German air navigation service provider (ANSP) DFS has announced an early move to prepare for the business opportunities presented by the Single European Sky (SES) and compulsory licensing for European service providers. It has launched an airport air traffic control business it has dubbed the Tower Company, because when compulsory licensing for service providers is implemented at the end of 2006, it will be free to bid for airport ATC contracts anywhere in the continent.

“We are doing this for the sake of European development and the future,” says DFS chief executive Dieter Kaden. He says he is referring not only to the Tower Company, but also to DFS’s policy of reducing user charges year by year and its push to become more efficient. “In the long term, only those ANSPs that offer high quality at favourable prices will survive on our continent.”

The Tower Company – whose entry into operation is “imminent”, says the DFS – would bid for airport ATC contracts at Germany’s smaller airports because “the services at the 17 international airports in Germany will continue to be provided by the DFS”. No statement has been made about any such limitations on the company’s ambitions outside Germany.

DFS has outlined a strategy for its en-route services in line with SES policy: “Competition has not yet been introduced for area control centres, but we have already started to pave the way for this step.” The company says it is already “negotiating with neighbouring organisations concerning possible co-operation schemes” with the aim of creating SES functional airspace blocks (FAB), based on air traffic management criteria, not on national airspace divisions, as at present.

“Ensuring the competitiveness of DFS today is a major prerequisite for safeguarding the future of our company since only those providers that meet the criteria of safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness will be designated to provide services in future FABs,” it says.

David Learmount / London

Source: Flight International