Out-Law News 1 min. read

EU funds to overhaul ‘archaic’ air traffic management infrastructure

The European Commission has announced €3 billion in funds for the air transport industry to merge and modernise the EU’s air traffic management (ATM) infrastructure. 

An alliance of airlines, airport operators, and air traffic controllers, the so-called Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) programme, will use part of the funds to modernise what the Commission said are “archaic ATM technologies that were designed in the 1950s”.

The Commission said the funds would also support the EU’s broader ‘Single European Sky’ (SES) initiative, which aims to restructure the EU’s airspace.

EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said the funding agreement will “forever change Europe's air navigation system, making it smarter, cheaper, greener, and safer”.

Bulc said funding would include support for projects that “will translate into economic benefits for the whole EU with a contribution of over €400bn to its gross domestic product, the creation of over 300,000 new jobs and saving 50 million tonnes of CO2 emissions”.

The EU's SESAR joint undertaking, established in 2007, is a public-private partnership “that aims to develop a new generation of ATM systems capable of coping with growing air traffic, under the safest, most cost-efficient and environmentally friendly conditions”.

According to the Commission, “European skies and airports risk saturation... already some 800 million passengers pass through Europe's more than 440 airports every year”. Each day there are around 27,000 controlled flights, equivalent to nine million flights crossing Europe's skies each year, the Commission said. The management of all these flights is “ensured by the ATM system”.

The Commission said: “Today's situation is competently handled by the European air transport sector, but, under normal economic conditions, air traffic is expected to grow by up to 3% annually. The number of flights is expected to increase by 50% over the next 10-20 years. The central problem is that Europe's air traffic management systems are fragmented and inefficient.”

The Commission said “inefficiencies caused by Europe's fragmented airspace bring extra costs of around €5bn a year”. “These costs get passed on to business and passengers. Air traffic control currently makes up 6% to 12% of the cost of a ticket.”

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