Europe secures future of air traffic management through extension of SESAR Joint Undertaking

On 16/06/2014, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

On 16 June 2014 the Council of Ministers of the European Union adopted the extension of the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) Joint Undertaking (SJU). This decision was taken in recognition of the need to foster Research and Innovation (R&I) on Air Traffic Management (ATM) beyond the organisation’s original mandate of 2016, as well as in appreciation of the SESAR partnership’s ability to respond to evolving business needs and fast track technological and operational improvements in Europe’s ATM system.

Established in 2007 by Council Regulation 219/2007 for a period up to December 2016, the SESAR Joint Undertaking is one of the European Union’s most successful public-private partnerships, whereby the entire European ATM sector engages in a single European effort to overcome the past defragmented approach to R&I in the area of ATM. As the technological pillar of the Single European Sky (SES), the SESAR Programme has a critical role to play in developing the necessary technologies and operational procedures to make European air travel more cost efficient, environmentally friendly and safer.

“The SESAR Joint Undertaking is a great asset for Europe because it can bring real economic value to the aviation value chain in the context of the Single European Sky. It re-affirms our reputation for innovation and scientific excellence in the global arena. It is also commendable how the SESAR Joint Undertaking has successfully secured the involvement of ATM stakeholders in the development of a modernised ATM system that meets their operational needs,” says João Aguiar Machado, Director General of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE), and Chairman of the SJU Administrative Board.

Notable achievements of the SESAR Programme have been:

• The world’s first flight in four dimensions (3D + time) to enhance flight predictability;

• Remote Tower Services to provide access to remote regions and boost regional economies;

• Extensive toolkits to enhance safety on airport runways;

• Creation of an ATM intranet for the seamless exchange of information and better collaborative decision-making.

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European Air Traffic Management – A historic clash of concept and politics

On 05/07/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Although you would never know it from reading the rather upbeat communications from the Functional Airspace Block (FAB) and SESAR folks, ATM in Europe is heading towards some major turbulence. That the EC’s Single Sky Committee very nearly managed to kick the deadline of meeting the Single Sky (SES) high-level goals a further 13 years into the future (to 2033!!!) is only one indication of how the whole structure is creaking under the relentless drive of the backward thinkers hell bent on keeping things from happening.

But there is more. What about a collision between a black hole and a complete galaxy? Astronomers amongst you will say this means complete annihilation for the galaxy. Now replace black hole with FAB and the galaxy with SESAR. I am not kidding!

Various high level managers at the European air traffic management organizations hasten to point out that SESAR has always been envisaged as being based on the FAB idea, that they are completely compatible with each other. Quite apart from the not negligible fact that this is simply not true, such claims also show just how little some people seem to understand the difference between the FAB idea and what SESAR represents.

What SESAR is aiming to introduce is a set of paradigm changing concepts, among them Trajectory Based Operations (TBO). I will not go into the details of TBO in this article, if you are interested, read more about it here and here. Let it suffice to say that we left out any mention of FABs in the original SESAR concept of operations for a very good reason. The kind of fragmentation represented by the FABs is not only not needed under the TBO environment of SESAR, it is a hindrance that can potentially kill any hope for true TBO.

What are the Functional Airspace Blocks or FABs? They are most certainly not an air traffic management concept or method of working or even an idea that would make things work better by definition. FABs are in fact a sad admission that Europe did not succeed in creating a continent-wide air traffic management environment that would have come anywhere near satisfying the users’ needs. So, in order to make a little progress, some poor soul somewhere came up with what might appear to be a pragmatic approach. If Europe’s Air Navigation Service Providers as a whole cannot be made to work together properly, lets beat them into a few small groups, focused around newly defined blocks of airspace that have similar user requirements in the hope that these groupings will be more effective in working together in a sensible way.

So, for starters, FABs are not an ATM concept but a political construct aimed at getting the ANSPs to cooperate properly at least on a group by group basis.

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Is SESAR Doomed to Fail?

On 10/06/2012, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

As some of us will remember, SESAR is not the first attempt to remedy the sad state of air traffic management in Europe. Think EATCHIP and ATM2000+… This latter was especially significant, since the ministers of transport of all ECAC States had signed off on it, promising to implement what was required to make the ATM2000+ concept of operations reality.

Very little, if anything, was realized of the lofty aims of ATM2000+. The best proof of this is that had ATM2000+ become reality, there would have been no need for SESAR… But why did those earlier projects fail? There was nothing wrong with the concept or the technologies proposed. However, everything was wrong with some of the major air navigation service providers in Europe who did everything in their power to block things from happening. In some cases they did this for no other reason than their inability to be ready on time and not wanting to be seen as lagging behind… When we were working on the initial phases of air/ground digital link and controller-pilot digital link communications, it was discovered that one of the biggest States in Europe did not have a digital-link policy, let alone a program to implement it. We practically had to “shame” them into starting work on this, arguing that it would look really bad if they were not involved…

Ministerial signatures notwithstanding, ATM2000+ sputtered, struggled and finally died when everyone started to wait for SESAR (the next big one…) to take over and solve all problems. In fact, what little may have come from ATM2000+ was also strangled because things were put on hold when the miracle watch began.

It is often said that SESAR is different. It is being created under the auspices of the Single European Sky (SES) legislation, it has the power of the European Commission behind it… it will be a success. Well, I am not so sure.

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Pioneering and progressing: Assessing the progress of SESAR with Florian Guillermet

On 06/07/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

The SESAR programme was launched on 3 June 2009. Now almost two years since its launch, It’s a good time to take stock of the status of the programme’s 300 projects, assess progress in the execution of the first SESAR release and the first project deliverables. In a short interview, Florian Guillermet, SESAR JU Chief Programme Officer, gives his evaluation of the programme and the first release, and looks at some of the challenges facing SESAR in the second half of 2011..

At mid 2011, what is the situation of the SESAR programme in general?
It’s almost time to celebrate the second anniversary of SESAR’s launch, and after two years of hard work we’ve made great progress: the ramp-up phase of the programme is complete and 85% of projects are now in full execution mode; the first concrete deliverables are arriving; all the programme management processes are now in place; and the programme delivery approach through SESAR Releases has been implemented. In addition, we are now fully integrating airspace users into the programme and they will directly participate in the execution of projects. Overall, we are on track…

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Should we listen to the jungle telegraph?

On 08/06/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by cleo

 Editor’s note: When the material for this article hit my desk, I thought long and hard, pondering what to do with it. Most of what is said in it I have heard also myself and Cleo, the original author is well connected and not given to crying wolf… Having consulted a number of friends, I decided to go ahead and publish it, duly qualifying some of the information as bits off the jungle telegraph. As you know, there is a lot of noise coming off that particular type of telegraph but if you listen carefully, you can learn surprising things. Some of which might even be true.

No ATM person having suffered through EATCHIP and ATM2000+ could wish anything but for SESAR to succeed. There is no plan B and if the European Commission, not to mention the airlines, sees all this money being squandered, there will be hell to pay. Literally…

When you ask people close to the program about how things are going, you will either get a blank stare or a few mumbled words about SESAR being reoriented, project dates slipping, some technical projects having run ahead without the non-technical underpinning having been delivered to them and the need to stop several projects for anything up to a year to get things back on track again. There are strange noises also about a SESAR 2. Mind you, this is on the jungle telegraph and the messages are unsigned.

With just one or two people saying such things one may think it is the normal noise in a complex project. When you have scores of them, it is hard not to take notice. Of course in a project involving so many people and so many organizations, there are bound to be those who always complain. Yet, somehow you get the feeling that there is more to this than meets the eye…

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When Titans speak

On 25/05/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

Mid-March Aviation Week published a double interview in which Canso director general Graham Lake and Air Traffic Control Association president/CEO Peter F. Dumont spoke their minds about air traffic management developments on both sides of the Atlantic.

The interviews were refreshing and revealing. They both spoke about the prospects of SESAR and NextGen frankly and eschewing the usual bluster and we-have-won type of text so frustrating in the “formal” communications.

Mr. Lake tells us that it is not yet clear where the 4 billion euros implementation funding needed by SESAR will come from… With SESAR well into its 8-year life-span and 2.1 billion euros being burned through as you read this, such an uncertainty about the future is cause for concern to say the least.

He also makes the point that the new ATM system will still need people to operate it. He then goes on to say that some 70 % of the typical ANSPs costs are staff related, expressing surprise that parts of the ATM network face disruptions as a result of labor disputes and demands for unsustainable labor agreements. As an industry, we cannot allow this to continue he states. There is a strong message here and one is almost tempted to compare the number of pilots and other airline stuff who lost their jobs because of the economic crisis with the number of ATC staff who had been handed the pink slip for the same reason…

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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.

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Interesting people, unusual flight plans…

On 25/02/2011, in Interesting people, by steve

Eric Platteau – A gourmand communicator

Eric is the communications chief of the SESAR Joint Undertaking

What were you dreaming of becoming when you were a kid?

I wanted to become a cook, a chef. I am quite a gourmet and greedy. It is also linked to a family habit of long and friendly family dinners. Everyone was and is still cooking in my family: grand-mothers, father, mother, sister, brother in law, etc. I was surrounded by gourmets! My specialty as Belgian is of course Chocolate cakes…

If it was not aviation, what moved you to become part of the aviation family?

A total coincidence. During my studies, I had to make a traineeship in a company and I managed to get a 6 weeks traineeship in the press office of SABENA, the former Belgian national airline. When I finished my studies in 1995, my ‘previous boss’ informed me that they were recruiting a French-speaking press officer. I was not totally interested as I wanted to go abroad to improve my language skills but I registered to do the recruitment tests. I thought that it was a good exercise for me as a fresh graduat. After the 3 rounds of tests, I was selected… and decided to join Sabena! Spokesman at 23 years old of a 12.000 employees company was an amazing challenge as you can imagine.

What were the most significant sideways jumps in your professional life?

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A first SESAR release in 2011 – WHAT?

On 26/01/2011, in SESAR's Palace, by steve

One of the products in the run-up to the SESAR world was/is the ATM Master Plan, setting out the when and the how of new air traffic management improvements for Europe. Based on this plan, there are several lower level thingies called implementation packages which show in more detail what will be done and when. Together they form the great PLAN that will hopefully bring the much needed improvements.

In the latest issue of SESAR e-news and in an article entitled “SESAR delivers in 2011” we now read the following.

“During the last meeting of the SESAR Joint Undertaking’s Administrative Board, the members accepted the SJU’s proposal for a first SESAR Release as part of the SESAR programme. The release will provide the air traffic community with the first tangible results coming from Europe’s ambitious ATM modernisation programme.

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