Julian Moxon/BRUSSELS

Eurocontrol has won US support for its approach to a future air traffic management (ATM) system that offers the potential to double airspace capacity by 2015.

Presenting the results of its 10-year programme for harmonised air traffic management research (PHARE), the agency says the US Federal Aviation Administration has accepted that it has "over emphasised" the advantages of its own "free flight" system, which would not work in heavily congested areas and in low and medium altitude airspace. Eurocontrol claims that it has demonstrated that the PHARE approach promises true "gate-to-gate" capability.

The FAA has had observer status during the PHARE work, which Eurocontrol programme manager Helmut Schroter says has led to discussions on a "combined approach" to future ATM. "What is coming is the best of both worlds," he says. "There is an alignment of thinking and a very fruitful exchange of ideas," Schroter adds.

Eurocontrol will present the PHARE results to member states in October as part of its campaign to win approval for the ATM2000+ Strategy.

It will do so against a background of increasing criticism of air traffic control (ATC) delays, with this northern summer expected to be the worst for hold-ups since 1988. The ATM2000+ Strategy, which is intended to allow Europe to meet its ATM needs through to the year 2015, focuses on providing additional capacity and overcoming shortcomings in the ATC system.

While the ATM2000+ effort is aimed at medium- and longer-term improvements, the agency is pushing for more power to implement enhancements already approved, such as reduced vertical separation minima (RVSM). Wolfgang Philipp, Eurocontrol senior director for European ATM, says: "We are working on implementation arrangements for a European notice of proposed rulemaking, and the RVSM will be the first to benefit from that-There must be a procedure to ensure that there is a clear target."

The PHARE concept is based on the idea of an integrated air-ground ATM system in which pilots enter into the flight management system the trajectory that best suits their flight. Potential conflicts are identified by ground-based "planning controllers", who agree the final trajectory with the pilot by datalink.

The aim is to "pre-de-conflict" the route so that aircraft can keep to precise timing throughout the journey. Aircraft would land within a few seconds of their planned time, allowing increases in efficiency through better planning and use of available capacity.

Source: Flight International