Single European Sky to take off?
Europe's skies risk becoming completely saturated unless the airspace is organised more efficiently.
So says the EU's Transport Committee, pointing out that 27,000 flights cross the continent every day.
The EU launched the Single European Sky (SES) initiative in the late 1990s to remove national boundaries in the sky - enabling aircraft to take more direct routes and making air travel safer, greener and more competitive. But progress has been very slow, and the European Parliament is currently looking at plans to improve implementation.
European airspace is structured around national boundaries, with 28 national air traffic control systems managing about 60 air traffic centres divided into over 650 sectors.
Such fragmentation leads to inefficiency, with aircraft often unable to take direct routes - making flight times, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions higher than they need to be. The cost of this is about €5 (~£4.1, $6.7) billion a year - which is passed on to passengers.
SES was launched in the late 1990s. SES1 was adopted in 2004 but, as it did not produce the desired results, an updated SES2 was initiated in 2009. However, there are still significant delays in the implementation, so the new SES2+ proposal is intended to accelerate the reform of air navigation services.
SES 2+ proposal deals with two major issues:
- the inefficiency of air navigation: removing national boundaries will enable the creation of shorter routes, thus reducing fuel consumption.
- fragmented air traffic management: the current 28 national air traffic blocks will be replaced by 9 regional ones that have already been created but are not yet fully operational.
The Transport Committee voted on the proposal on 30 January. It will have to be approved by the Parliament and Member States before it can enter into law. The plenary vote has been scheduled for March.
Details from the EU below . .