Membership of air navigation authority promises to hasten progress towards European Single Sky

The European Community has put its political and law-making weight behind Eurocontrol, concluding its membership of the air navigation organisation after two years of discussions. At the same time, it is hastening progress towards achieving what European Union (EU) Transport Council president Flemming Hansen calls "a single European airspace without borders". EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio says the Single European Sky will eventually extend over "the whole of geographical Europe".

The formal accession of the EU, which was signed last week, will enable agreed Eurocontrol standards to be enforced within EU states, and will extend, by agreement, the same standards and the Single European Sky to the 14 non-EU Eurocontrol member states, says Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado. Hansen says Eurocontrol's "extensive knowledge and competence in air traffic management (ATM) can now be combined with the EU's political and legislative power, which will ensure many more ideas can be realised". Acknowledging fears that the European Commission (EC) is making a bid for control of European skies, however, de Palacio says: "The Commission is not going to engage in ATM."

Europe's ATM system faces a series of demands, says Aguado: raising standards and improving safety; and upgrading efficiency in ATM and capacity. Eurocontrol states handled 8.5 million flights last year, and this is expected to rise to 15.8 million by 2020.

Aguado will not comment on whether the higher standards, uniform operating procedures and the greater integration promised by Single Sky would have prevented the collision over southern Germany in July (Flight International, 16-22 July). The investigation into the crash involving a Bashkirian Airlines Tupolev Tu-154 and a DHL Boeing 757 has not been completed, but de Palacio says that "in any case, there was no communication and no integrated systems. That is very clear."

She says the new EU/Eurocontrol relationship is nothing to do with privatisation of air traffic control (ATC). "It is up to member states to decide who is going to provide this service, which is a natural monopoly. We do not want to enter into this." Aguado says the Single European Sky does not mean stopping nations participating in the ATC process - but some countries will decide to have joint upper-airspace flight information regions.

Source: Flight International