A working group of the South Pacific Forum is due to complete its studies on the proposed unified upper airspace management of the region in June next year, allowing ministers to decide next September on whether to implement the plan.

The 16-member South Pacific Forum - Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu - started work on the proposal in May last year. As part of a five-point aviation co-operation plan, the forum proposed that Pacific airspace should be managed as a unified sector, consistent with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's (ICAO) recommendation of homogeneous air traffic management (ATM) regions.

The working group, which also includes the USA, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, ICAO, the International Air Transport Association and the Association of South Pacific Airlines, has been established following the completion of a report on the project by an independent New Zealand consultancy company, says Michael Lewino, aviation advisor to the South Pacific Forum.

The report, which was completed in June, considered four options, recommending that the region establish an organisation contracting the provision of air traffic services.

Although the report "has clarified the fundamental requirement of the proposal", it also attracted "a lot of critical comments", says Lewino.

The working group has been given several tasks, including conducting more detailed cost-benefit analysis; a more rigorous investigation of alternatives, including implementing airspace arrangements under a multilateral agreement, but without establishing an operating company; greater clarity of the process of engaging air traffic service providers; and looking at implications for the management of lower airspace.

Source: Flight International