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Eurocontrol Provisional Council Meeting

Eurocontrol held the 51st session of its governance meeting, the Provisional Council, at the agency headquarters on 13 June 2019. Responsible for implementing Eurocontrol’s general policy, as established by the Permanent Commission, and for supervising the agency’s work, member states are represented at director general of civil aviation level.

ERA attends the Provisional Council on behalf of our members and provides valuable input to the sessions. The meetings also provide an opportunity to engage with senior representatives from member states and the European Commission and are a good sounding board for future regulatory and institutional activity.

The fifty-first session was opened with remarks from the Director General Eurocontrol, Eamonn Brennan who began with a dynamic and thought-provoking film highlighting the top issues and risks facing the European ATM network today. Brennan continued by stating that total ATFM delays are reduced 8.5 per cent compared to the same period last year due in large part to mitigations negotiated by the Network Manager in the Karlsruhe and Marseille FIRs but also explaining how these are very much temporary and purely seasonal measures designed to give breathing space to the ANSPs to enable them to recover their staffing levels. The important message was that these measures do not increase capacity through spreading the load across the network. Expected delays for 2019 were expected to be 44 million minutes (compared to 19 million for 2018) however the summer mitigations are forecast to result in 22 million minutes – still unacceptable but far better than anticipated.

Capacity has reduced slightly so far this year across the network which has also alleviated the situation for the affected FIRs as well as the grounding of the Boeing 737-MAX fleet which, although only a small percentage of the total European fleet, has had an effect. It is worth noting however that the 737-MAX fleet delivered to date globally represents only 5 per cent of the order book and therefore, anticipating recertification and resumption of flying and deliveries, there will be an impact on the EU network.

Environment was a heavily discussed topic during the session and the point was made that although cars apparently produce 74 per cent of all CO2 emissions compared to aviation’s 12 per cent, our sector is increasingly under pressure to curb our consumption of carbon-based fuel. CO2 emissions are not the only source of pollution however, and the very good work in terms of the significant improvement in noise emissions for example, is largely overlooked by the environmental activists. Modern bypass engines are typically more than 50 per cent quieter than their earlier predecessors and airspace design enables aircraft to climb sooner and faster to higher levels than previously; Constant Descent Approaches enable efficient and quieter arrivals yet many of the deliverable benefits are negated through the fragmentation of airspace in Europe and this must be addressed in terms of more direct routings, more efficient flight levels and descent profiles.

Other important areas of discussion included the recently published Wise Persons Group Report and the Airspace Architecture Study. The European Commission, represented by Christine Berg, Head of Unit E3, Single European Sky, stated in the meeting that “Fundamental changes for the benefit of connectivity and climate is necessary and the European Commission looks forward to continued cooperation with Eurocontrol in the interest of citizens and industry through adoption of the recommendations of the Wise Persons Group.” This is an area we will engage with all relevant stakeholders in as the recommendations of the report are not necessarily aligned with the needs of the regional airline community.