I mentioned previously about the important debate and work that’s going on to improve and modernise the way we manage our skies.

One of the major ways this is being addressed within Europe is through the European Commission’s Single European Sky (SES) initiative.

On Monday, Ministers from across Europe gathered in Vilnius to discuss the Commission’s latest legislative proposal to help deliver the Single European Sky – SESII+, alongside key stakeholders from the European Commission and the industry. Siim Kallas, Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Transport, gave an impassioned speech at the event and, quite rightly, defended the objectives of the Single European Sky.

We are very supportive of what the Single European Sky is trying to deliver – defragmenting Europe’s sky to provide a more efficient service whilst improving safety, reducing costs for airspace users and minimising the impact on our environment.

One of the most important ways of moving towards this vision is to ensure the air traffic management industry is at the heart of the debate about how we get to where we all, as stakeholders in our airspace, want to be. It was positive that the organisation representing Civil Air Navigation Service Providers, CANSO, of which NATS is a founder member, was invited to speak at the gathering of Ministers which took place on Monday.

Unfortunately, the Air Navigation Service Providers are often seen as blockers rather than key enablers of this vision.  The ANSPs and their staff know what needs to be done and need to be allowed the freedom to do it without excessive legislation or restrictions.

Regulation and legislation has a role to play in all of this, but it must stimulate, not stifle change.  Creating a regulatory environment that encourages and incentivises high performance is central to the successful functioning of any industry. An important balance has to be found between targets, incentives and freedoms. Doing that is central, we believe, to providing a framework that will ensure we can deliver the benefits of a Single European Sky to airspace users.

Included in the commission’s draft legislation “SESII+” is the idea  of making the Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) more industry focused.  While this idea is welcomed, perhaps we need to think about this in the same way that the airlines, our customers, formed their alliances.

Star, Oneworld and Skyteam, to name just three, have had a very positive impact on airline costs. Could this be a possible model for the future in ATM?  The aims are the same – reduced costs and enhanced efficiency, whilst at the same time ensuring we maintain the safety and service standards that are at the very heart of everything we do.

Siim Kallas

Siim Kallas

In his speech Commissioner Kallas also asked  how do we, as Europe as a whole, achieve the economies of scale and meet the future capacity demand that were the original aim of the Single European Sky?

Despite the changes in traffic growth predictions, this is the real debate and one that needs to include all the stakeholders involved in managing and using our airspace, so that we can do the right things, at the right time, to deliver on SES.  We’ll be talking about this more in the coming months.


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Aimee Turner

And who would your industry/ANSP colleagues be in any future alliance, Richard?

Hi Aimee,
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
It depends very much on the issue but in principle it’s about thinking differently about how we achieve our objectives. One example is the Borealis Alliance of nine ANSPs from across Northern Europe to look at ways we can work together to deliver a better service for customers and reduce costs. There are all sorts of challenges ahead – what we’re saying is that it’s important that the flexibility exists for us to form those partnerships with whoever is most appropriate and that as a broader ATM industry, we should be innovative in the way we approach the Single European Sky with the Commission setting the targets, but ANSPs deciding on how best to deliver them.



Hans Weldins

So as NATS is one of the most expensive Providers in Europe how would you feel about another provider bidding to run the airspace that you do at the moment?

Thanks for your question Hans. I note you don’t mention that our service level for delay is just 1/20th of the level seen elsewhere in Europe, nor that our safety and enabled fuel efficiency is amongst best in Europe. This against a backdrop of having reduced our operating costs by around a third over the past decade, which few businesses in any sector could match.

In addition, we are putting forward to our regulator some very substantial price reduction proposals for the 2015-19 regulatory period.

Also worth remembering that we already compete for ATC contracts at the airports in the UK and we recently won, through competitive tendering, the contract to operate 10 towers in Spain.

There are though currently no proposals from the European regulator for airspace markets to be liberalised.

In summary, we welcome competition and would like to see more of it in Europe!


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