Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) and the use of Functional Blocks of Airspace (FBA)

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Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) and the use of Functional Blocks of Airspace (FBA)

42ND ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 17-21 March 2003

WP No. 105

Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) and the use of Functional Blocks of Airspace (FBA)

Presented by Italy

Introduction

During the European Regional Meeting the meeting endorsed provisional policy on the subject of the creation of Functional Block of Airspace.

Discussion

To be in line with the IFATCA Manual this provisional policy has to be endorsed by conference.

The paper which has been discussed during the European Regional Policy is annexed to this working paper.

Conclusions

Based on the discussion during the Regional Meeting Europe the following Regional policy is submitted to the directors :

Recommendations

It is recommended that following becomes IFATCA policy :

The creation of CEATS as a Functional Block of Airspace should simultaneously respect the following conditions :

  • fully achieve the operational benefits expected from FBA;
  • grant a clear and full evaluation and definition of all the legal implications in service provision by multinational ATCOs employed in countries with different legislations: the legal liability and under whose jurisdiction must be clearly defined;
  • offer through stable evolutionary processes: the realistic application of the principles of harmonisation and integration to be provided by granting enhancements in the management of the CEATS airspace; with little impact on social environment;
  • the efficient creation and management of an FBA does not require the physical concentration of all ANS functions within a single multinational centre;
  • that all the details of the project be fully transparent to all.

As a result of the foregoing discussions, the meeting requested the Executive Board of IFATCA to consider the issue of Virtual Centres as an IFATCA work item.

References

Draft Minutes of the EUR Regional Meeting 2002, Limassol.

WP for the RM Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) and the use of Functional Blocks of Airspace (FBA).

Appendix – Working Paper

 

INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS’ ASSOCIATIONS

19th European Regional meeting – Limassol, 1-3 November 2002

Central European Air Traffic Services (CEATS) and the use of Functional Blocks of Airspace (FBA)

Presented by Vittorio Della Bitta
CEATS CGSO IFATCA Representative

1. Introduction

1.1 This paper will highlight the developments of the CEATS project and its development towards an entity not recognised at the conceptual phase but which has been adapted to fit with the European Commission’s views as determined by the Single European Sky.

1.2 The issues now being raised in this will also occur in other developments where Functional Blocks of Airspace are envisaged. It is therefore important that IFATCA develops regional policy to address the concerns we have with regard to this.

1.3 This paper will propose regional policy for adoption at this meeting.


2. Discussion

2.1 The institutional framework

2.1.1 The notable growth of air traffic during the past decade brought about a number of initiatives which have been identified at European level, to overcome the capacity problems. Following from Eurocontrol’s initiatives (EATCHIP, EATMP), the European Commission (EC) has launched its own initiative named Single European Sky (SES).

2.1.2 Under a similar umbrella, the CEATS project was fostered by Eurocontrol with the initial intent to revise the airspace structure of the region involved in accordance with the new principles of harmonisation and integration: sectors would have been shaped no longer taking into account national boundaries, but with respect to operational and technical rationalisation. This early attempt, should depict the first (geographically substantial) embryo of a wide seamless physical airspace, extending over the territory of eight countries and centred in Vienna.

2.1.3 This the first embryonic cell of a growing organism, the early attempt to put in place a Functional Block of Airspace in accordance with the “Single European Sky” initiative.

2.1.4 The EC’s concept, as formalised, is planned to be implemented firstly within the upper airspace and only laterally (2008 onwards) foresee its extension to the lower portion of the same airspace. This announcement caused some of the smaller Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) to undertake improved evaluations and analysis on the amount of traffic affected in both the upper and lower airspace and prepare actions rather than to react to events. The forecasts assumed as a planning baseline (2001-2010) showed percentages of traffic expected to be managed inside the upper portion of the airspace in some cases to be approximately 50 % of the total.

2.1.5 It was this reason that led some ANSPs to carefully look for other solutions than those expected from the former CEATS agreement, and to explore the possibilities to grant to the national providers themselves opportunities for future survival.

2.1.6 These fears and worries were highlighted with the fourth resolution signed by the Ministers of Transport of the eight countries on the 22nd of June 2001:

“To request the Eurocontrol Agency to develop proposals within the framework of CEATS Agreement for the participation of the national Air Navigation Service providers of the CEATS States in the operation of ATS in the upper airspace of the CEATS region”.

2.1.7 With the initial intent to take all necessary and quick steps to ensure with respect to the approved resolutions and influenced by more motivated ANSPs, some of these national providers (of Austria, Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary and Slovenia) signed a further agreement. On the 6th of September 2001, CAPS/CAPA (CEATS ANSPs Support/Association) came to light: CAPS-CEATS ANSPs Support, as a company organised under the laws of Austria with the purpose to coordinate and execute the activities of the CEATS programme, in particular to support the implementation of the CEATS UAC, a task expected to be ensured with “systematic, consistent and timely development of the contribution of the ANSPs” through a corporation of them (CAPA-CEATS ANSPs Association). This at least complying with what is stated in the CAPA Agreement (paragraph 3, comma 3.1 titled “Establishment of CAPA” of the Agreement itself).

2.1.8 This new association, CAPS/CAPA is now paralleling the activities of Eurocontrol with initiatives that sometimes give impressions to be overlapping those expected to be managed by the Agency. This development raises concerns and unanswered questions; how long will this emerging consortium act as declared, only as a “tool for the integration and harmonisation process” or as “an ANSPs coordination body”?

What will be the end result of this new body, and will it be in harmony with that of Eurocontrol’s ?

2.1.9 IFATCA’s perception is that the CEATS project has become over time, an object of confrontation-struggle, confirming those fears earlier identified, the inevitable consequence of the initiative of the European Commission, whose setting up, even though limited to harmonisation and integration objectives, could unavoidably raise the extremely sensitive matter of competition in Air Traffic Control.

2.1.10 Demonstration of this is CAPS/CAPA that, while declaring not to be an ATM service provider, is looking to a consortium among ANSPs or between ANSPs and Eurocontrol as the only avenue through which manage the implementation processes at this time. The consequence of this, will be in the coming years an undefined model of a -state operated/cooperation/full competition – service provision.

2.1.11 The ANS community has traditionally been sceptical about moving towards competition in the Air Traffic Management area, and balancing Safety with Commercial Competition. An Air Traffic Controller to perform his tasks safely , must be aware of all aircraft present within the managed airspace and of their intentions. The presence of different ATS providers in restricted portions of airspace could produce an excess requirement for coordination and consequently an unacceptable increased workload leading to the potential reduction in safety.

2.1.12 However, the acceptance that competition in the service provision is not desirable or possibly does not in itself exclude the idea of competition. The European Commission has remained very cautious not to openly use the word “competition” in respect of Air Traffic Control, in its draft regulations. In fact, it has even made it clear that the introduction of competition in that area was not an immediate objective of the Commission. However, the proposed provisions for the creation of the Single European Sky would de facto lead to the introduction of a competitive dimension in ATC, since the regulations foresee that individual states are free to designate any authorised service provider, regardless of its nationality. However, the very notion of cross-border service provision which is viewed as an unconditional necessity for the implementation of the Single European Sky will unavoidably result in some level of competition.

2.1.13 Within the EC there is a strong conviction that through the reduction of the number of ANSPs an increase in synergy is to be expected. Undoubtedly the management of larger FBAs-Functional Blocks of Airspace by a consortium of ANSPs or by even bigger, consolidated ANSPs would result in increasing the synergy effects.

On the other hand we could see a situation where those synergy effects achieved through the common management of one FBA by a consortium of ANSPs are counteracted by the fact that these same ANSPs are involved in the management of other FBAs at the same time (e.g. DFS and LVNL share responsibility for the hypothetical Northern Germany and Benelux FBA while DFS and Austrocontrol share responsibility for the Southern German and Alpine FBA), necessitating the duplication of departments for each FBA they are involved in.

What would be the impact with, for instance, ANSPs as Austrocontrol delegating a part of it’s airspace to Germany for a functional block of airspace and another one to CEATS, while continuing to provide the service within the lower portion of the airspace?

2.2 Airspace organisation: a pragmatic choice

2.2.1 All stakeholders, private or public, in the last years have unanimously recognised that the causes of major concern in the service provision are often due to an irrational airspace organisation and control sectors, recognised as one of the limitations to performance.

2.2.2 The Functional Block of Airspace concept has therefore emerged as a very logical answer to this issue. Application of the principles of harmonisation and integration, even if other forms of arrangements as the delegation of Air Traffic Services from one state to another have always been fostered and supported by ICAO.

2.2.3 Unfortunately too often, national interests, as well the chronic lack of political will to formalise institutional arrangements for the materialisation of very much needed technical and operational solutions, have been the limiting factor. Therefore any concrete proposal will need to be shaped in a way that it can be considered easily acceptable by the international community and formalised accordingly to achieve reasonable chances of being endorsed.

2.2.4 Overambitious plans will unavoidably lead to failures, possibly endangering not only single elements or early cells of the Single European Sky, but the concept as a whole. This may result in the need to consider a progressive implementation, which will require that a number of stakeholders may have to accept intermediate steps which may fall short of their own ambitions, until the aviation world is mature enough to move to the next phase.

2.2.5 It’s a recurring opinion about FBAs that creating such airspace blocks necessarily requires the concentration of all ANS functions on a single site, and more specifically within a single large multinational centre modelled on the EUROCONTROL’s Maastricht UAC. This could be considered as one of the possible options , but not so easy to be realised and within easy reach, especially in areas culturally so heterogeneous as the CEATS region.

2.2.6 The first concern expressed by individual states pertains to their national sovereignty, in the sense that the traditional idea of multinational centres necessarily implies that a number of ANS functions, some of which are perceived as extremely close to the core of states sovereign competencies, will be performed from a foreign country. This applies in particular to the surveillance of national airspace in respect of illicit intrusions or national law violations.

2.2.7 Another major state concern, which is seldom stated openly although it is probably one of the most legitimate, relates to the possible effects of a multinational centre on the domestic labour market. The traditional model for such organisations (as that one foreseen to be adopted for CEATS) implies the direct export of a number of jobs for those countries which are not hosting the centre. Although they should normally have granted a quota of positions for their national staff, that model does impact on the overall labour situation, in particular in terms of indirectly associated jobs. For that reason, states may fear that they have more to loose than to gain, by adhering to this early expression of the FBA concept.

2.2.8 Staff unions also share a number of concerns with their governments. They show similar uneasiness with the prospect of losing working positions to international organisations, in particular if staff are unwilling to move. Enforced staff displacement proves to be a major issue, and the reason for either failures or critical difficulties regarding existing or past attempts to establish multinational models. Further, should a new organisation take-over from the provider in place, this could question existing social arrangements and lead to less favourable employment contracts or simply attract national staff (as CAPA/CAPS could better do) with initial more attractive collective bargaining that could then change for the worse if a sort of a competition environment prevails.

2.2.9 For these reasons the creation of a Functional Block of Airspace should simultaneously respect some options:

  • be practically and politically realistic;
  • fully achieve the operational benefits expected from FBA;
  • fully respect states sovereignty;
  • offer adequate responses and guarantees to the concerns of all the involved stakeholders;
  • grant a clear and full evaluation and definition of all the legal implications in service provision by multinational ATCOs employed in countries with different legislations (the recent Swiss mid-air accident over Germany controlled by Swiss ATCO, being reviewed in two legal systems -Germany and Switzerland-, highlights the need for legal issues be carefully considered): the legal liability and under whose jurisdiction must be clearly defined;
  • offer initial stable evolutionary prospects (the setting up of homogeneous systems, common staff licences, cross-border sectors not taking into account of national boundaries inside the current ACCs structure have, at this stage, to be considered the only form of harmonisation possible in the light of processes of integration like that one supported by “Single European Sky” initiative) towards more revolutionary options (as could be a multinational centre), only once the context is sufficiently mature.

2.2.10 For the same reasons the cooperative approach is maybe the only able to grant the FBA to be managed as a whole by a number of individual ANSPs acting under the terms of a consortium agreement. This scenario would require neither the creation of a new ATS Unit, nor a single existing ANSP taking over the management of the entire FBA on behalf of all the States involved. This model could even allow the existing ANSP’s ATS Units to subsist in their current form.

2.2.11 With regard to national sovereignty, decades of delegation of ATS from one country to another, although often in smaller scale, demonstrate that cross-border arrangements are technically possible, without any infringement of national sovereignty. The recognised principle is: in accordance with the well established international rules, when a State delegates to a foreign entity the responsibility to provide air navigation services functions, it does so without any derogation to its national sovereignty.

2.3 CEATS implications on Human Resources field and ATCOs expectations

2.3.1 Coming to the HR domain it has to be said that IFATCA has been granted the privilege to be the only accredited observer in some of the processes under this crucial item. The results of this activity and the acquired documentation gave us the possibility to collect information and represent the following scenario.

2.3.2 Eurocontrol is concentrating attention and giving great emphasis to all the activities tied to the training of the personnel: three waves of instructors hired under the “training the trainers programme” should take a major part in developing training programmes and running the national and the CEATS ab-initio courses and conversion training, they will be then used as OJT instructors in the CUAC from Initial Operations onwards; under the umbrella of the “training subproject work programme planning”. A recruitment campaign is expected to be launched both at national and CEATS level. Selection and recruitment are expected in 2003, while their training in local ANSP Training Establishments is foreseen in 2004; these trainees will work in National Centres and will be “allowed to undergo conversion to CUAC at a later stage”.

2.3.3 Under the same “training subproject work programme planning” conversion courses have been planned to prepare the UAC personnel: these courses are expected to be shorter than at MUAC (conversion courses as a benchmark?). The reason for that, is using the principle that moving Controllers with Airspace, ATCOs will be, in most cases, already familiar with airspace and procedures. It has stated:

“…only experienced ATCOs will be used for Initial Operations at CUAC. This means that a large number of Conversion Courses will run in the period 2006–2010. In total, 286 ATCOs from CEATS States will undergo these during this time period”

2.3.4 The Informal Regional Meeting held during the last IFATCA Conference in Mexico and more recently the last meeting with all the IFATCA, Associations and major Trade Unions of the CEATS area in Ljubljana, have faced and analysed this HR dimension: the resulting dissatisfaction has been expressed with the letter sent to all the Ministers of Transport of the area , CEOs of the national ANSPs and to the General Director of Eurocontrol.

2.3.5 The uncertain indications coming from the first Manpower Planning Simulation and a more evident interest shown by Eurocontrol in organising ab-initio campaigns of recruitment for neo-engaged personnel that will be hired in the coming years cannot tranquillize the ATCOs’ community employed at national level inside the existing ACCs and involved in the CEATS project that reported the perception, not to have received so far, neither the same level of attention spent in describing the training procedures, nor the expected appreciation and turning to account both at national and CEATS level.

2.3.6 An example is the one which occurred after the application of the first training programme, the “training the trainers” which resulted in the selection of nominees among chief-instructors not coming from the ACCs involved in the CEATS project. The resulting exclusion of instructors from those relevant ACCs, whose competency and knowledge of local interactions and problems will have no chances, during this first phase, to be highlighted and exploited, have to be considered as unacceptable and cause serious concern.

2.3.7 This is the first action but already clear evidence that the level of attention devoted to personnel whose future is in the hands of different political entities, requires deeper and more scrupulous attention.

2.3.8 The personnel currently in service consider the recruitment as a possible threat in the way forward: Eurocontrol regulations on this field are restricted to ECAC , No form of protection and defence of national interests in terms of domestic labour market has to be expected to be in place for CEATS and the prospect of losing working positions to international organisations is an issue that CAPS/CAPA could maybe better resolve and manage, protecting the portion of airspace involved or the national ATCOs expectations.

2.3.9 “Recruitment procedures” of the staff currently employed at national level, hence are one of the topics recognised be of high priority but not the only reason of concern expressed by the ATCOs inside the CEATS area.

2.3.10 The ATCOs’ community have developed over the years a state of uneasiness witnessed by the number of concerns identified as follows:

  • concerns on the project itself that appears to assure better opportunities to some countries but not all;
  • concerns and doubts on national benefits of the project itself;
  • concerns and doubts on the way the project is managed both at national and Agency/CEATS level;
  • complaints about the attitude of some national providers toward a project that has been promoted by a limited number of managers giving the impression that they are dealing with it as a personal business;
  • regrettably, often it has been evidenced , that the information given in the different countries is very different in its form, quantity and even content, resulting in a situation where the perception of the work is sometimes based on rumours. This is the worst possible basis from which to start building a common consciousness; official information based on the outcome of consultation have to be consistent across all project members to enable it to be more positively received among the personnel;
  • concerns on the outcome of the last Cost Benefit Analysis where it is stated that “…the primary cost savings are achieved through reduced requirements for number of Air Traffic Controllers in the CEATS States”;
  • concerns on the findings of Fast/Real time simulations based on the unrealistic principle according with the 50% increase of the traffic foreseen for 2007 will be managed by half of the sectors necessary (30 of the 55 expected in 2007) and consequently by half of the personnel;
  • concerns on the outcomes obtained after the first LAMPS-Long Term ATCOs Manpower Planning- simulation: there is an expected surplus of 197 Controllers on the 1st of January 2007; 100 is the number of “experienced controllers” expected to attend “conversion courses” by 2005 on a total of 286 indicated as the number of controllers necessary for the initiation phase (2007); this could mean a percentage of almost 30% (100 of 286); assuming this 30%, the remaining 70% should be the personnel to be hired by 2003 through the “ab-initio” campaign;
  • concerns on the technically possible use of the expression “experienced ATCOs ”for colleagues selected in 2003 and hired in 2004-5 with an “ab-initio” campaign after the attendance of the following conversion courses; situation that this could produce a further reduction of the percentage of 30% resulting that the places be reserved for the personnel currently employed;
  • concerns on the possible numerically prevailing new-engaged forces recruited after the Ab-initio campaign; concerns on the Eurocontrol recruitment rules that foresee ECAC-wide (38 countries) competitions that could allow the recruitment of personnel coming from countries outside the CEATS area and with no priority, guarantees and certainties recognised to the ATCOs currently employed at national level inside the existing ACCs;
  • concerns on the frequent use of expressions like “moving ATCOs with the airspace”, or “…exclusive use of experienced ATCOs” that, in absence of statements and precise commitments in favour of the ATCOs currently employed at national level, sound as mere and inconsistent slogans; absent or scarce attention at national/CEATS/Agency level on the social implications of the project;
  • concerns on the undesired implications in HR domain so far never taken into consideration on the possible effects produced even within the lower airspace.

2.3.11 The general critical approach toward CEATS project establishes its foundations on the numerous questions which so far remain unanswered; on the perception of a programme which appears much more political oriented, where impression is that the operational and technical issues in the last years have been only used to legitimate some choices (a reduction of costs obtained mainly from the unrealistic reduction of sectors and consequently of personnel even if in presence of an increase of traffic estimated be close to 50% in 2007; with, on the other hand, an increase of expenses due to proliferation in the number of facilities put in place to please the countries not so lucky to host the Centre) to allure almost all the stakeholders, with no guarantees and certainties for the ATCOs currently providing the service from the existing ACCs.

2.3.12 All these concerns cannot be simply resolved by a simple and ineffective political answer (the answer of the General Director of Eurocontrol to the Ljubljana joint IFATCA- ATCEUC letter) but need to be seriously faced with the same rigour, care and determination with which the ATCOs, within the CEATS area, every day face the challenges in trying to provide the best level of service to satisfy the airspace users’ expectations and that now see their future exposed to risk.

2.3.13 Associations attitude in a national context as well as IFATCA at international level are appreciated and known as pragmatic, constructive and responsible. Staff Unions for the social implications of the project are expected to be involved soon in a formal consultation process and willing to provide their factual contribution.

2.3.14 It would be appreciable besides dutiful that all the “key-implementation-actors” in the project at Agency/CEATS/CAPA-CAPS/ANSPs level would devote the required and expected serious attention with constructive, responsible attitude toward such sensitive matters.


3. Conclusions

3.1 The reasons that brought the countries and ANSPs to sign in 1997 the first CEATS Agreement have fallen short of the expectations in the last years. The continuous airline pressure over the last ten years and the impressive growth of the traffic, forced ANSPs and the air traffic control as a whole to accept the challenge to increase the capacity of national units to meet the traffic demand.

ANSPs have been forced into huge investments in up-dating the existing ATM systems to increase their productivity and other commitments are still on progress.

3.2 National ACCs have become productive beyond all belief and the recent survey carried out by Eurocontrol during the last months of April and May 2002 during bilateral meetings held with all the ANSPs of the countries involved, have witnessed this change of direction and shown a completely different situation than what was defined by the findings of the CEATS Strategic Plan Drafting Group-CSPDG’ round-trip of end 2000: plans to resolve problems have been identified and no significant capacity-related problems have to be expected in the coming years.

3.3 For these reasons alternative options to those initially envisaged must be investigated while a number of common assumptions must be challenged to reach such an objective.

3.4 It has to be defined that the efficient creation and management of an FBA does not necessarily require the physical concentration of all ANS function within a single multinational organisation.

Contrary to a widespread belief, the economies of scale of large ATC centres appear to be marginal. A study conducted by EUROCONTROL in respect of a planned binational centre expected be set-up by France and Switzerland has demonstrated that the major benefits from multinational structures derive much less from economies of scale, than from the operational savings the airspace users gain in terms of significant reduction of delays and increase in capacity.

3.5 In fact, maintaining a reasonable level of decentralisation appears to be desirable if not necessary, for contingency planning and safety reasons.

3.6 Then, at this stage, only the realistic application of principles of harmonisation and integration can foster and assure safety enhancements and a better co-operation among the involved countries with costs probably reduced to the minimum, minor risks deriving from malfunctions of these “multinational structures”, giving to national ATC industries the way to express their potential without any sort of political “dictation” and last but not least with no instability in manpower planning and social impacts reduced to zero.

3.7 While, on HR domain, there must certainly be room to meet the expectations of all the ANSPs and the ATCOs currently employed inside the existing ACCs with reciprocal satisfaction.

3.8 The attempt to deviate European initiatives from the original intent to overcome the notable growth of air traffic with the revision of the airspace structure of the region in respect to operational and technical rationalisation towards the creation of FBAs managed by single multinational Centres is reason of great concern and disappointment.

3.9 The expected management of UACCs by the Agency or by a “consortium” among Eurocontrol and all the involved ANSPs (be in a Support, Association or whatever other form) , doesn’t give the expected assurances and guarantees.

3.10 Neither the uncertainties deriving by undefined model of service provision (state operated-cooperation-full competition), nor the draft regulations that made it clear that the introduction of competition in that area was not an immediate objective of the Commission, help to exclude the extremely sensitive matter of competition in Air Traffic Control.

3.11 The proposed provisions for the creation of the Single European Sky or of a single cell (FBA) of this new entity, would de facto lead to the introduction of a competitive dimension in ATC, since the regulations foresee that individual states are free to designate any authorised service provider, regardless of its nationality.

3.12 Even the very notion of cross-border service provision, which is viewed as an unconditional necessity for the implementation of the Single European Sky, will unavoidably result in some level of competition.

3.13 But the ANS community has traditionally been sceptical about moving towards competition in the Air Traffic Management area and balancing Competition with Safety.

3.14 SES initiative is bringing to an acceleration of the activities towards the creation of FBAs in Europe, resulting in dangerous or, what is worse, in greedy misinterpretations of the concept as a whole.


4. Draft Recommendations

It is recommended that;

4.1 The creation of a Functional Block of Airspace should respect the following :

  • grant a clear and full evaluation and definition of all the legal implications in service provision by multinational ATCOs employed in countries with different legislations: the legal liability and under whose jurisdiction must be clearly defined; the setting up of homogeneous systems, common staff licences, cross- border sectors not taking into account of national boundaries inside the current ACCs structure.
  • the efficient creation and management of an FBA does not require the physical concentration of all ANS functions within a single multinational centre.
  • the cooperative approach is the only able to grant the FBA to be managed as a whole by a number of individual ANSPs acting under the terms of a consortium agreement.

Last Update: September 29, 2020  

September 28, 2020   195   Jean-Francois Lepage    2003    

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