David Learmount/GENEVA

The bulk of Europe's air traffic control system will suffer a capacity shortfall of more than 10% by 2005, even if all the national proposals put forward through Eurocontrol are fully implemented, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) studies. Europe faces a 70% increase in ATC-related delays as a result, the association calculates.

ATC delays added $5.4 billion in operating costs to the $4.2 billion user charges paid last year by airlines to Eurocontrol, says IATA director general Pierre Jeanniot. Those figures are not IATA estimates, he says, but European Union/Eurocontrol calculations.

Eurocontrol counters that a recent agreement with member states indicates acceptance of accelerated implementation of new measures, so the figures will not be as bad, although it admits that there will be a capacity shortfall.

As Europe heads towards crisis in its ATC system, IATA has published a five-point charter for the future of ATC, which includes adoption of a common airspace policy, Europe-wide regulatory enforcement powers for Eurocontrol and implementation of a capacity planning system across the whole of the European Civil Aviation Conference countries, including all Eastern Europe (Flight International, 21-27 July).

IATA's predictions for 2005 show that the worst upper airspace capacity shortfalls will be in the Iberian peninsula and the European ATC heartlands, including the Paris region, Switzerland and all of Italy and the Adriatic. In lower airspace, the worst shortfalls will affect the crucial Paris and Swiss flight information regions.

Lobbying to raise political awareness of air traffic management (ATM) problems, Jeanniot reports that he has in the past month met transport ministers from Austria, Finland, France, Germany and Switzerland, and plans to meet transport chiefs from Italy, Spain and the European Commission within two weeks.

France is "cautious about liberalisation" of its airspace, says Jeanniot, adding that the other states and the UK have promised their backing for measures to combat the ATC capacity shortfall.

Promises are not enough, however, says Philip Hogge, IATA's director infrastructure, Europe. "Everybody has paid lip service to a genuinely European ATC system, but they do not do it. It is the one area in which the greatest single leap in efficiency could be made."

The fact that the ATC organisations have no contractual responsibility to meet forecast demand is a primary reason that IATA is pushing for ATC to be managed by non-governmental autonomous bodies, corporatised or privatised.

Source: Flight International