Air traffic control surveillance using automatic dependent surveillance - broadcast as a sole means has been approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

At present only a small fleet of "pioneer airlines" is suitably equipped to benefit from this, says Eurocontrol, adding that the sole-means ATC surveillance clearance applies in areas that have no radar cover.

This is the first fully operational - rather than trial - clearance for ADS-B use in Europe, and represents the first step in a programme that will see aircraft and air navigation service provider equipage with 1090MHz ADS-B extended squitter become mandatory by 2015. Then it will become the primary surveillance mode for air traffic management and for pilot air traffic situational awareness and airborne separation assistance.

Three of 18 carriers participating in the ADS-B pioneer scheme have received full EASA approval - Air France, Air One and Volkswagen's business aircraft fleet. Aircraft involved so far include Airbus, Boeing and Dassault types, says Eurocontrol.

Alex Wandels, manager of Eurocontrol's ADS-B implementation programme known as Cascade, says: "Approval by EASA of ADS-B use in European airspace is a major step forward and will create opportunities for fuel and emissions savings while enhancing safety levels." He is referring to the advantages to be gained compared with procedural control.

The agency's safety study, carried out to validate the proposed use of ADS-B as a primary means of surveillance in non-radar areas, says: "This application is expected to provide benefits to capacity, efficiency and safety in a way similar to what would be achieved by use of secondary surveillance radar where it is not in use today."

The Single European Sky implementing rule mandating ADS-B carriage from 2015 will be published for consultation in the next few weeks, says Eurocontrol, and progressive implementation of ADS-B "out" is planned starting in 2009. Australia, Canada and the USA are running similar programmes, and ADS-B is integral to the operation of the Single European Sky and the US NextGen plans for future air traffic management.

Source: Flight International