EUROCONTROL signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the States of the Regional Search and Rescue Committee

5 December 2017

In February 2016, a Regional Search and Rescue Conference was co-organised by the Serbian Civil Aviation Directorate and EUROCONTROL. The Conference was attended by the States from the Region – Albania, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, FYROM, Hungary, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia – but also Cyprus, Iceland and Italy as well as ICAO, ECAC and COSPAS-SARSAT. It recognised the importance of formalising regional cross-border cooperation in order to enhance the regional SAR system and promote faster response times in emergencies.

Just nine months later, in November 2016, seven States signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This MoU led to the creation of the Regional Aeronautical SAR Advisory Committee, allowing States to actively share skills, expert knowledge and best practices so as to develop the regional SAR capacity.

The Regional SAR Committee discusses achievements and challenges, joining forces on SAR topics which include operational requirements and civil / military collaboration. Both ICAO EUR-NAT and EUROCONTROL are represented on the Committee, which is the largest permanent SAR forum in Europe.

Given that the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding had already reflected the desire to ratify the Committee’s cooperation with EUROCONTROL, it was decided to draw up a separate MoU to do this.

So, on 9 November 2017, EUROCONTROL concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the signatory States of the Regional SAR Committee. The agreement pinpointed mutually identified priority cooperation areas for SAR and emphasised the need for sustained cooperation, which will lead to the identification of issues that can be tackled in the EUR region or even globally.

Ten States now participate in the Regional SAR Committee: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The Regional SAR Committee

The work of the Committee supports ICAO’s European Air Navigation Planning Group (EANPG) in improving SAR facilities and services, both in the EUR Region and adjacent regions.

It also tackles deficiencies that have been identified in the European and North Atlantic Region, where several States still do not have Annex 12 agreements with neighbouring countries. This is a recurrent worldwide finding in the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

In 2017, under the chairmanship of Serbia’s CAD – with EUROCONTROL co-chairing – the Committee focused on:

  • the strategic and institutional aspects of cross-border SAR cooperation,
  • heightening the efficiency of collaborative arrangements,
  • defining operational requirements,
  • training considerations.

Thanks to the Committee, SAR networking at both expert and managerial levels has been considerably improved and the region as a whole is now better prepared for actual SAR situations.

There is a growing international interest in the Regional SAR Committee’s activities. Its report to the 5th Annual SAR Conference in June 2017 showed that their work had attracted considerable attention from, amongst others, the United States and Canada.

The work programme is ambitious and demanding. The Committee plans to:

  • further develop regional cooperation in SAR operations,
  • ensure compliance with international SAR standards and provisions,
  • build and maintain SAR capabilities,
  • focus on the institutional aspects of cross-border cooperation,
  • launch a pilot project for the regional implementation of the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System’s (GADSS) concept of operations.

Counting on EUROCONTROL

EUROCONTROL not only co-chairs and supports the Committee but also facilitates coordination with ICAO and COSPAS-SARSAT, the satellite-based SAR distress alert detection and information distribution system. We also prepare support material and participate in the technical and operational working groups.

In the mid- to long-term, a standardised SAR system will have to be based on a multi-disciplinary approach and it is here that EUROCONTROL will be able to assist materially. Our experience in developing unifying frameworks, programmes, methodologies, deliverables and training will be put to good effect.

SAR has unique aspects in aviation, involving as it does a variety of authorities, decision-makers and service providers, so EUROCONTROL’s collaboration with the Committee is an important contribution to ICAO’s “No Country Left Behind” Initiative.

EUROCONTROL’s commitment to making this SAR Initiative a success will be of great help in providing a safer sky for all airspace users in the Region.