The European Parliament approved the second 'Single European Sky' (SES II) package in a plenary vote yesterday after an agreement had been reached last week between EU transport ministers (EurActiv 23/02/09).
SES II consists of two regulations aimed at improving the performance of the European aviation system in key areas such as safety, capacity, flight, cost efficiency and environmental sustainability, by coordinatinating and supervising member states' air traffic control systems and implementing common rules and performance targets.
Functional air blocks
Building a network of direct air routes and boosting the efficiency of air traffic control by creating functional air blocks (FABs) will bring about shorter flight times, reduce kerosene consumption and create less pollution thanks to lower CO2 emissions, MEPs said. Flights will be quicker and cheaper thanks to shorter routes and lower air taxes in each country, they added.
The initial European Commission proposal was improved by MEPs, who opted to appoint a system coordinator for FABs. The coordinator will facilitate agreements between member states, speed up the unification process of the Single European Sky and clarify the concept of common projects, including the designation of funding sources.
International flights currently have to pass through national air traffic control zones or 'blocks', which involves being passed from one national authority to another. This system leads to bottlenecks and delays, forcing aircraft to consume more fuel and jeopardising safety. Around nine European FABs have so far been designed - including a single UK-Ireland zone - but it is felt that insufficient progress has been made.
Completing the Single European Sky II package is one of the priorities of the French and Czech EU Presidencies. Savings of over €2 billion are envisaged, taking into account the current state of the aviation sector and the significant potential for long-term savings.
Two Parliamentary reports on the issue were adopted by a large majority: 614 votes in favour, 47 against and 24 abstentions for one on 'performance and sustainability of the European aviation system'. A report on 'aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services' was passed with 662 votes in favour, 20 against and 11 abstentions.
A new high-tech IT communication system inaugurated on 23 March in Maastricht by Eurocontrol follows the philosophy behind the establishment of a Single European Sky (EurActiv 25/03/09).