European states ignoring Commission Regulations?

On 15/12/2012, in Airline corner, by steve

It is only a few days ago that airlines in Europe blasted states and ANSPs for creating empty shells which are then sold as operating Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) and the European Commission sent an equally strong message expressing its displeasure.

The next round of fire aims at the UK, Italy, Ireland, Austria, Spain and France who have reported at the recent Project Steering Group meeting on Data Link Services, that they will not meet the deadline of 7 February 2012 for the provision of data link services in the core area of Europe as mandated by Commission Regulation EC No 29/2009.

“The decision of these member states to not comply with European regulation will not only undermine the financial investments made by airspace users, but will also damage the credibility of the Single European Sky of which achieving de-fragmentation of the ATM infrastructure is a key objective.” – says IATA and AEA in their common letter addressed to Matthew Baldwin, Director Aviation and International Transport Affairs at the European Commission.

What is more, they urge the European Commission to take the necessary legal action against non-compliant member states…

I have said many times that in the past that promising air traffic management programs like EATCHIP and ATM2000+ died premature deaths not because of mismanagement by EUROCONTROL as states like to claim. They went nowhere because some states and ANSPs chose to walk their own way even if it meant hitting the wall.

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An Air Traffic Management Master Plan with Question Marks

On 27/06/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

If you follow European air traffic management developments, you will have noticed in the news that the ATM Master Plan is undergoing a significant update and the SESAR ATM Master Plan portal promises to have new information on this by mid-2012. About now that is…

There was less discussion about interesting events surrounding the Master Plan update. The original draft updated ATM Master Plan was so poor, the airlines at first proposed that IATA should not support this new version.

As we all know, flatly refusing to support such a cornerstone document does not happen lightly and there must have been serious shortcomings to upset the airspace users so much. Of course it says a lot about the current environment that a Master Plan update, even if only as a draft, can be released at all while containing information that has the potential to rattle the airspace users to this degree.

But what were the real problems as seen by the users?

Let’s first start with a bit of history. As you will see, the background facts are slightly more somber than the rather upbeat news communicated over the official channels during the Master Plan update process.

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The EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) – why the fuss?

On 11/03/2012, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve

All matters environmental are sensitive and aviation has been in the cross-hairs of the environmental lobby for a long time. Somehow the substantial improvements already made and those in the pipeline have not generated the level of interest they deserve. The fact that the still hopelessly inefficient air traffic management system in places like Europe is one of the biggest potential sources of new emission reduction has also been more or les ignored.

Not so the ETS… So what is the ETS?

This scheme makes it possible for companies that produce harmful emissions like CO2 to buy credits that allow them to continue their activities and continue spewing out the bad stuff up to the level of the credit they have purchased. The idea is that by making you pay for your bad habits, you will be motivated to mend your ways, i.e. improve your technology so that your activity becomes less polluting.

The airline industry, responsible for a mere 2 % of all industrial emissions, has been exempt from this scheme until 1 January 2012 and for good reason. After some initial hesitation and misunderstandings, the aviation industry did get its act together and in fact became one of the most ardent supporters of emission reduction. In fact, aviation was set by many experts as an example to follow by other industries in recognition of its worldwide efforts and common action plan.

One thing the airlines did not want was regional solutions to emission reduction… For companies flying essentially all over the world, diverging regional requirements and administrative regimes would be a nightmare that increased costs unnecessarily.

The natural forum to develop a worldwide solution for the reduction of aviation emission would have been ICAO but like so often in the past, progress was glacial, to say the least. The European Union lost its patience and announced that they would extend the ETS, already operational though of questionable effectiveness in other industries, to aviation also if no ICAO solution was forthcoming. This was the last thing the airlines wanted.

Not only is the ETS a purely regional solution, the way it was going to be applied to aviation would distort the market in all kinds of ways. I have written about this in the past so will not go into the details again here.

One thing is certain, the whole issue is turning into a perfect, albeit world wide, mess.

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Are Airspace Users Really the Centre of ANSP Attention?

On 22/01/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

More than a decade ago I was in the thick of a war raging between airspace users and air navigation service providers. At stake was the forced implementation of Mode S Enhanced Surveillance (ES), something some ANSPs considered to be vital while the airspace users in general considered to be an expensive folly. The business case developed by EUROCONTROL was at best dodgy and the promised benefits were seen as of questionable value.

At the time, Mode S elementary surveillance looked like a done deal. In the end, after having held back the Mode S ES for two years or so, three big ANSPs banded together and went ahead anyway… costing the industry millions without having realized measurable benefits to this day!

But now, Mode S Elementary Surveillance is rising from the ashes, more specifically the problems associated with the SES Implementing Rule (IR) on Aircraft Identification for Surveillance (Regulation (EU) No 1206/2011).

Two Members of the European Parliament have submitted questions for written answer (ref. E-000312/2012). You will find the text of the questions, as published, below in full.

I wonder what the answers will be. The questions paint a sad story indeed….

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It is not easy to work with the airlines – Why the SJU should be careful

On 07/09/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Having airspace users on board in SESAR is an important development by anyone’s measure. Thinking that having individual airlines involved is the same as having the industry involved is a grave mistake that can cost dearly to all concerned.

The signs of trouble are already there. What do you think about there being a hard-won agreement from the airspace users at one or two pretty high level meetings and then the same users withdrawing their agreement just a few weeks later? The result is frustration on the part of the other partners (ANSPs in this case), confusion about where things were going and, worst of all, loss of credibility of the airlines.

It would be easy to wave this away by just saying that the airline people in the meeting were not up to speed with the subjects being discussed and so they agreed to something they did not fully understand. This would be a rather unfortunate situation and no excuse at all but the actual reality is even worse.

The problem is not new and it is called the industry voice, or rather, the lack of it.

Until about a decade ago, IATA had been recognized by its members as the industry voice on all technical aspects of air traffic management. One of the most important, and difficult, tasks of IATA’s experts had been to forge this common voice, bringing together the widely differing interests and business models of the member airlines so that to the outside world only consolidated, well defined requirements were communicated. This was vital because otherwise the ATM and avionics industries would have been totally confused and at a loss as to what they should develop to meet the airlines’ diverse requirements.

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Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) for aviation needs major repair

On 27/06/2011, in Environment - Without hot air, by steve

When you drive on France’s motorways, you pay for the privilege. In return you get first class asphalt, nice rest areas and a means to cover the vast distances of that country safely and efficiently. When Austria introduced their road toll system, the money went to refurbishing their aging motorways and to building new ones. The result was an astonishing improvement to a road system already of a very high quality. But not all toll systems are this nice…

When the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) is unilaterally extended to aviation on 1 January 2012, it will cost the industry a cool 3.4 billion euro a year and possibly more if we include the negative impact in terms of global competitiveness. There is a global outcry and it looks like politicians in Europe have found a way to upset the rest of the world for no possible good to Europe or anyone else.

Had it been so that the money gathered from aviation under the ETS would be reinvested in aviation related environmental projects, the case would have been very different. Nobody would be cheering and some aspects of this fatally flawed rule would still need to be repaired but at least it would have a semblance of common sense and would do some good for the environment.

As it is now proposed, the aviation part of the ETS is nothing but a new tax that will do nothing to protect the environment. Politicians in Europe usually find it very hard to agree on anything but they love taxes. They love ETS. Originally it was proposed that income from ETS should be reserved for environmental projects alone. The idea was never accepted… of course.

So, what is the big row about?

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SESAR at ATC Global 2011 – Connecting vision with reality

On 09/03/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Roger-Wilco was given a special opportunity to interview SESAR’s Chief Program Officer on the occasion of ATC Global 2011 and in particular in connection with SESAR Release 1, being presented as the most important SESAR deliverable for the year.

Florian Guillermet talks to editor Steve Zerkowitz.

Roger-Wilco: Looking at the details of SESAR Release 1, one sees that this is basically a very big and complex validation exercise. We have seen such things, even if possibly not on this scale, in past programs like EATCHIP and ATM2000+.Regrettably, not much came from those… What is the difference now, what makes everyone confident that this time things will work out better?

Mr. Guillermet: There are three important differences compared with past exercises:

• Clearly defined scope
• Clearly defined time-frame
• Close control by the SJU

Let me explain. The operational concept of SESAR is very ambitious and it can only be achieved if there is a clear focus on what has to be done and in what time frame. The elements of Release 1 have been carefully selected to ensure an initial maturity level that lends itself to development to a pre-industrialization state. This selection process was carefully controlled by the SJU so no pet-projects, be it on an organizational or personal level, were allowed in if they did not meet the agreed, stringent selection criteria.

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First concrete SESAR achievements in 2011

On 08/03/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

At the biggest international Air Traffic Management exhibition, ATC Global being held this week in Amsterdam, the SESAR Joint Undertaking presents the first components of the future European ATM system. The aim of this first SESAR Release is to group projects and validation exercises and to start delivering together with the 49 SESAR members and associate partners tangible results at a reindustrialization stage as of this year.

“SESAR is set to modernize air traffic management in Europe. Recent projections predict for Europe a doubling of flights by 2030 compared to 2009 levels. This equals 16.9 million movements; everybody knows that the current air traffic management system cannot cope with such an increase. SESAR is prepared to address this challenge by presenting first benefits for the aviation community this year, just as planned.”, says Patrick Ky, Executive Director of the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Periodic releases

With the commitment of the private and public partners involved in the work program, SESAR will deliver results through periodic releases.

The first SESAR Release is the outcome of a thorough status review of the approximately 300 SESAR projects to see where early results can be achieved to
quicker serve the aviation world. Projects which are included in the 2011 Release will have been verified and validated in an operational environment to allow for a decision on industrialization and subsequent deployment.

With the first SESAR Release, the European ATM modernization program reveals initial components of the future European ATM system. The validation exercises will cover the areas of efficient and green terminal airspace operations, the initial 4D trajectory, end to end traffic synchronization, as well as integrated and collaborative network management. Concrete benefits will be achieved for airlines, pilots, airports, air traffic controllers, pilots, passengers and the environment.

Improved procedures, tool sets, prototypes

Through simulations, prototypes, shadow mode or live and flight trials, the SESAR members will perform 29 validation exercises all over Europe, the first of which have already taken place in February.

Click here to read the full article

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New clouds on the Mode-S/ADS-B horizon in Europe

On 18/01/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Most of those who took part in the epic battle over the introduction of Mode S Enhanced Surveillance (EHS) have either retired, moved to other activities or flew west to greener pastures but I guess there is still a hard core who will remember how the airspace users lost that one to the three big States in Europe and EUROCONTROL who was caught between a rock and a hard place… I was one of those doing the shouting, telling anyone who would listen that Mode S Enhanced Surveillance would cost the airlines an arm and a leg and would generate next to zero benefits. The majority of the airlines and some ANSPs agreed… This was back at the beginning of the previous decade and in the end, the three promoters of Mode S EHS, fed up with the indecision of the others and the opposition of the airlines, banded together and set up the Three State Program, in effect deciding that they would put in Mode S EHS regardless of the opposition. They did have the grace to announce clear time-frames (2003) to have everything on the ground ready and the benefits accruing for the airspace users. We are now in 2011 and very little of that grand promise has been realized, certainly if we look at things from the benefit point of view. If anyone out there has news about Mode S Enhanced Surveillance quantifiable benefits being available to anyone, please let us know…

But the story continues except that the stakes are even higher. This time the matter is on the level of the European Commission and its Single European Sky Implementing Rules (SES IR). Mind you, there is nothing wrong with the Commission wanting the jump start SES via implementing rules. On the contrary, this is a good thing. Except that the old specter of Mode S implementation is beckoning again in the Surveillance Performance and Interoperability IR.

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Incentives for Early Airborne CPDLC Equipage

On 13/12/2010, in Shop floor talk, by steve

The LINK 2000+ programme has been working on the definition of incentives schemes for early airborne equipage since 2005. Various creative schemes were explored with stakeholders, such as reduced route charges for those that equip early. However, it proved impossible to get stakeholders to commit to such schemes even though the principles of the route charge system were modified to accommodate them.

Following an economic analysis by the industry consultation body for the Single European Sky, several short-term projects were recommended for funding to accelerate early ATM benefits and to provide the launch pad for SESAR.

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