Europe Begins Execution Of ATM Research ProgramThierry Dubois February 21, 2017
For the air transport industry, a new generation of aircraft with more efficient engines is supposed to help bottom lines and the environment. But their value will be partly wasted if they are not operated efficiently, a typical example being a six-month-old narrowbody flying a 1-hr. route and being asked to wait 10 min. in a stack before entering the airport’s approach. This is what the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) program is trying to address through a range of solutions—63 in the first edition of the SESAR catalog.
Implementation has begun on some of these, and many are ready, while the rest are in development. “The history of air transport generated fragmentation and, to optimize the use of resources—it is almost impossible to build a new runway in Europe—we have to be smarter in the sky and at airports,” says Florian Guillermet, executive director for the SESAR Joint Undertaking (SESAR JU).
SESAR JU is in charge of research and development. “We deliver ready-to-use research-and-development products,” he explains. The €6 billion ($6.4 billion) public-private partnership can materialize through European Commission mandates or without them. Some solutions are not mandated, but the hope is that players in air transport will adopt them out of self-interest.
Meanwhile, SESAR Deployment Manager is a consortium of so-called investors—airports, airlines and air traffic control service providers, for instance—in charge of putting the solutions into effect.
SESAR has had its share of delays. When airspace is optimized, a consequence may be that a small country sees revenues from overfly fees dwindle, Guillermet offers as one explanation. Such situations have caused some states to drag their feet, slowing down the entire program.
Its U.S. equivalent, NextGen, is seemingly progressing more quickly, Guillermet admits. The main reason is that only one country is involved. But long-term planning is more reliable with SESAR, according to Guillermet.
The program aims at increasing airspace capacity by one-third. As for aviation’s environmental footprint, the reduction in fuel burn (and proportional CO2 emissions) is targeted at 5-10% of the average 4,800 kg (10,600 lb.) consumption for a representative intra-European flight.