Emma Kelly/LONDON

Eurocontrol's Performance Review Commission (PRC) has issued its recommendations on air transport punctuality, airspace capacity and delays and the civil/military use of airspace following the independent group's assessment of air traffic management (ATM) performance in Europe during 1999.

The report comes as the continent's air traffic control (ATC) system prepares for peak summer delays.

In the PRC's second annual review of European ATM, the group, which comprises independent airline and ATC experts, says that last year's capacity shortfalls remains.

Air traffic flow management (ATFM) delays in 1999 increased much faster than traffic, with the lack of capacity in some areas causing ATFM delays to increase by 68%, compared to 1998, while traffic increased by 6.7%. Capacity currently lags behind demand by 10%, says the report. ATFM delays increased considerably in the first half of the year due to the Kosovo crisis, while delays last summer were even worse than the previous crisis summer of 1998.

There were "significant improvements" in some areas, such as Greece and the UK, but delays worsened in other areas, such as Area South - Marseille, Milan, Geneva and Zurich. During the year, 20 sectors out of 468 caused more than 40% of the ATFM delays.

There is insufficient reliable data to identify the origin of all air transport delays, says the PRC, proposing that Eurocontrol publish official punctuality data and investigate the causes of delays.

A single body in Europe should be made responsible for over-seeing airport slots, airline schedules and air navigation service provider capacity plans at strategic level, while a co-operation framework should be established to exercise collaborative decision making in ATM, it suggests.

Short-term collective action to increase capacity in Area South should be extended to cover the implementation of new airspace design, and a similar project should be initiated in Area North - Reims, Maastricht, Karlsruhe and Munich - the commission proposes.

Eurocontrol and air navigation service providers (ANSPs) should identify probable bottlenecks for next year and take urgent corrective action. In addition, ANSPs should publish five-year capacity plans annually.

The director general of Euro-control should be tasked with restructuring airspace and capacity planning and flow management into a cohesive process, it adds.

Airspace redesign is the main source of additional ATC capacity in the short- to medium-term.

The PRC also highlights the growing air traffic controller shortage - seven out of the top 30 bottlenecks are linked directly with staff shortages - and the situation is set to worsen due to a large number of retirements.

Source: Flight International