16 Aug Scenario-planning for Switzerland’s long-term aviation strategy


Switzerland’s Federal Office of Civil Aviation FOCA has been tasked with defining a long-term vision for how the country’s future airspace and aviation infrastructure might be organised, managed and utilised. The Federal Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications proposed a ‘clean-sheet’ approach: all options open, no matter how alternative or complex, even airport relocations if necessary.

One of the most interesting scenarios describes an European airspace full of drones

National strategy, international cooperation

Switzerland is a small country with a small airspace, and it is surrounded by countries that are all members of the European Union. Switzerland is also part of FABEC, an alliance of six states and their civilian and military air navigation service providers (ANSPs). A big part of Switzerland’s long-term aviation strategy will need to include cooperation with its neighbours and the EU.

What also currently puts Switzerland in a somewhat difficult position, however, is the high cost of flying over it. Airlines would rather avoid expensive Swiss airspace where possible, and the potential loss of income for Switzerland’s ANSP, skyguide, is not insignificant in such a busy part of Europe.

The future challenge

The ‘clean-sheet’ approach, with all options open, gives FOCA an extremely broad scope for developing their future vision for Swiss aviation. The biggest challenge is, of course, how to analyse an envisioned future sufficiently to able to make smart decisions now. Switzerland’s dependence on its EU neighbours adds a layer of complexity to this challenge.

The development of both airports and airspace falls under Switzerland’s long-term aviation strategy. Skyguide is also 99% government-owned. Where FOCA has little to no control over aviation developments that affect its planning, is the aviation strategy of the EU. As a non-member, Switzerland’s influence there is limited.

To70’s scenario approach

Making use of To70’s good working relationships with various EU agencies and collaborating with our Netherlands office which advised on the Dutch government’s 2012 vision for its airspace, our newly opened To70 Switzerland office has been working to formulate a number of potential scenarios for FOCA on how the European airspace might evolve.

We used scenario-planning methodology to solve the counter-intuitive problem of analysing the future. After evaluating various conceivable scenarios, we did a detailed analysis of the impact of four different ‘future worlds.’ One of the more interesting scenarios describes a European airspace full of drones flying under harmonious EU regulation. By our estimates, that scenario would lead to shorter flight routes and a single price for flying throughout Europe.

The challenge now for FOCA will be to develop a strategy that can accommodate these European airspace scenarios. Our analyses should help FOCA evaluate the possibilities for Switzerland’s long-term aviation strategy within the European context, to determine whether their ideas can provide likely solutions for the foreseeable future.

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to

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Dominique van Ginkel
Dominique van Ginkel
Dominique van Ginkel runs the To70 office in Switzerland (Genève). Next to being the project manager for the assignment for FOCA, she manages skyguide's project to implement a Direct Route network in the Swiss upper airspace. She developed her knowledge of aviation and of her personal skills, as senior policy officer for the Dutch ministry of Transport and European Commission. Dominique likes to explore new places, cultures and languages as well as to play tennis or go skiing.
  • Gerard Champion
    Posted at 10:12h, 17 August Reply

    Hi Dominique
    I’d like to learn more about the scenarios and four outcomes that you considered. I have seen in Australia progressive incremental shifts from pure fixed routes, through discretionary direct tracking, flex tracks, UPRs, DARP, with the next steps automated conflict prediction, then automated conflict resolution, that would facilitate FRA in most airspace, in parallel with automated flight decks with the pilots as monitors, rather than active participants. By ‘full of drones’ are you envisaging autonomous passenger aircraft?
    Kind regards

    • Dominique van Ginkel
      Posted at 14:26h, 31 August Reply

      Dear Gerard, thanks for your interest in our work. You are most welcome to learn about the different scenarios that we are currently finalizing. Autonomous passenger flights are in the world of scenario thinking indeed considered as possible. However, whether this will be part of a probable scenario is still being investigated. I suggest that we have further contact in two months when the assignment will be completed. Moreover, your knowledge about Australia sounds very useful. Have you been closely involved in the work on Free Route Airspace in Australia? Kind regards, Dominique

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