SESAR says fragmented system costs double USA's

Europe's air traffic management (ATM) suffers from so much inefficiency that it costs €3.4 billion ($4.4 billion) more than necessary to run, according to a Eurocontrol-commissioned study by the SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) consortium.

The consortium's first task was to assess the existing system against future requirements. It describes the European ATM system as "some 100 main European airport nodes linked together by approximately 600 airspace sector nodes operated by more than 36 air navigation service providers [ANSP]". The consortium concludes there is no point in applying new technology and hoping it will provide the required efficiencies for the future as fragmentation must be eliminated first.

SESAR estimates the total ATM system unit operating cost at €0.76/km (52¢/nm) for en-route services, which it says is down by 13% from 2003, but still "around twice as much as that in the USA".

"The full cost-recovery regime [at most ANSPs] does not incentivise organisations to implement changes and make new investments," says the report.

The over-arching conclusion is that a new ATM system must be "implemented with a service-centric approach within a business framework [and] must be able to cope with expected market growth and meet the societal requirements".

The target is to deliver "a future ATM system for 2020 and beyond which can, relative to today's performance, enable up to a three-fold increase in air traffic movements whilst reducing delays and enabling a 10% reduction in the effects aircraft have on the environment."

The report notes that, at present, ATM is a factor in 3.6% of all accidents, although there has been no ATM-related mishap since 2003. One of the fundamental aims is to improve safety performance by a factor of 10, says SESAR.

Keys to future development

In its 138-page report, SESAR charts where the system is now and what it needs to do to move forward. Statements and recommendations include:

■ "The time taken for ICAO to produce the standards, practices and procedures needed [for modern globally harmonised ATM] has become too long to meet the rapidly changing needs of the business...the Single European Sky regulatory framework complements the ICAO framework."

■ "There should be a single European ATM 'design authority' empowered to define, plan and manage the implementation" of the future integrated system."

■ "There is a need for a paradigm shift in the current concept of operations to break through the capacity barrier predicted to occur between 2013 and 2015...this shift will include an increased use of automation to do some tasks traditionally performed by humans."

■ "Fragmentation, at all levels, of the European ATM system will have to be eliminated prior to the implementation of SESAR-defined ATM enhancements - present system inefficiencies shall not be compensated for by technological solutions alone."

■ "It is envisaged that the [future system] will more closely integrate the ground and airborne segments. Thus the governance, management structures and decision-making process must be designed concurrently with the future ATM system."

■ "Interoperability on a global scale [must be embedded in all plans]."

Source: Flight International