Emma Kelly/PALMA

Eurocontrol is stressing that no further delay is possible in the implementation of 8.33kHz channel-spacing in European airspace, despite concerns over the low level of equipment installation by operators.

The introduction of 8.33kHz channel-spacing, which will free additional radio frequencies to meet increasing air traffic management demands, is scheduled for 7 October, 1999.

Only aircraft carrying radio equipment meeting the 8.33kHz channel-spacing requirement will be permitted to operate above flight level 245 in the International Civil Aviation Organisation European region. Non-equipped aircraft will not be permitted above this level.

Implementation was originally planned for 1 January, 1998, but then moved to 1 January, 1999. The October deadline was set last year when it became clear that airlines were moving slowly in equipping their aircraft. Any further delay would threaten the ability of air traffic service providers to increase capacity and ease the flight delay problem in European airspace, says Eurocontrol.

"We will not postpone implementation again," Christophe Hamel, Eurocontrol's 8.33kHz programme manager told airlines at the AlliedSignal Solutions to European Airspace Mandates Workshop in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, 23-24 March.

Eurocontrol is closely monitoring the speed at which airlines are equipping. Late in February, responses from carriers indicated that 43.1% of operators had installed the necessary equipment. Eurocontrol is expecting "a rapid increase" as the October deadline approaches and believes that air transport operators will meet the date. The general aviation community, however, remains a "big problem", Hamel concedes.

Despite Eurocontrol's assurances that no further delay is possible, airlines attending the workshop expressed doubts that the October deadline will remain. More than 95% of airspace users must be equipped before 8.33kHZ channel spacing can be implemented. A number of operators predict a further delay could be announced just weeks before the October deadline.

European airspace is suffering the effects from this year's deadline slippage, says Hamel. Switzerland has been hardest hit, with no air traffic capacity increase likely this year, resulting in an "inevitable growth" in delays. France was forced to introduce a revised and less effective new sectorisation at the end of February, because of the delay in moving to 8.33kHz .

The 8.33kHz implementation is a major component, along with the mandatory carriage of airborne collision avoidance systems (ACAS II), Mode S transponders and reduced vertical separation minima implementation, of Eurocontrol's European Air Traffic Management Programme (EATMP). The EATMP is aimed at improving safety, capacity and efficiency of operations in European airspace.

Source: Flight International