Monday, January 2, 2017

IATA Pivots to National Airspace Strategies for EU Modernization

Frustrated by the slow progress toward implementation of the Single European Sky (SES) program, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has turned to lobbying individual governments and air traffic service providers in the European Union to develop national airspace modernization strategies.

“Despite the vital importance of airspace to European connectivity, its economy and society, most member states do not have a coherent national strategy to manage this scarce resource,” IATA assistant director for air traffic management Pete Curran told journalists during a recent association event in Geneva. “This is a key missing agreement in making progress toward realizing the Single European Sky.

“European airspace was designed decades ago when no one would have dreamt of 10 million flights and 935 million passengers in a year,” he added. “And while the airspace has been adjusted somewhat over the years, the airspace structure hasn’t fundamentally changed. It’s failing to achieve targets today and simply won’t manage the demand that will be forced on it in the coming years.”

Curran characterized the SES situation as one of conflict and vested interests, resulting in a lack of political willingness to make needed reforms. Service providers prefer to prevent reforms rather than prepare for them, he noted. State governments, he added, are too heavily influenced by their service providers and averse to political risk or reforms that might trigger industrial action or strikes. “Ground system manufacturers profit from the situation of fragmentation with more potential customers and complex system integration issues,” he alleged.

“The European Commission is limited by the member states and lacks the tools to compel change,” said Curran. “The SES is blocked, and a new approach is urgently needed. It’s clear that there is a degree of nationalism evolving in Europe, and working at a national level is perhaps likely to get a level of support.”

IATA’s bottom-up nationalist approach to SES concentrates on those states that stand to feel the greatest effects of airspace capacity restraints, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Turkey.

From IATA’s perspective, a national airspace strategy should incorporate consultation with airspace users, performance milestones toward delivery of SES goals, integration with the wide European airspace network to maximize efficiency, linkages with domestic environmental and noise legislation, national defense requirements, cost-benefit analysis and industry-inclusive governance. Curran cited the UK’s Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) - and its Sky’s The Limit campaign as positive examples. However, he cautioned, “It’s far from what we consider embedding the principles that we want around business continuity.”

An IATA-commissioned study by SEO Amsterdam Economics estimated the European economy could add one million jobs and $263 billion of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2035 if airspace modernization fully materializes.

(Rick Adams - AINOnline News)

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