Various Documents considered by the Committee - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

10 Air traffic management




COM(11) 14




SEC(10) 1580

Commission Report on the intermediate evaluation of the SESAR joint Undertaking and its progress on the execution of the European Air Traffic Management master plan

Commission Staff Working Paper on preparing a deployment strategy for the Single European Sky technological pillar

Legal base
Document originated(a) 24 January 2011

(b) 10 December 2010

Deposited in Parliament(a) 28 January 2011

(b) 31 January 2011

Basis of considerationEM of 11 February 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone
To be discussed in Council31 March 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


10.1 The Single European Sky was established in 2004 in order to facilitate a single market in air transport. The legislative basis was established with four foundation Regulations.[53] The main Single European Sky objectives are to improve and reinforce aviation safety, to restructure European airspace so as to accommodate air traffic flow more efficiently and cost-effectively, without the constraints imposed by national borders, and to create a uniform and interoperable air traffic management system. The SESAR (Single European Sky air traffic management research) programme is seen as the originally industry-led implementation programme for the Single European Sky and is designed to complement the existing regulatory framework and to facilitate the implementation of new technology in the field of air traffic management (ATM).

10.2 SESAR is organised in three principal phases:

  • a two-year Definition Phase (2006-2007) drawing up an ATM Master Plan for the modernisation of air traffic management in Europe;
  • a six-year Development Phase (2008-2013) establishing the technological basis for the new system; and
  • the Deployment Phase of the new systems (2014-2020 in the first instance, but likely to be followed by a second phase up to 2030).

10.3 The ATM Master Plan which was the result of the Definition Phase is designed to support, during the Development Phase, the SESAR Concept of Operations, the main features of which are:

  • optimum trajectories to allow operators maximum efficiency and fuel savings;
  • collaborative planning between all parties involved in flight management;
  • dynamic airspace management involving enhanced civil/military co-operation;
  • introduction of new technologies embedded into a harmonised and interoperable technical architecture; and
  • a continuing major role for the air traffic controller, but assisted by advanced tools to ease the burden of routine tasks and thereby increase productivity.

10.4 In 2007 a Joint Undertaking (JU), which allows public and private financing, was established to manage the Development Phase of the SESAR programme.[54] In 2008 the JU was given the legal status of a Community (now EU) body.[55] Subsequently, private industry partners have joined the SESAR JU. Membership contracts were formally concluded with 15 private partners (including the UK's NATS (National Air Traffic Services) and an airports consortium involving BAA) and with Eurocontrol[56] in June 2009. This signalled the formal launch of the Development Phase. The total estimated cost of that phase is €2.1 billion, shared equally between the EU (drawing on funds from the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technology and the Trans-European Transport Network programme), Eurocontrol and the industry.

The documents

10.5 In the report, document (a), the Commission addresses two obligations. First, it presents the results of its first intermediate evaluation of the SESAR JU, which it is required to do every three years. Secondly, it fulfils the requirement, under a March 2009 Council Resolution endorsing the ATM Master Plan, to report in 2010 (and thereafter annually) on progress in the implementation of the Master Plan.

10.6 The Commission carried out the first intermediate evaluation in 2010 with the assistance of external independent consultants, in accordance with standard evaluation criteria used by the Commission. Data was mainly collected through the SESAR JU's parent Directorate-General (DG Mobility and Transport) and a desk study. To supplement this, an e-survey was carried out targeting members of the SESAR JU Administrative Board, Member States (through the Single Sky Committee, the delegated authority body for Single European Sky) and individual and focus group interviews. The overall conclusion of the evaluation is that the SESAR JU performed well during the reference period in terms of setting up and developing its organisation. It is noted that the amendment of the SESAR JU Regulation transforming it into an EU body had the effect of slowing down the set up progress, because of the need to adopt new financial rules, new staff contracts and accounting principles required for such bodies. Financial management and audit capacity is in place, but some systems and support measures have still to be implemented.

10.7 The Commission reports that:

  • in general, SESAR JU stakeholders are satisfied that the JU has implemented planned activities and achieved the expected results during the reference period;
  • key achievements include gathering and committing stakeholders on a common research and development programme, aligning the work programme with the Master Plan, developing the required methods and tools for programme implementation and initiating a large number of projects in a short time frame (300 projects organised into 17 work packages);
  • there is consensus amongst SESAR JU members of the importance of an efficient risk management framework that fully involves them in its establishment;
  • an "Enterprise Risk Management Framework" being developed for implementation in 2010 is at an advanced stage of preparation but implementation has slipped to 2011;
  • the SESAR JU has made efforts to involve a wide range of stakeholders through the membership process and by setting up the Scientific Committee and the Strategic Performance Partnership;
  • an "Associate" membership category has been introduced, which has enabled the SESAR JU and its members to extend participation to a broader range of stakeholders, in particular small and medium enterprises, research institutes and academia;
  • it is too early to assess the overall efficiency of the SESAR JU, but the progress made suggests that the JU model has been more efficient than if the SESAR Development Phase were to have been implemented through a conventional R&D call for proposals and has been effective in assembling the relevant stakeholders and in its coordination of activities;
  • the Master Plan, a detailed roadmap covering both the development and deployment phases of SESAR was adopted by the SESAR JU Administrative Board in June 2009 and it is responsible for its execution;
  • by 2010 85% of the 300 projects had been launched with about 160 having started actual R&D work and a small number of projects had already produced deliverables;
  • the Development Phase is divided into three Implementation Packages (IPs) — IP1 containing the basic validated functionalities and technologies of the SESAR operational concept available to be deployed and setting the baseline for the future deployment of more advanced functionalities, IP2 which is composed of ATM elements which need further research and development and that can be proposed for standardization and implementation as of 2014 and IP3 which is composed of the most advanced elements of the SESAR operational concept allowing the full transition to the 4D trajectory management and time based aircraft operations, for deployment beyond 2020;
  • any delay in implementing short term initiatives of IP1 is regarded as a significant risk for the SESAR programme—to ensure effective oversight of IP1 deployment in April 2010 the Commission set up an IP1 Steering Group, under the auspices of the Single Sky Committee, to make recommendations in the event of any slippage from the deployment schedule;
  • the March 2009 Council Resolution called for the SESAR JU to submit the first update of the ATM Master Plan to the Administrative Board for adoption before the end of March 2010;
  • this first update, which was discussed by the Administrative Board on 30 April 2010, was limited and consisted of refinement of the IP1 operational improvements, the introduction of regulatory and standardisation roadmaps and the update of the risk management plan;
  • the Single Sky Committee, on 7 May 2010, and the Eurocontrol Stakeholder Consultation Group, on 17 May 2010, both approved the proposed amendments without any change;
  • future updates are expected every 18 to 24 months; and
  • the next update of the Master Plan could address the link between the Single European Sky Performance Plan (high level needs) and the Master Plan (technological response to need for improving network performance).

10.8 The March 2009 Council Resolution requested the Commission to come forward, after consultation with the Single Sky Committee, with precise proposals for the preparation of and transition to the SESAR Deployment Phase, concentrating on governance and funding mechanisms. The Commission services have started work on assessing the challenges and key issues related to a deployment strategy and the aim of Working Paper, document (b), is to provide the Council with some initial elements in reply to its request. In the document the Commission first says ten general principles, elaborated in an annex, have been identified that should drive the deployment strategy. These include:

  • recognition of SESAR as a key enabler for delivery of the Single European Sky and its benefits;
  • successful SESAR JU delivery of the Development Phase;
  • effective governance for the Deployment Phase;
  • the importance of human factors;
  • involvement and buy-in of civil and military stakeholders; and
  • EU funding concentration on projects that benefit the network.

10.9 Next the Commission says that its services are exploring several options for defining governance mechanisms:

  • high level steering through the existing Single European Sky regulatory framework, with the Commission regulating to ensure timely achievement of key milestones by relevant stakeholders and with responsibility for maintaining, executing and coordinating the Deployment Strategy to lie mainly with the industry;
  • designation of the "network manager"—the Commission could propose to extend the role of the network manager as overall coordinator, with the relevant stakeholders, of the Deployment Strategy; and
  • establishment of a European partnership—a European public-private partnership involving relevant stakeholders could be set up by the Commission to oversee deployment.

10.10 Finally, the Commission says it has established a dedicated task force to complete this work—the intention is for it to deliver substantive proposals on governance and possible funding/financing mechanisms for a Deployment Strategy by March 2011. The task force is comprised of Commission, Eurocontrol and European Aviation Safety Agency representatives and is consulting all relevant stakeholders and the Single Sky Committee. It will be assisted by an expert group, comprising military, industry and European Investment Bank representatives.

The Government's view

10.11 The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mrs Theresa Villiers) says that:

  • the Government supports the Single European Sky and its related technological project, SESAR;
  • it recognises that it is vital for the SESAR governance arrangements to deliver;
  • this will require effective project management, management of change, recognition and mitigation of risks and budget control; and
  • there is a need for the SESAR JU to prioritise to ensure early and adequate focus on SESAR work packages which deliver network benefits.

10.12 The Minister comments further that:

  • The Government supports the establishment of a SESAR deployment strategy task force and will seek opportunities to engage with the Commission and SESAR JU to offer assistance and to safeguard UK interests;
  • it is important to secure a strong financial basis for the Deployment Phase to be self-sustaining rather than overly dependent on public funding—where EU public funding is used it should be network-centric;
  • critical to continuing stakeholder buy-in is involvement of all sectors of the aviation community in the decision-making process, notably the military and general aviation communities—transparency in the production of proposals will also be sought;
  • the Commission relays EU positions reached at the Single Sky Committee to the SESAR JU Administrative Board—UK civil and military officials will continue to use their attendance at the Committee and regular liaison with the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS both to closely track the SESAR JU's management of the Development Phase and to scrutinise proposals for a deployment strategy; and
  • the Government will continue to actively engage with the Commission and stakeholders across the aviation industry.


10.13 Whilst we have no questions to raise in relation to these documents and clear them from scrutiny, we draw them to the attention of the House for the information they give of progress on developments on the important programme to develop and deploy an integrated modern air traffic management system for Europe.

53   Regulation (EC) No 549/2004 laying down the framework for the creation of the Single European Sky, Regulation (EC) No 550/2004 on the provision of air navigation services, Regulation (EC) No 551/2004 on the organisation and use of the airspace and Regulation (EC) No 552/2004 on the interoperability of the European air traffic management network. Back

54   For the SESAR JU see  Back

55   That is giving it legal personality, applying the Financial Regulation, on budgetary management, and Commission staff regulations, and dealing with such matters as liability and privileges and immunities, with substantial tax advantages. Back

56   The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, founded in 1960, now with membership of 39 countries and the EU: see  Back

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