Since the late 1980’s the European ANS system has gradually become unable to cope with growing traffic demand. The Single European Sky initiative of the European Commission is meant to overcome the failing performance of the European ANS system by the means of a comprehensive and structured framework.
The SES intends to optimise ANS performance, in particular through the defragmentation of the patchwork of ill coordinated national ANS systems.
Defragmentation of ATS facilities and services has been identified as a potential enabler to generate economies of scale, to facilitate the establishment of cross-border service provision, and to remove inefficient interfaces between operational units.
This solution remains promising and necessary. However, defragmentation can not occur through physical consolidation but must be virtual, and should take the form of “virtual centres”.
A virtual centre is a group of air traffic services units (under the responsibility of one or several ANSPs) operating from different locations which use fully standardised methods of operation, information, procedures, technical means and equipment in such a manner that they are perceived as a single system from an airspace user’s perspective.