Gate One members adopted positions on SES 2+

December 4, 2020 - Just a few days before the videoconference of EU transport ministers, Gate One members approved two position papers regarding the Single European Sky 2+ (SES2+) recast proposal. While the first paper summarizes the most important observations and concerns regarding the SES 2+ proposal, the second examines the proposed future arrangements for economic regulation and the new Performance Review Body.

Considering the unprecedented challenges the aviation sector is facing in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and the environmental crisis, Gate One members are determined to contribute to the creation of an efficient legislative framework, which will create legal certainty and a clear distribution of roles and responsibilities for the years to come.

“We absolutely welcome re-launching the debate on the future of the Single European Sky, as we feel that the current legal framework does not sufficiently reflect developments in the ATM sector and its broader environment. However, we do have some concerns about the SES 2+ proposal. I would mention the less than clear division of competences between the Member States and the EU, legal uncertainty and the uncertainties associated with the CDM process among the most important ones.

Gate One calls for a stable and transparent legal environment. We strongly believe that Europe needs a safe, efficient and sustainable transport sector, with aviation as one of its main pillars. We need new, innovative policies and rules to address the unprecedented global challenges we are facing. While overarching intersectoral regulation may be necessary to address these, sectoral regulation should ensure the continuous availability of economically and environmentally sustainable aviation infrastructure.” said Gate One Chairman and CEO of HungaroControl Kornél Szepessy.

A position paper on ATM Data Service provision, another crucial component of SES2+, was elaborated and published by Gate One earlier this year. All three position papers can be found below.

Gate One - Future economic regulation and new PRB

Gate One - General SES2+ position

Gate One position paper on ADSPs

Gate One Position Paper on ATCO Mobility Definition

1. Workforce mobility dimensions

Historically ATCO mobility between states has not been used too often. The reasons are far from simply the geographically specific training or lack of technology. On the one hand the availability of technology does not automatically mean that an ATCO, a doctor, a pharmacist or a lawyer can work in another EU Member State without fulfilling the specific requirements of that state. On the other hand, as stated by CANSO, ATCEUC and ETF, mobility should continue to be on a voluntary basis to avoid the introduction of social dumping and assist in the prevention of social tensions.

2. How to respond to Airspace Architecture Study

In the Airspace Architecture Study, the geographical constraints on air traffic services provision are identified as limiting factors for capacity. In the new target architecture, the term “ATCO mobility” should be replaced by “Geographically decoupled ATS” which gives the notion of ATS provider decoupled from its geographical location.

The use of technology and automation always imposes many safety and capacity related uncertainties and risks that can be managed only at the level of an ATS provider.

3. Safety in ATM is managed by an organisation

There is a drive to make the ATCO profession more commercial off-the-shelf, less specific, easily achievable and interchangeable. However due to specifics, the ATCO profession is far from being a set of trivial competencies (“turn left”, “turn right”). Those specifics stem from the ultimate role of ATM to ensure the safety of air traffic. This must be acknowledged, and rigorously managed because incidents in aviation have unacceptably heavy consequences. This is well documented by ICAO and commonly known as Safety Management System (SMS). The management of safety is a pivotal obligation in Regulation 2017/373 as well.
The ability for an ATCO to manage, within certain defined parameters, any airspace independently from its geographical location could make sense only in the context of an ATS provider. Although ratings of the ATCO licenses are recognized in all EU Member States, the endorsement for a particular working position is a different process. According to Commission Regulation 2015/340 skills and competencies are applicable only at the organization at which the ATCO has been certified.
Both regulations give us the grounds for the selection and training of ATCOs, management of the changes of the systems, procedures and ATCO competencies. ATCOs by themselves cannot ensure safety as standalone entities. The Safety Management System is a part of the ATS provider. Therefore “ATCO mobility” at the level of an individual professional is not possible. The ATCO will exercise her or his competencies only after she or he has been granted the endorsement as part of that particular ATS provider.

4. Automation is not a panacea

The pilot’s job is always put forward as an argument – pilots can “freely” move from airline to airline, why not the ATCOs. But the differences with the pilot working mode and environment that allow natural “pilot mobility” are to be clearly acknowledged. The cockpit’s layout, instruments (HMI) and the level of airborne automation is the same in the same type of aircraft be it at another airline. But you cannot transfer an Airbus A320 pilot to another airline which operates Airbus A380 aircraft, although she or he will know all the equipment in the cockpit. Neither the pilots’ nor the ATCOs’ skills should be explained in a simplistic “cockpit” concept. It is not only about knowing how to push the right sequence of buttons and pronouncing standard phraseology.
In the cockpit there has already been a trend to introduce new technology and more automation. Therefore there are more and more voices that pilots’ skills are undermined by overrelying on automation and human skills must be trained and maintained. Taking the human more and more out of the loop has been proven to be dangerous. The Boeing 737 Max accidents clearly showed the risks of undermined skills combined with incomprehensible automated flight control systems.
These lessons learnt must be kept in mind all the time by people who manage aviation. The new SESAR technological concepts should not be considered to be the ultimate solutions to solve human type of deficits, neither in quantity nor in quality. Such concepts presently targeted at V1 and V2 level of maturity do not provide sufficient basis for reasonable expectations yet. Furthermore, SESAR concepts, which aim at “ensuring safety” while the ATCO “only monitors” how safety is ensured might lead us to a dangerous analogy with the 737 Max case and should be reviewed with caution.
The tendency to rely more and more on systems and less on human skills might lead us into times when safety will no longer be managed with clear mind of human decisions, but we will rely on software, systems, AI and robots, which will hopefully ensure safety. But machines fail from time to time and people might have to live with some level of safety failures, which are not manageable nor understood by humans. Switching the paradigm to “systems are enough, an ATCO only helps” can lead us into a safety challenging future.

Cross-border FRA cooperation

On September 10, enhanced webex meeting of FAB CE Airspace Task Force took place. Besides FAB CE member ANSPs, four other Gate One members‘ representatives – BULATSA, PANSA, ROMATSA and SMATSA together with Network Manager experts joined the meeting to discuss potential for expanding of existing cross-border free route airspace arrangements.

The meeting was a successful kick-off of what the participants believe will become a meaningful cooperation bringing tangible benefits to airspace users.

Gate One members agreed on a set of messages regarding regulatory changes related to COVID-19

Gate One considers, that the regulatory changes planned by the European Commission have the potential to aggravate further the financial situation of ANSPs. Therefore, we suggest that a strong CANSO position is developed, which contains at least the following messages:

  • The CEOs of the ANSPs undersigned consider that the management of ATM infrastructure is best left to ANSPs. We can handle this, if there are clear and agreed EU policy objectives, targets and rules. We are ready to take the responsibility to steer our companies to meet such targets.
  • In this respect, however, ANSPs should be trusted, treated as equal partners and their efforts acknowledged.
  • We need legal certainty. Therefore, in respect of aviation infrastructure it is essential to rely on the provisions of the Chicago Convention and the Performance Scheme.
  • The European Commission should not increase uncertainty by questioning basic principles embedded in the regulation in force.
  • Furthermore, ATM infrastructure (ANSPs) should not be viewed as a simple cost item.
  • For delivering the needed performance, we need clarity in respect of targets and rules rather than regulatory intervention into operational management and increased administrative burdens.
  • ATM will need to remain a resilient and reliable part of aviation infrastructure. Neither aviation markets, nor supply chains can properly function without ATM today.
  • Securing the continuous and safe functioning of aviation infrastructure must be a priority for Europe. We cannot reduce services today and provide full capacity tomorrow.
  • Furthermore, maintaining safe service provision and managing risks related to the epidemic require significant additional efforts without any major cost saving potential even for significantly reduced traffic levels.
  • Aviation infrastructure cannot be understood as one additional source of financial aid to airlines, including non-EU carriers.
  • Measures of today should be principally driven by long-term objectives. Mitigating the effects of COVID-19, should not sacrifice long-term goals.
  • Based on the above principles, we are ready to discuss any proposal for the benefit of the EU community. We need to keep European aviation infrastructure safe and resilient.

Note: this Gate One position has been adopted by 2/3 majority of the Gate One members, with the slightly different opinion of ACG, PANSA and ANS CR

Gate One Position Paper on The ATM Data Services Provision Concept

This position paper on the ATM Data Services Provision (ADSP) concept contains Gate One ANSPs´ expert insight and recommendations, which the Gate One Members believe should be taken into consideration in the interim and final reports of the study on the “Legal, economic and regulatory aspects of ATM data services provision and capacity on demand as part of the future European airspace architecture,” commissioned by the European Commission.  

Gate One Members support the overarching objective of the European Airspace Architecture Study (EAAS) aimed at addressing the current capacity issues and at preparing the European ATM system for the future traffic growth. Gate One Members believe it is pivotal to have a roadmap of actions the European Commission is undertaking not only following the publication of the final report of the study in June 2020, but also in relation to the future evolution of the Single European Sky.

Based on the events related to the study and the available information so far there are several aspects of the study that Gate One would like to appreciate:

  • Common ATM data service layer would enable enhanced ANS flight and other information management capabilities where clear business case exists.
  • Possibility for ANS providers to choose from which ATM data service provider to purchase data and further automated functions – or retain this functions in their portfolio – could give them more freedom.
  • Creation of an ADS market could bring new business opportunities for today´s ANSPs, which can provide their services also externally – on their own, in cooperation with other ANSPs and/or the industry, while fostering innovation & development of new services and applications for the benefit of all stakeholders.

Gate One Members would like to express their views on some key points that should be addressed in the interim and final reports of the study:

  • Safety first - To ensure safety, quality, service continuity, efficiency, (cyber)security etc. of the operations, ADSP should fulfil the ATM/ANS Common requirements and should be subject to the corresponding certification process. Liability issues (e. q. data quality) must be legally solved.
  • Realistic expectations: - The goal of the ADSP concept should be set realistically, including defining clearly the specific problems the concept aims to address. It should be clearly elaborated how the ADSP concept would enable in a more efficient way Virtual centres and Capacity-on-demand concepts compared to the current ANS provision, where cross border operations, data sharing and virtualisation become more and more explored. There should also be a clear analysis, including appropriate business case, with regards to the benefits of decoupling to the key performance areas. The current and future costs of the ATM data processing are also subject to realistic assessment and the voluntary principle and freedom to choose a business model should be considered therein. Clear definition of “ATM data service” boundaries should be set to enable that.
  • Clear rules for data sharing: - The applicable legislation for data sharing shall be further assessed against the various topics as described above, to provide a transparent picture and a basis for regulatory improvements and harmonisation. This shall include questions with regards to military and conditions and costs for providing raw data.
  • Fair and Robust Regulatory Framework: - The ADSP concept should be integrated in the Performance & Charging Scheme subject to a thorough analysis of various factors. Any integration should not affect the performance of the ANSPs and should not change the assumptions already in place for the on-going RP3. For the next period, balanced regulatory framework must be prepared. It is important to identify and explain how incentives for early movers, outlined in the EAAS, will be provided in the future ADSP regulatory regime.
  • Freedom to choose the business model - The ANS providers should have the possibility to choose between contracting external ADSP and maintaining internal service provision as is today. The current ANS providers should have equal right to act as ADSP as the industry. In addition, models of ADS provision considered by the study vary substantially, especially with introduction of the union-wide model. It should be analysed and supported by a clear business case, which model - including financing mechanism - will be preferred, as it will affect decision-making of ANSPs.
  • Protected competition: - The risk for a potential market monopolisation stemming from the ADSP concept and entry of new aggressive competitors should be thoroughly assessed and mitigated. Only then the goals for efficiency and technological advancement could be achieved.