Important progress is being made on solving technical issues associated with the idea of extending the horizons of arrival management systems across Europe. But the ultimate success of the project depends in large part on also addressing the financial and legislative challenges of cross-border arrival management.
One of the first key functionalities now being deployed under the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project is Extended Arrival Management (E-AMAN). Solutions to technical issues such as systems interoperability and managing the increased number of pop-up flights within the extended horizon are currently being explored.
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But technical issues are not the only challenges. Because each country has its own air navigation service provider (ANSP), extended arrival management horizons automatically present substantial cross-border implications. Getting people, politics and systems to work together is a major undertaking. The proposed overlaps in airspace raise some pertinent questions:
- How will benefits (increased capacity, reduced costs) and burdens (increased workload, financial investment) be shared among ANSPs?
- What are the roles and responsibilities of the various ANSPs?
- Who is liable/accountable for incidents?
- How to redress non-compliance of a neighbouring ANSP?
- How to prioritize requests from different neighbouring ANSPs?
The case for extended arrival management shows clear benefits in efficiency, and reducing costs and environmental impact by limiting useless flight time in holding patterns. Arrival management (AMAN) systems at Europe’s busiest airports project inbound flights 30 to 40 minutes in advance and signal capacity overload, but active guidance for arrival management is possible only after the aircraft has crossed the border into local ANSP control.
Flights are then too close to the airport for optimal arrival management and congestion absorption. The goal of E-AMAN is to anticipate and manage congestion much earlier by extending those 30-40 minutes to a horizon of 180-200 nm, allowing more efficient en-route delay solutions such as slower cruising speeds to minimize stacking.
But the nature of this system means benefits accrue to destination ANSPs while burdens fall mainly on cross-border ANSPs. Significant system upgrades may also be required for some ANSPs as these are rarely equipped to the same standards.
A case for greater good
Overall benefits are clear, but success will still depend on a willingness among member countries to assume financial and legislative responsibilities for the ‘greater good’ without a direct advantage for themselves. Multinational agreements that attempt to unify European airspace are often met with reluctance to relinquish airspace sovereignty.
Agreeing clear and consistent extended arrival management responsibilities across Europe will be time-consuming and complex. Successful implementation can only happen if we address regulatory and financial issues now rather than later. But that might just put us a solid step closer to the Single European Sky.
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