A piece of air traffic history was made on Friday when for the first time more than 30,000 aircraft passed through Europe's already crowded airspace in a single day.

"The signs are that this record will be broken again in September," says Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguardo. Despite a 10% growth in traffic in the last five years, he says delays are down 69%. "But we can't be content with this. Growth this year has already been much higher than expected. We thought it would grow at 3.8% between 2005-2009. This year it has been 4.8% overall and 16-17% in some parts of Europe".

With European traffic projected to double by 2020, the pressure is now on to push through the Single European Sky (SES) initiative, launched just over a year ago. In its early form, this aims to create huge blocks of harmonised airspace based on the needs of airlines rather than on the constraints of national borders. Ultimately, the hope is for "seamless" airspace throughout Europe.

At the show yesterday, the European Commission (EC) and Eurocontrol announced the go-ahead for the definition phase of a vital component of the SES. The Sesame programme aims for the first time to bring together the air traffic management (ATM) community, industry, the airlines, airports and the military to produce an ATM master plan for Europe that Aguardo says "will formulate operational concepts and propose new systems as well as define the road map for their implementation".


Sesame aims to avoid the failures of the past, which, according to an industry spokesman at Paris, "often were based on political rather than realistic goals".

The first phase of Sesame will cost €60 million ($72 million), shared equally between the EC and Eurocontrol, and will last 18 months.

"It's the first time we've bought all of the stakeholders together on the same roadmap," says EC vice-president Jacques Barrot. "I have also been talking to [Federal Aviation Administration chief] Marion Blakey. We agreed that we would co-operate as much as possible between Sesame and NGATS [new generation air transport system]. We certainly don't want to discover that we're incompatible with their system."

Implementation of Sesame will run from 2007 to 2020, and is likely to cost €300 million.

Source: Flight Daily News