Eurocontrol has taken a crucial step towards developing an air traffic management master plan for Europe by initiating the tender process that will decide who partners the agency in carrying out the definition studies for the Single European Sky implementation plan (Sesame), writes David Kaminski-Morrow.

Sesame aims to move European air traffic management (ATM) away from its present fragmented development and towards a unified and integrated environment.

The initiative aims to develop an "ATM master plan" for the next two decades, and the development phase should be completed by about 2007. Implementation will then follow.

Speaking at the Jane's ATC Maastricht 2005 conference last week, Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado said: "This definition will give us light, an indication of how to prepare for the next-generation ATM system." He says that the call for tender will lead to contract negotiations, which are expected to "take us well into the summer".

The master plan will direct European ATM development for the next two decades and involve the ATM industry, manufacturers, airports and the service users.

The European Commission's Trans European Networks scheme is providing half of the €60 million ($78 million) needed for the development phase, while Eurocontrol will contribute the rest.

The Sesame plan originated from an unsolicited industry proposal submitted to the European Commission two years ago by the Air Traffic Alliance consortium.

The alliance, comprising EADS, Airbus and Thales, says it has assembled 70 partners in what it calls the Sesame Consortium to make its bid, which it says will be ready for a 5 April deadline.

Source: Flight International