Julian Moxon/PARIS

The eight-nation Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) system is to become reality with the establishment of a directorate in Czech capital Prague and first moves towards an experimental centre to be based in Budapest, Hungary.

CEATS brings together Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia and Slovenia to create a single upper airspace air traffic control (ATC) area similar in concept to Eurocontrol's Maastricht centre.

A leading Hungarian air traffic management advisor says the system will provide a major "buffer zone" between the future harmonised Eurocontrol ATC area and Russia and nations to the east.

The advisor Zoltan Gati, an originator of the CEATS concept, says planned service entry is set for 2007, although he adds that the experimental centre in Hungary will begin operating next year. "This is urgent, because it has to set up a simulation of the CEATS area to decide on sectorisation before the request for proposals on the necessary equipment goes out to industry," he says.

A task force has been created combining the Hungarian staff with those from the existing Eurocontrol experimental centre just outside Paris. "The development of operational concepts and civil/military co-ordination must begin now if we are to enter service on time," says Gati.

He says that the CEATS area, operating above flight level 290 (29,000ft/8,900m), will not be divided on the basis of national airspace sovereignty, but on priorities for sectorisation as set by air traffic requirements. He points out that this is in line with the requirement for the whole of European airspace set by the new European Commission Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio in her presentation to the European Parliament (Flight International, 8-14 September).

Austria is CEATS host country, and Italy will be responsible for a training centre, to be built at Forli-Rimini. The Prague office will be renamed the CEATS strategy planning and development unit when fully operational and will be responsible for co-ordination with Eurocontrol's air traffic control harmonisation initiatives.

Source: Flight International