The Single European Sky (SES) – “Just do it!”
Posted: 11 April 2011 | Guenter Martis, Director European Affairs, CANSO
The agreement of European Union Member States on the Single European Sky (SES) marked a political solution to an inefficient and expensive European Air Transport System. Officially launched in March 2004, SES aims towards ambitious goals: cutting the cost of flying by half, decreasing by 10% the environmental impact of aviation, and enabling a three-fold increase in capacity, all the while further improving the already high safety record of European airspace…
The agreement of European Union Member States on the Single European Sky (SES) marked a political solution to an inefficient and expensive European Air Transport System. Officially launched in March 2004, SES aims towards ambitious goals: cutting the cost of flying by half, decreasing by 10% the environmental impact of aviation, and enabling a three-fold increase in capacity, all the while further improving the already high safety record of European airspace.
This first SES package initiated a huge change in thinking and acting on aviation matters in Europe. The framework regulation, the airspace regulation, the service provision regulation and the interoperability regulation built the foundations for a new European Air Traffic Management that could meet future capacity and safety needs by reducing fragmentation. As the EC Commissioner Loyola de Palacio stated: “from patchwork to network.”
However, the improvements were not achievable as quickly as expected. The EC, guiding its members carefully via strong but balanced measures, taking into account the sovereignty aspects and involving the military, recognised that the provided legal framework was only a starting point. Change does not happen over night, and often meets a lot of resistance. More political action was required. So, SES II was created; a very ambitious pack – age of measures comprising five main elements:
- Building a new regulatory framework: a performance-based European ATM with coherent and efficient governance
- SESAR – to have the most advanced technology for ATM
- Highest safety standards – fostering EASA
- ‘Gate-to-gate approach’ – including airports as an integral element Acknowledging the human factor as the overriding enabler of change.
Adopted in June 2009, SES II was later complemented by a roadmap outlined in the Madrid Declaration of the High Level Conference in February 2010. The timeline set for most of the SES II elements was 2012 – the magic year.
What lies before all parties involved including the ANSPs, airspace users, airports, the military, the EC, the EU Members States, EASA, the SESAR joint undertaking and Eurocontrol, is a huge amount of work to respond to the required changes.
An almost uncountable number of people are involved in the activities to make a political concept a European reality. An almost uncountable number of meetings have been held, and an almost uncountable number of meetings are yet to come. Just considering the activities of the SESAR Joint Undertaking alone, or all the efforts of the participants in the nine different FAB initiatives it is an extraordinary endeavor.
Getting FABs ready, drafting implementing rules for a Europe-wide performance scheme and for a new charging scheme, establishing the performance review board, defining the Network Manager and designating it to Eurocontrol, expanding EASA to include the safety aspects of ATM and aerodromes, all this needs to be incorporated into a wider political agenda, striving for European competitiveness and a sustainable transport system that serves the wellbeing of its citizens.
So far so good, but where are we today?
The CANSO European office is instrumental in coordinating the ANSP contributions to all the legal and institutional processes and consultations, including the important elements of the Eurocontrol reform and the European standardisation activities.
The European Commission proposes, the stakeholders comment and the EU Member States decide. Sounds easy, but in reality it is not.
Knowing the scattered European political landscape, one sometimes wonders how all this can be achieved. Sometimes, being involved in many discussions and processes, you get the feeling that we started aviation not too long ago. There are so many different opinions, so many different interests, so much struggle for power and – to make it clear – not enough will for a real European ATM.
The experience so far suggests that despite all the good will, the national interests are dominant but not in Europe.
In addition, there is the so-called Pan European situation, meaning what happens with SES and the fantastically harmonised ATM of the future needs to be connected to, or become an integrated part of a truly global ATM system. Yes, there are agreements between the EU and the non EU countries, but let’s face it: the predominant influences are mainly political and economic.
To get the SES really running as it was initially envisaged, much more needs to happen, and a lot differently.
First of all, real commitment to a truly Single European Sky from all involved that can look above all national political limitations. This will require the politicians to accept aviation as the important factor of the European economy that it is. (How many volcanic eruptions do we need until this is really recognised?)
Secondly, a clear and simple regulatory framework.
Thirdly, proactive co-operation of all stakeholders and regulators towards the common goal of a safe, sustainable and competitive European aviation market.
And finally, may I quote? “JUST DO IT!”