EU prepares for common air traffic management

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EU transport ministers have reached agreement on the technical details of Europe’s next-generation air traffic management system, paving the way for shorter flights and reduced CO2 emissions from air traffic.

The ministers agreed upon the technical provisions of the Single European Sky initiative on 9 December. 

The Single European Sky initiative (see EURACTIV Links Dossier) aims to modernise airspace management to cope with increasing traffic, while simultaneously reducing the aviation sector’s CO2 emissions. 

“This means shorter distances to travel, less CO2 emissions, less expensive tickets and safer journeys for citizens,” said Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani after the Council meeting.

The day before, the European Parliament’s transport committee adopted, by large majority, a recommendation on the Single European Sky, laying the ground for the dossier to be adopted at first reading in plenary (scheduled for January 2009). 

“We have a European currency, we have eliminated the borders between member states and now we want to eliminate borders in the sky. Technically speaking, the Single European Sky starts today. We only need the political will and close collaboration between civil and military authorities for these borders to disappear and to make the Single European Sky possible,” commented Romanian MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu, Parliament’s draftsman on the initiative.

On the eve of the ministerial meeting, 15 of the Europe’s biggest aeronautical companies signed accession agreements to the SESAR Joint Undertaking, which is the technological component of the Single European Sky and will allow a new generation of air traffic management systems to be developed. Some €2.1 billion of funding is foreseen for the public-private partnership.

If industry is to play a major role in the initiative, it is essential that at least half of the SESAR work programme and funding scheme is allocated to technology and system development activities in the development phase, said Thales CEO Denis Ranque, speaking on behalf of the European aerospace and defence industries.

By 2020, SESAR is expected to increase European air capacity three-fold, improve safety by a factor of ten, reduce environmental impact per flight by 10% and cut air traffic management system-related expenses by 50%.

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