ANSPs look in much the same way as they always have. Why is that? Is the ATM environment changing, and how should ANSPs respond?
Adrian Florea: Air Traffic Management has always been a conservative trade, and it has good reason to be. We are dealing with aircraft flying at hundreds of miles per hour and the last thing you should try is to experiment every now and then. The reasons to be careful about change lie deep within safety culture. The established model ensures the sovereignty of national airspace and protects a complex, skilled and safety critical industry.
However, things are changing and many European States are taking a leap in progressing towards higher performance models. We’ve heard about privatisation, new technologies or competition to drive efficiency, as well as new partnership arrangements between ANSPs and suppliers. Consolidation of services is another trend and here in the DANUBE FAB we have reduced the number of ACCs to drive cost savings and increase productivity.
With the wide consensus that ATM needs modernising, an increasing number of ANSPs are working towards a new future in providing services in a global marketplace. Benefits of these investments may bear fruit in the near future, ANSPs who do not respond quickly to this trend may find themselves too far behind.
Many people are championing industrial partnerships as a more effective tool to deliver SES. Have FABs had their day?
Veselin Stoyanov: Partnerships look like an increasingly attractive option to manage risk, lower costs, share experience and increase influence. Concluding that industrial partnerships are better ways to deliver change than a FAB, however, is too simplistic. New industrial partnerships are expected to show benefits because they are flexible arrangements designed for a specific goal based on a positive business case, the drivers are there.
FABs on the other hand are mature and powerful vehicles capable of fundamental change, but arguably have not yet “had their day” as the drivers for such change simply have not been strong enough. FABs are long standing and robust partnerships between neighbours with mature working relationships, often in similar stages of development, permanently bound by State-level agreements between national governments. As the ATM environment continues to evolve in favour of reform, the political will to make better use of FABs may be just around the corner.
A lot has happened since the original 2004 regulation to set up FABs, is it still relevant?
Adrian Florea: There are many achievements that can be pointed to as a direct consequence of FAB regulation: DANUBE FAB’s Cross Border Sectors, Denmark-Sweden FAB’s joint training facility, Entry Point North and its joint ACC NUAC, and UK/Ireland FAB’s Dynamic sectorisation to name a few.
Whilst these are progressive initiatives in their own right, the original vision for FABs was for significant defragmentation of airspace. In this regard, many FABs have been criticised about airspace efficiency, indeed there are areas in the network which would benefit from more direct routes which still requires a coordinated European approach.
Other avenues to deliver SES are being championed such as the bottom up, industry led initiatives as demonstrated by the success of industrial partnerships at the recent Single European Sky awards. This flexible approach is also proposed in draft SES 2+ legislation.
Whilst focus is shifting, FAB regulation still exists and so is still relevant. Rather than being dispirited by what seems like the dilution of FABs in favour of more progressive initiatives, DANUBE FAB is re-considering its interpretation of the regulation to re-define its overall strategy to meet these new challenges.
What does the future look like for DANUBE FAB?
Veselin Stoyanov: It is difficult to find focus when FAB regulation does not provide any well-defined objectives for what a FAB should achieve. FABs have therefore evolved into wide, all-encompassing initiatives with a lack of direction. Going past the literal text of FAB regulation to appreciate its underlying goal is helping DANUBE FAB to concentrate on quality, not quantity.
For DANUBE FAB, projects which are enabled by geographical proximity is a current focus, acting as the European gateway and expansion of cross border FRA are the most recent examples of this, providing tangible benefits to Airspace Users.
Looking to the future, DANUBE FAB aims to increase the openness and flexibility of the partnership, aware of which initiatives should be pursued together and which should be conducted individually to foster trust between partners and ensure a win/win for both parties. Identifying projects which are new to both ANSPs is far better than attempting to harmonise many deeply ingrained processes within each ANSP which are difficult to untangle.
Partnerships which stand out are those who are bold and create a unique path. With European ATM becoming increasingly competitive, the race is on.