More than 20 European aerospace stakeholders have urged European Union (EU) institutions and member states to finally fulfill long-held plans to implement the Single European Sky (SAS) air traffic control initiative.

The initiative was launched in 2004 with the goal of improving the performance of air traffic management (ATM) in Europe in terms of safety, capacity, cost-efficiency and environmental impact.

For years, attempts have been made to increase its efficiency by replacing current ATM areas—which usually follow national boundaries—with much larger “functional airspace blocks.” The aim is to remove airspace bottlenecks and to allow more direct routings.

However, progress has been glacially slow, through a combination of factors such as fear of loss of national sovereignty, concern over possible job losses, and a lack of commitment from some national governments.

At a Digital European Sky conference in Brussels Sept. 11, representatives of 21 EU aviation and workers associations representing airlines, airports and ATC organizations signed a joint declaration committing to a set of concrete actions to finally and fully implement SES.

The signatories called on EU Institutions and member countries to take the necessary steps to implement the joint declaration, outlining their shared commitment to improving Europe’s airspace.

Implementing SES will require the introduction of new technologies, interoperability of systems, harmonized regulation and adequate infrastructure.

The signatories made the point that, with global passenger traffic expected to double by 2037, accommodating this while simultaneously addressing its environmental and social impacts is essential.

Among the signatories was the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), which represents the ATM industry, including 35 European air navigation service providers.

“This Declaration is a milestone for the European aviation industry,” CANSO director-Europe affairs Tanja Grobotek said. “It provides vital momentum that will shape the future of the Single European Sky. Only through the full implementation of SES, can we provide to Europe and its citizens the efficient and sustainable airspace we all deserve.”

The signatories also called on European institutions to simplify the regulatory framework and institutional set-up to make the European ATM network fit for the future. 

Alan Dron