On Tuesday morning, the FABEC OPS Theatre featured a critical
discussion on the issues involved with prioritizing the environment or capacity
in the airspace. The panel was composed of Iacopo Prissinotti, EUROCONTROL;
Paolo Nasetti, ENAV (Blue Med FAB); Peggy Devestel, skyguide; and Tomas
Montvila, Oro Navigacija (Baltic FAB). The panellists provided their perspective
on these two often contradictory priorities, and how each one can change
daily operations and airspace design.
Air traffic levels continue to rise, and new vehicles enter the
airspace, adding to airspace density. The panellists said there’s an
opportunity to plan for increasing capacity and managing airspace density while
keeping environmental concerns in mind, but it will require airline and
military collaboration. Both were once considered customers of the airspace,
but are much more involved today in all aspects of the industry and day-to-day
Cooperation between airlines and the military has improved since
the pandemic began, and the panellists hope the communications lessons each
entity has learned will not be forgotten. There are still times when the airspace
is not efficiently utilized. According to Prissinotti, sometimes 70 percent of
available airspace is left unused, and therefore there is room for improvement.
Of course, the system has constraints. One challenge in meeting
environmental goals is the difference in definitions between air navigation
service providers (ANSPs) and airlines. Devestel said it’s difficult to take
steps forward in the collective effort toward greener aviation without common
measurements and definitions. The panel suggested involving more voices in environmental
planning so that each player’s constraints are well understood.
The pace at which airlines, airports, and ANSPs take steps towards
greener solutions is vastly different. The panellists said airlines are able to
make improvements much more quickly, and low-fare airlines are leading the way.
Devestel suggested that improving communication with airlines, the military,
and governments is essential in order to develop a collective approach to
increasing capacity and reducing environmental impact. The industry is not yet
where it should be in its efforts to protect the environment, but ANSPs are heading
in the right direction.
Nasetti said it’s time to review the system we have today
and move towards the flexible airspace that new users require. In particular, ANSPs
are responsible for removing their rigid configurations.
All panellists agreed that it’s time for a new way of
thinking. “We do not privilege capacity. We are working to ensure, within the
capacity need, the least environmental impact possible,” concluded Prissinotti.