Single European Sky will make air travel safer, less costly and more environment-friendly




Brussels, Belgium



Edited Package

€5 billion savings/year John off Single European Sky. A vital initiative to unify European air navigation efficiency and safety measures. Measures, worth an estimated 5 billion Euros in savings a year, which the EPP Group has done much to guide through Parliament.

PTC Opener
John on Pilots complain that going from A to B by flying over C in the EUs jigsaw puzzle of an airspace remains a stressful experience.
It finally took an ash-spewing volcano a few years ago to hasten the clean-up of Europe's crowded airways.

B roll John off The Icelandic volcanic ash eruption in Spring 2010 and huge resulting delays at European airports speeded up long standing calls to unify European air traffic control management, both for commercial and military flights. It also led to the creation of a European Crisis Coordination group.

EPP Group Vice Chairman and lead negotiator in Parliament on Single European Sky is Marian Jean Marinescu.

Interview Marian Jean Marinescu Marian Jean Marinescu, You see what is going on if you are not prepared to have a centralised system of traffic control to have a centralised group to manage the crisis. To keep on the ground thousands and thousands of people that cannot go back home that cannot go to their business. And lot of losses. So it was a good sign that we had to do something.

€150 billion GDP losses
150 million tonnes CO2 John off Lack of pan-European coordination of airspace has cost an estimated 150 billion Euros in lost GDP and has contributed to 150 million extra tonnes of CO2 pumped into the air over the past decade.

Brussels-based Eurocontrol, which acts as an intergovernmental liaison on airspace issues, is committed to safer air traffic management, especially in times of crisis like the Icelandic volcano incident. Eurocontrol's head of Air Traffic Management is Bo Redeborn.

Interview Bo Redeborn, Principal Director ATM, Eurocontrol Bo Redeborn, Principal Director ATM, Eurocontrol

Single European Sky justifies harmonisation. And we're trying to at least convince states if they feel they need to prevent flights from taking place for a certain reason like this that they should apply the same model. Because we have three different models of not allowing flights to be flown which create a lot of confusion among the airspace operators.
John off Europe's airspace remains one of the most congested in the world. Pilots fly through a multitude of air space changes for even short haul routes such as Brussels to Geneva--handed off to as many as 5 national air traffic control authorities over a flight of only 80 minutes.

The new initiative calls for Functional Airspace Blocks or FABs. These sectors are organised on the basis of efficiency targets, not member state borders.

Total air traffic control costs in 2011 amounted to an estimated 14 billion Euros.
Bo Redeborn of Eurocontrol says Single European Sky is not a cure all. But eventually reducing to 9 zones from 29 the number of major air traffic control centers is a good start.

Interview Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol
I think the whole notion of FAB has actually delivered a lot. It has forced providers to cooperate. We have managed to straighten out the route network. It's very little extra route you have to fly. We have introduced free route airspace which basically means that when you get up to cruising level you fly direct.

€920 million savings
-12% CO2 John off Civil society groups believe a truly single European airspace could greatly cut flight times, thus saving EU citizens an estimated €920 million, as well as reduce carbon emissions by 12%. Additional fuel costs and flying times from inefficient routing cost nearly 4 billion Euros in 2011.

The EPP Group's Marian Jean Marinescu agrees the economics of a Single Sky are persuasive.

Interview Marian Jean Marinescu EPP Member Marian Jean Marinescu

We need a new architecture of the airspace. Which means that the traffic control center, to be very efficient, should control the flights. It doesn't matter the border around, only a piece of the sky. So this means at the end Single European Sky. (me: It's like a Schengen in the sky, isn't it?). It's like a Schengen on the sky, yes, that's it. You are right. We do not have borders on the ground but we still have it on the sky.
B roll John off
Meanwhile Eurocontrol's Bo Redeborn says no more time can afford to be lost to the next manmade or natural disaster, such as a volcano.

Interview Bo Redeborn Eurocontrol Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol
The real challenge here is to reduce the impact on cancelling flights and on reducing the number of flights to a level that is on the safe side.
So I think we have a grip on the safety but we still need to improve the way we react to these kinds of things so that we find work-arounds and can actually move people and continue travel to the extent possible without jeopardising safety and that's where we focus.
PTC Bridge John on Of course control over one's airspace means power and revenues, things that member states have fought for as strongly as they did and do on behalf of their national champion airlines.

Interview Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol Bo Redeborn, Eurocontrol

I believe that the best way around this is to sort of accept that this is a fact and then to find technical solutions to centralise functions, services and actually distributing the controller working position. And leave them where they are and then if need be you sort of put the new ones at the place you'd like them to work in the future and then you have this sort of consolidation.

B roll John off

Another huge potential stumbling block is the member state monopolies which currently control air traffic management in the EU 28.

French air traffic controllers went on strike in June 2013 insisting Single European Sky would violate national sovereignty and would lead to less efficiencies and more work for controllers if EU predictions of a tripling in capacity were to come true.

The challenge in breaking national fiefdoms and old ways of thinking is enormous, says Marinescu.
Interview Marian Jean Marinescu

Marian Jean Marinescu, EPP

When you provide a law, when you build a law, you have to think about everyone affected by the law. Which means persons and companies. So you have to think about the people on the ground, all the industry on the ground, which is maybe 200,000 all over Europe. But you have to think at the same time about the passengers that are 600 million per year. So you have to do something which is positive, which is good for everyone. So these are the advantages of the Single European Sky.
B roll John off Concerning traffic flows, faster A to B routing for fuel efficiency rather than national borders as the benchmark means the big winners are passengers and the environment.
Interview Marian Jean Marinescu,
Marian Jean Marinescu,
First of all will win even the ground industry, the industry on the ground, traffic control and everybody because they will be equipped with new technology, modern technology, which means safety, more safety. At the same time for the passenger it could mean 15 minutes for a medium flight of two hours less flight.

B roll John off Those challenges are enormous. The 26,000 flights a day are expected to double by 2020.

And the cost of holding on to all those flight control centers amounts to several billion Euros more per year than other similarly sized air traffic systems around the world. The current set up is simply not sustainable.

PTC Close John on It's an old maxim that once planes take off, it's ultimately the authority of the pilot to make sure to get back on the ground safely.

Meanwhile Single European Sky will protect the air industry and its passengers in a faster, cleaner and safer way while they´re still up there.

Find out more about the activities of Parliament's largest political force by going to Thanks for looking in and see you again soon.

Headline EPP's Marinescu: Single European Sky will make air travel safer, less costly and more environment-friendly

Description The EPP-backed Single European Sky initiative will bring greater simplicity, clarity and efficiency for Europe's pilots, airports and air traffic managers

European Parliament, EPP Group, Single European Sky, Eurocontrol, Marian Jean Marinescu, Bo Redeborn
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  • Ioannis Zografos
    EPP TV Managing Producer
    +32(0) 2 284 18 45