Airspace and air traffic are not bound by national borders. So skyguide works closely with the rest of Europe and above all with its geographical neighbours: 40% of the airspace that the company manages and monitors is actually above adjacent countries. Skyguide is also part of the project to create a Single European Sky.
Every country in Europe today has its own air navigation services provider. The European Commission’s Single European Sky (SES) project is intended to optimise the efficiency of Europe’s air traffic management system. Under the SES, air traffic should be handled according to operational, not national, criteria. Parallel to the SES initiative, the European Commission also launched a comprehensive programme to renew the continent’s technical air traffic management facilities: Single European Sky ATM Research, or SESAR.
The creation of so-called Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) was intended to drive the SES process. Switzerland is part of Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC), together with Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
The work within and development of FABEC are based on an international agreement, on whose foundation its various member air navigation services providers have been pursuing their collaboration and its implementation since December 2012. FABEC’s highest bodies – its member states and their air navigation services providers – recently redefined the future alignment of their alliance in their “FABEC – The Way Ahead” initiative. The document gives prime priority to the achievement of the relevant European performance targets. And in this context FABEC should be committed to:
a shared safety philosophy and shared safety goals
a desire to jointly achieve the EU performance goals up to 2024
a joint approach to SESAR’s goals and activities, especially in terms of achieving technical interoperability.
On the operational front, the sizeable increases in air traffic numbers have prompted FABEC to take collective measures to provide the capacity that is urgently needed on top of that suggested by the relevant traffic forecasts. The active collaboration with network managers to reassign traffic flows away from overloaded control centres in summer 2018 helped to mitigate the negative consequences here, especially in terms of flight delays.
On the operational front, work continued on establishing Free Route Airspace, one of the key pillars in the restructuring of Europe’s airspace. Several direct routes were introduced for Switzerland as part of Free Route Airspace’s gradual adoption. The development of the XMAN cross-border arrival management tool and the corresponding procedures also continued apace. The current phase of FABEC XMAN covers over 75% of Zurich’s approach traffic with due regard to the nearest upstream centres. Skyguide’s XMAN radius currently extends to some 160 kilometres around Zurich Airport, and will be steadily further enlarged.
FABEC is also actively involved in coordinated fundamental research with studies on meteorological phenomena, traffic volatility and their impact on air traffic management efficiency, at both an academic level and in daily operations.