Air traffic management – connecting European sky

Tuesday 4, May 2010


Air traffic management – connecting European sky


The aviation chaos unleashed by the eruption of Iceland’s volcano has added new impetus to a long-running effort to unite Europe’s airspace.



Europe's skies are some of the busiest in the world. On average 28,000 airliners take off and land in Europe every day, more than a third of 80 000 flights worldwide. But after the eruption on 14 April, many of those planes were grounded for nearly a week as a giant ash cloud hovered over the continent, creating dangerous conditions for aviation.


More than 100 000 flights were cancelled, stranding millions of passengers and disrupting air traffic worldwide. The EU estimates the crisis cost airlines, tour operators and other European business up to €2.5bn.


The situation served as a wake-up call. EU countries are considering a commission proposal to accelerate implementation of new laws that would consolidate control of European airspace under a single authority. "Stronger European coordination will not solve every problem," EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas says. "But faced with such a pan-European crisis, it would have enabled a much more agile response."


More than 20 years after the EU dispensed with internal land borders, the union still lacks a unified airspace. Each nation remains responsible for its own airspace – and for deciding when it should be open or shut. The job of coordinating air travel between countries falls to Eurocontrol, a pan-European agency representing 38 countries.


This will change under the 'single European sky' – a set of laws adopted in 2004 and revised in 2008. The legislation calls for replacing the EU's 27 airspaces with nine functional blocks of sky managed by a single authority.


The rules are set to take effect in 2012, but in the wake of the ash cloud crisis, the Commission is recommending they be put into practice by the end of this year. EU transport ministers will discuss the proposal at a special meeting on 4 May.


(Source: Europa Portal © European Union, 1995-2010)




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