Business aviation growth in Europe is expected to exceed airline traffic increases by 50%, according to a Eurocontrol study, but the agency predicts that air traffic management (ATM) capacity can expand sufficiently to cope. This includes the predicted explosion in very light jet (VLJ) use, says head of airspace management and navigation Alex Hendriks,

Accommodating the projected growth assumes political buy-in to all steps towards the Single European Sky (SES), Hendricks warns. Meanwhile, there are some apparently simple problems that will need a resolution quickly, he says. One is that some states are running out of transponder code allocations, to the point that some busy European ATM units will have to delay departures soon because they do not have unique codes.

Business aviation movements in Europe are predicted to grow by 4-6.5% a year compared with an airline growth rate of 3.3%, according to the Eurocontrol study. Growth of unmanned air vehicles is unpredicted, but expected to be massive once they are integrated, says Hendriks.

Capacity problems created by VLJs will show themselves first in the vicinity of major hubs like Amsterdam, says Hendricks. Because VLJs are expected to replace many turboprop business or private aircraft, they will compete for the same airspace the airlines use, he predicts. Flying above the airways is going to become more difficult for business jet operators because airlines are increasingly using flight levels above FL350 (35,000ft), the study reveals.

The lack of transponder codes can be overcome by issuing them centrally – in Europe via the Central Flow Management Unit – rather than via the International Civil Aviation Organisation to nations, Hendriks says. Although he professes optimism about European ATM capacity, Hendricks does not promise the political will to ensure it.

Source: Flight International