Aviation Week’s David Esler has a very well-researched and in-depth article about SESAR, the European Union’s version of NextGen. It provides a lot of detail about how the two approaches differ (one example: NextGen implementation is being driven by the federal government, while SESAR is being driven by industry partnerships), and also examines questions of harmonization.
Interestingly, one of the key themes is “who’s further ahead?” See the following excerpt:
[On the topic of] who’s leading the parade toward 21st century ATM reform – both SJU [SESAR Joint Undertaking] and FAA solons diplomatically refused to describe themselves as ahead. Here’s what the SJU’s [Executive Director] Patrick Ky had to say: “We are maybe more advanced in how we want to organize our technical activities, whereas you in the United States are more advanced in the implementation of ADS-B. We have different contexts and different relationships with industry, but I think we are making sure with the FAA that we are moving in the same direction and fully in line with each other’s priorities.”
For the FAA perspective, we interviewed Steve Bradford, chief scientist of architecture and NextGen development. “That’s not accurate at all,” Bradford said when we queried whether the SJU was setting the pace in implementing ATM technology. “I’m not going to say we’re ahead, but we are spending money and have a full ADS-B implementation in progress and will have full service by 2013. And our new automation program, ERAM [En Route Automation Modernization], is ahead of schedule.”
We think any discussion of “who’s further ahead” is a bit like asking who’s winning a marathon at mile marker two.
The European Commission formally launched SESAR today — that’s the EU’s version of NextGen. An excerpt from the AP wire on today’s event:
The EU said the new system should make flights safer, shorter and less polluting by helping air traffic controllers direct planes more efficiently.
In addition, the EU hopes the new system will enable a tripling of capacity, cut air traffic management costs by 50 percent, curb greenhouse gas emissions and achieve an overall punctuality rate of 95 percent, officials said.
“This is one of the most complex research and development programs ever launched in (Europe),” said Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European Commission, the EU head office.
The EU is looking at a “launch date” of 2020, but which capabilities that exactly entails isn’t terribly clear at the moment.
ATW has some good first-hand reporting from the Air Traffic Controllers Association Conference and Exposition:
Executive Director-SESAR Joint Undertaking Patrick Ky and FAA Air Traffic Organization COO Hank Krakowski argued that it is critical to move forward with developing the SESAR and NextGen ATC systems even as traffic growth is slowing and near-term funding may be limited, and pushed for greater transatlantic cooperation.
“We really need to have a common set of equipment,” Ky explained. “It will be difficult because we each tend to focus on our own issues. . .but especially in a time of economic uncertainty it doesn’t make sense to duplicate resources.” He said common technological development should expand even further, calling on ICAO to play an “important role” to “make sure that what is being agreed to [regarding] SESAR and NextGen can be agreed upon globally.” [..]
But US Air Transport Assn. President and CEO Jim May cautioned that “to think that there’s going to be a huge contribution to the [FAA] general fund [to fund NextGen initiatives near-term] is a bit of a myth. We’ve got to find creative, innovative ways to incentivize people to equip [aircraft] and get this process started.”
An excellent overview, courtesy of Euractiv, of the political and bureaucratic challenges facing SESAR — the European version of NextGen. EU transport ministers approved the project’s development phase this week, but some stakeholders feel that things are moving too slowly. Gilles Savary, a French Socialist MEP who is also vice president of the European Parliament’s transport committee, was one critical voice:
[Savary highlighted concerns] that the Commission had failed to move away from its “bottom-up” approach, whereby it is left to member states to decide on how to restructure.
“The European Parliament considers that the ‘bottom-up’ approach has not worked and […] questions the legitimacy of a second package based on this same base,” said Savary.
According to him, sensitive issues such as sovereignty, the evaluation of progress on FABs [portions of upper airspace that may be controlled by a ‘foreign’ ATC provider] and the introduction of penalties mean that the dossier “will lead to in-depth debate” and may not be agreed in first reading.
But airlines and airports are pleading with the EU to move the dossier forward as soon as possible. The current situation represents a “Europe-wide problem with only losers,” stressed Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and current chairman of the Association of European Airlines (AEA).
An AEA press release expanding on Hartman’s comments can be found here (PDF).