Emma Kelly/LONDON

Eurocontrol is urging member states affected by the implementation of 8.33kHz channel-spacing to provide details of their capacity plans for next summer to ensure the success of the programme and alleviate congestion in European airspace.

The mandatory carriage of 8.33kHz-compatible airborne radio equipment came into effect above flight level 245 in seven states - Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland - on 7 October.

The creation of much-needed extra airspace capacity in Europe next summer is directly dependent on the successful implementation of 8.33kHz channel-spacing in VHF voice communications from the previous 25kHz, freeing up additional radio frequencies.

The initial implementation of the programme was successful, with a compliance level in excess of 95%, according to Eurocontrol, but the longer-term success is dependent upon states improving their sectorisation and airspace capacity on time.

Eurocontrol director-general Yves Lambert wrote to the states earlier in December requesting information on their capacity plans for summer 2000, with responses expected in early 2000. "We want to stress that it's up to the 8.33kHz states to get on with their part of the programme now," says the air navigation organisation.

The 8.33kHz channel-spacing programme was implemented with little disruption, says Eurocontrol. The organisation had warned of the potential for increased delays in the lower airspace as non-equipped aircraft are forced to fly below FL245. "Even on the first [Thursday] of operations the delay situation in total minutes was less than on the previous Thursday and this trend continued for the week. It was a very smooth transition," says Eurocontrol. The organisation concedes, however, that its success or otherwise will not be known until next summer.

Meanwhile, Eurocontrol has started to canvass states on their future radio frequency requirements to determine how long the 8.33kHz channel-spacing will provide benefits and what will be required in the future. Horizontal expansion of the programme above FL245 is an obvious move, which has attracted interest from states including the UK and Spain.

Source: Flight International