Opening address at the Network Manager User Forum 2018

by Joe Sultana, Director Network Manager on 24 January 2018, EUROCONTROL Headquarters, Brussels (BE)

Welcome to the 21st edition of the User Forum.

The User Forum is our annual event when we, as Network Manager, get the feedback as to how we have performed, what we have done right, what we could do better, where to focus and what to prioritise.

There is no other event which brings together so many European operational actors; so there is no better input for us to get the ammunition for our efforts to improve the performance of the European air traffic management (ATM) network.

We know what worked in 2017, which part of the network performed, over-performed or under-performed. We have analysed some of the causes which have contributed to missing the Single European Sky target for delays albeit in a record year of highest ever traffic.

Today’s forum is where we debate how we can improve the network and test our proposals for the way ahead on how to optimise airspace use further, how to improve our flow and capacity management operations, how to make airports an integral part of the network and how we can get better at mitigating weather, all this together.

As NM, we push for improved performance at local (ACC) level. One example  ̶  the planning work with each air navigation service provider (ANSP) as part of the Network Operations Plan (NOP) CDM process is in reality a detailed analysis of the issues, an assessment of the options and then an agreed way ahead to deliver.

But local improvements however welcome will not be enough. We need to look at this without the constraints of current sectors and go cross border and sub-regional  ̶  ACCs brought together by NM to address specific problems. Working cross border or sub regional is challenging because we are addressing issues which to date ANSPs feel it is solely in their remit to address  ̶  because it impacts revenues, delays attributed to them.

So as NM I wish to thank the ANSPs who have shown trust and confidence in us and are working together to find solutions at sub-regional level. The work is thorough, looking for unused capacity, testing ideas, looking for the options which will best address the problem, what are the pros and cons. And I also wish to thank the other ACCs which will potentially be impacted by this work, for being ready to participate and support this work. We are not there yet, we have to carry out further work, simulate other options and discuss again with ANSPs and the airspace users.

The bottom line is that just working locally is not sufficient to manage European air traffic at acceptable performance levels. As Network Manager, we do not want to be just a flow management unit reacting to significant delays. We have to look for ways to make operations across Europe as punctual, efficient and predicable as possible. And despite the difficulties, the way ahead is cross border, whether it is free route airspace, 4D trajectory sharing across network, extended arrival management. In this connection, I invite you to visit the stands outside showcasing the tools and demonstrations which we will use in our operations.

As NM we know we have to make sure that we continue to do our work in an efficient, impartial manner. And while looking forward to receiving a redesignation for the next 10 years, we have to prepare ourselves for the challenges, concepts and technologies of the next decade. Most of all, however, we need to remain close to you, our operational stakeholders. Help us with your feedback, help us deliver a network operations which makes Europe the envy of the rest of the world.

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