Eurocontrol predicts air traffic delays in Europe this summer "significantly lower" than experienced on the continent last summer - the worst period ever for European air traffic delays.

Eurocontrol's provisional council, which met late last month to discuss capacity problems, is optimistic of meeting the objective endorsed by Europe's transport ministers of average delays below 3.5min a flight this summer, despite a 5.3% traffic growth forecast.

Short- and medium-term initiatives will allow the continent to meet this target, the council says, including the re-opening of much of the Balkan airspace at the end of January. The latest phase of the air traffic service route network (ARN), which is restructuring European routes and sectors, is expected to enhance capacity.

ARN phases one and two involving restructuring of Scandinavian, French and Swiss airspace were conducted in October 1998 and February 1999, while the third phase, which started in January this year, involves sectors in Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Additional restructuring involving Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Germany is ongoing.

Meanwhile, the CHIEF Operational Task Force, established last July, is focusing on optimising airspace and route structure and enhancing civil/military interfaces for congested regions of Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France.

Short-term measures include an enhanced version of the Central Flow Management Unit software designed to improve the air traffic flow management service and a monthly operational performance monitoring process to assess the contribution of individual capacity improvements to the overall performance of the air traffic management system.

Source: Flight International