By David Kaminski-Morrow in London

Four countries have reinvigorated efforts to consolidate some Central European upper airspace, abandoning the heavily-criticised single-centre concept in favour of a functional-block approach.

Austria, Bosnia, Hungary and Slovakia are to press ahead with the new approach following the collapse of the Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) project.

The states took a formal decision to commit to the new approach on 24 May, says Eurocontrol director general Victor Aguado, speaking to Flight International at the ‘European ATM: The Challenge of Growth’ conference in London.

“Now we’re developing a project management programme,” he says. “It’s a new approach under the previous umbrella in order to tackle what is to be a functional airspace block in Central Europe.”

He says the new programme – which will probably be given a fresh name to eradicate the stigma built up around CEATS – will be initially based on current infrastructure and only move towards functional consolidation when clear cost benefits can be demonstrated. There will be “stronger engagement” between air navigation service providers, with Eurocontrol offering its assistance to keep the effort on course.

Ultimately, Aguado says, the consolidation will be fully compatible with the requirements laid down by the Single European Sky initiative to unify air traffic management. “This is the strongest commitment to creating a functional block of airspace that exists in Europe today,” says Aguado. “We cannot implement a project like this without 100% commitment from the parties.”

CEATS aimed to develop a joint-area centre in Austria to control upper airspace over eight states. But the drawn-out project suffered from political wrangling – only five states eventually ratified the original agreement – and it lost momentum. Earlier this year airlines condemned the project as a waste of time and money, with the International Air Transport Association putting the cost at €40 million ($51 million) over seven years.

Austria, Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia were the original ratifying states. The other three CEATS members – Croatia, Italy and Slovenia – as well as the Czech Republic, have yet to indicate whether they will also join the revised programme.

Source: Flight International