvements and environmental benefits. Costs alone are estimated to be reduced by around $6 billion a year compared with current operational procedures.

Source: Flight International