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Europe Lagging On Single European Sky Implementation

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

10 December 2012

The European Union intends to accelerate the implementation of proposals to create a single European airspace, after many European Union member states failed to implement key frameworks to make nine Functional Airspace Blocks fully operational by the December 4, 2012 deadline.

The regional FABs are a key element of ambitious European plans to reduce bureaucracy on inter-European air travel. Instead of air traffic management and administration being carried out on the basis of national borders, it is intended that the area within a FAB be treated as though it were a single airspace. By unifying Europe's sky and consolidating its services, aircraft will be allowed to fly straighter lines at better altitudes, saving fuel and mitigating their environmental impact, and reducing delays. When the Single European Sky (SES) is fully implemented the initiative will triple European airspace capacity, halve traffic control costs and save the industry billions of Euros.

However, the European Commission has confirmed that many member states failed to implement the key frameworks necessary to make these nine FABs genuinely functioning. The Commission has confirmed that it is to launch infringement procedures against these nations, and release a new package of legislative measures in the spring of 2013 to accelerate reforms to ensure the full delivery of the SES.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "We will take every possible action to make the Single European Sky a reality. The costs of congestion and delays in the air are paid for on a daily basis by European citizens and business when they fly. Add to that the cost to the economy in lost efficiency and the environmental price we pay and it is clear that the Single European Sky is too important to be allowed to fail. At a time of economic crisis we cannot afford to live with the status quo. Right now the implementation of the reform of Europe's airspace is falling seriously behind. FABs are the cornerstone of the Single European Sky infrastructure and a critical deadline has been missed. There is no other option but to strongly enforce EU law."

According to the Commission, inefficiencies caused by Europe's fragmented airspace bring extra costs of close to EUR5bn each year. This fragmentation adds 42 kilometers to the distance of an average flight, forcing aircraft to burn more fuel, generate more emissions, pay more in costly user-charges and suffer greater delays. The United States controls the same amount of airspace, with more traffic, at almost half the cost. This is mainly due to the single air navigation service provider in the United States, as opposed to the 30 agencies in the European Union, which are to be consolidated under the proposals.

Although not yet "genuinely" functioning, 9 FABs have been created covering the whole of the European Union plus four more states, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, Norway and Switzerland.

TAGS: aviation

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