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ERA Operations Group meeting report

Eurocontrol hosted the ERA Operations Group spring meeting on 10–11 April at its Brussels headquarters. Well attended by airlines as well as airport, training, engineering and personnel resourcing members, the meeting provided an opportunity to participate in regulatory, institutional and flight operations-related discussions important to European regional airlines.

The agenda for the meeting, spread across the afternoon of the 10 April and morning of the 11 April, included presentations by the SESAR Deployment Manager Civil Airspace User Liaison, Francis Richards who provided a comprehensive update on the Datalink Services recovery plan as well as the ADS-B Out implementation plan and ongoing work to find a solution for operators of technically complex types which are disproportionately costly to retrofit or are planned to be withdrawn from service in the few years following the 7 June 2020 mandate. Mindful of the legal obligation to equip, airlines nevertheless continue to be frustrated by the European Commission’s lack of recognition of a need for exemption criteria, not least because of the apparent lack of short-term benefits to the airspace user community considering the time scale for ground based infrastructure implementation.

Roderigo Priego, Safety Programmes Section Manager, EASA, described the European Plan for Aviation Safety (EPAS) 2019–2023 and explained how rulemaking activity within the agency is now encompassed within EPAS. He explained the structure of the plan and how legacy rulemaking is being integrated such as the Notice of Proposed Amendments process. There remains much work to be done between EASA, member states and National Aviation Authorities in terms of standardisation and a request by members to establish a level playing field was made during the meeting.

Environmental and continuous climb and descent operations were discussed by Sharon Mahony and David Brain of the Eurocontrol stakeholder engagement and CDO taskforce team. There exist many operational environmental challenges, some of which have emerged in recent years to increase constraints on the already restricted capacity in European airspace. The clear message to participants was that one of the significant benefits of environmental compliance is reputational risk management – aviation has long been seen as a higher emitter of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses and through acting to mitigate environmental considerations such as noise, and following vertical profiles which encourage lower fuel burn through continuous descent profiles, a lot can be achieved to help manage perceptions.

The Network Manager Aircraft Operator Liaison Cell provides an important link between the NM and airlines. Nick Rhodes delivered a comprehensive summary of the mitigations and measures that have been planned for summer 2019 in an attempt to avoid some of the particularly constrained airspace in the network seen during 2018. These measures, specifically affecting the Karlsruhe and Marseille ACCs will help, although significant capacity issues are still forecast throughout the season.

An industry skills shortage session, held on Thursday morning gave insight to the particular issues affecting airlines with regard to pilot supply and MROs with the recruitment and training of engineers and maintainers. AeroProfessional, and recently joined member Resource Group both gave insightful and informative presentations offering potential solutions to the growing issue of identifying suitable candidates for entry-level roles and attracting experienced qualified personnel to our industry as well as creating a flow of talent through programmes designed to generate greater awareness of the opportunities a career in regional aviation can offer.

Special thanks to Eurocontrol for hosting the meeting and to Nathalie Bossiroy, Network Manager External Communications, for providing a tour to delegates of the Network Manager Operations Centre and to Stefania Nikolova-Tsankova for providing an overview of the role of the NM.

Presentations from the meeting are available on the ERA website https://www.eraa.org/policy/era-groups/operations

The next Operations Group meeting will be held on 8-9 October 2019 at the Congress Centre Antibes & Juan Les Pins, Juan Les Pins (near Nice), France as part of the ERA General Assembly event.