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Date: 12 February 2013

Remarks of Tony Tyler at the World ATM Congress in Madrid

As time is limited and I have some important messages to deliver, I will dive right in to my remarks.

IATA is a big supporter of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO). Its stated aim is to transform global Air Traffic Management (ATM) performance. And airlines - your customers - are certainly looking forward to that. We appreciate that CANSO as an organization has consistently agreed with the need for Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to modernize and put the customer first. While we are happy that our views are aligned, we all know that words are easy but delivering results is what really matters. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of CANSO and some of its members, there has not been as much progress as airlines and indeed the air transport industry require.

But let me be clear at the outset that I am not here to complain. That would only be more words to the dialogue. What we need is to roll up our sleeves, work together as partners and deliver results that make airlines, ANSPs and the air transport industry stronger.

I am proposing an agenda of cooperation that is focused on what I believe are naturally shared aims to build a modern ATM system that:

  • Prioritizes safety, efficiency and environmental benefits
  • Is globally harmonized and interoperable
  • Properly utilizes the avionics investment of the airlines
  • And is cost effective

These aims can only be achieved through working together and coordinated global action. And on behalf of the airline community, I would like to add a fifth aim: greater airspace user consultation and involvement in the decision-making process for planning and investment.

Safety and efficiency

Safety is our number one priority and our greatest collective achievement. We are still confirming the figures, but it looks like 2012 was the safest year ever for commercial aviation. In fact in each of the past three years, we have seen a new safety record being set for overall industry safety performance. ANSPs share the credit alongside airlines, airports, manufacturers and the whole range of aviation regulators and stakeholders in consistently raising the bar on safety performance. My question to this audience is: if we can jointly achieve such a good performance on safety, why should we accept a lower level of success in our other endeavors, such as boosting ATM efficiency and environmental performance?

This desire for more effective cooperation and global standards has led to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Aviation System Block Upgrades project. IATA has actively supported this, but many issues remain. Firstly, airspace users must be integrated in the planning and development of the cost-benefit analysis. We want to work with each CANSO member to set priorities for implementation of the Block Upgrades that will allow airlines to plan accordingly. And we would like ANSPs to prioritize for short term implementation three specific operational areas: Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), Continuous Descent Operations (CDO) and Continuous Climb Operations (CCO).

PBN is particularly important to us. It offers significant improvements for reduced fuel burn and lower emissions. ICAO resolution A37-11 makes it clear that by 2016 states must implement PBN, and IATA, CANSO and ICAO signed an MOU in 2011 which affirmed action plans for PBN implementation.

Harmonization

Much of the difficulty that we see with improving airspace efficiency lies with the fragmented state of ATM worldwide. There is precious little harmonization or interoperability between different ANSPs. Europe, which is supposed to have been moving towards a Single European Sky (SES) for almost 20 years, continues to have significant fragmentation- and significant resistance to change. It is exceptionally difficult, for example, for an experienced Air Traffic Control Officer in Germany to readily work for an ANSP in Spain. Coordinated procurement or amalgamated training are still unheard of, outside of Scandinavia.

Elsewhere around the globe, the record is little better. Take, for example, the technical and operational requirements for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B). For the same operational application, the US, Canada, Europe and Australia chose different sets of technical standards and requirements. CANSO can add great value here; ensuring future ADS-B implementations will be targeted to the most cost-effective solution, and be globally harmonized, as required by the Block Upgrades roadmap.

Proper use of technology

As new ATM technology is introduced both on the ground and in the air, it is inevitable that airspace users will be at different stages in their ability to exploit these new capabilities. An effective principle for ensuring the best use of airline technology investment is the policy of ‘most capable, best served’ (MCBS). As a first step towards this, IATA would like to work with CANSO and its members to put forward a common industry position paper to the ICAO 38th Assembly in September. The work for this would begin in an ICAO working group due to commence next month. The aim is to agree upon a timetable for implementation of MCBS by mid-2014.

However, technology alone is not the answer; it must be accompanied by the political will for reform. For too long, the success of SES was equated with the success of the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) project. SESAR is swallowing billions of Euros of investment, much of it funded by airlines, to supposedly make SES a reality. But the actual reality is that SES is a political challenge, not a technological one. Technology benefits will remain limited while the physical and political borders on the ground translate into operational borders in the air. The deployment of SESAR is interdependent with the institutional and political framework; we cannot recommend sustaining the investment in SESAR if the approach is to be new technology into old airspace architecture.

There is a stark contrast with the progress of the NextGen program in the US. Here we see the delivery of funding, establishment of innovative infrastructure deployment to fixed deadlines, and focused initiatives for airspace redesign at the busiest terminal areas. 

We cannot afford for these two flagship initiatives to progress at different speeds; airlines need harmonization both on standards and on timing in order that we get the best value from our investments.

Cost efficiency

Finally I turn to something which is always of paramount importance to airlines - cost efficiency. And on this issue, Europe is our major concern.

The SES goal of a 50% cut in unit costs remains as elusive as ever. Notoriously, Europe’s ANSPs fought to water-down already weak cost-efficiency targets, and then failed to reach even these modest goals. More recently we have seen the resistance to a stronger performance scheme and more ambitious improvement targets for the period 2015-19. European aviation is in crisis: over the past year we have said goodbye to names like Malev and Spanair, and we are looking at 2013 being a second consecutive year of European aviation only breaking even. Airlines need to reduce cost wherever possible, and European ATM is costing EUR 5 billion extra a year in inefficiency. That is not sustainable and something needs to be done about it. The Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs), created last year, were supposed to deliver cost reductions and airspace efficiencies. They have done neither. And there is no sign of imminent change on the horizon, despite the efforts of the European Commission, who do fully grasp the urgency of the situation.

Today, IATA with the Association of European Airlines and the European Regions Airline Association has published ‘A Blueprint for the Single European Sky’. This report outlines a clear roadmap towards achieving not only the SES cost target, but also the safety, capacity and environmental targets as well. The analysis shows that there is no insurmountable technical obstacle preventing the achievement of the SES goals, but there are three key reforms that we see as essential to achieving the SES.

  • A binding performance system through the establishment of an independent European regulator for air navigation charges
  • The rationalization of air traffic management structures through opening up services to competition and a reduction in the number of air traffic control centers across Europe to not more than 40
  • Improving the efficiency of the network through the modernization of the ATM system

Some tough choices need to be made. Our report may not be the only way forward, but whatever is agreed, we need an overall plan to realize the SES. And we urgently need to make progress by agreeing to the essential reforms and getting on with delivering them.

Conclusion

The airline industry recognizes that progress comes through a team effort, regionally and globally coordinated, and focused on a clear vision. We are looking to the ANSP community to embrace a similar ethos and objective. IATA is committed to raising ATM performance through our collaboration with CANSO both regionally and at ICAO, and our interaction with individual ANSPs. Our collective record on safety shows what can be achieved.

2013 is the starting year for the Global ATM Congress. Let’s make 2013 the starting year for a genuine cooperative drive for a better ATM system.  

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