Julian Moxon/PARIS

Eurocontrol's Provisional Council has approved the agency's plans to reduce air traffic congestion in the short-to-medium term after a year in which delays have been among the worst on record.

Although the Kosovo crisis has been blamed for causing most of the delays from April-July, the Association of European Airlines points out that there has been virtually no improvement since it ended. While there was some recovery during the summer, the preliminary figures for the third quarter show that the overall number of departures delayed for more than 15min was 30.5% of the total - the second highest figure to be recorded - while those for September reached 30.6%.

The demand for more airspace capacity has been demonstrated by recent simulation trials at Eurocontrol, which it says "confirmed the need for additional capacity enhancement projects to resolve the remaining capacity shortfalls up to 2005".

The short/medium term improvements centre on the introduction of the 8.33kHz frequency band and of reduced vertical separation minima, due to become operational in 2002, together with a continued airspace restructuring programme. These, says Eurocontrol, will enable the European air traffic management (ATM) system to handle expected 5.3%traffic increases next year and 5.5% in 2001. It wants to reduce average delays per flight to 3.5min next summer, which it says "represents a delay level below that of 1997".

The Provisional Council, made up of the civil aviation authority director generals of Eurocontrol member states, wants the agency to adopt a more structured approach to ATM planning. It has agreed that a new process, called the European Convergence and Implementation Plan, should become the principal European planning mechanism.

Source: Flight International