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Air Traffic Safety








Europe: Expanding the Aviation Frontiers




           “This MoC is a testament to our commitment to reinforce our partnership with EASA and to work together on new common priorities, maximizing synergies around topics which are central for the future development of European aviation. I look forward to our continued collaboration as we move forward and prepare to face aviation challenges,” said Raὑl Medina, EUROCONTROL Director General, at the April 2024 signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) by the duo of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) Executive Director, Florian Guillermet, and the EUROCONTROL Director General.

“We are standing together to fulfil Europe’s environmental ambitions, avoiding any gaps in our approach while ensuring that safety remains our priority. Through this cooperation, we will pool our expertise to the benefit of the Member States and the European aviation system as a whole,” added Florian Guillermet, Executive Director of EASA.

The MoC between EASA and EUROCONTROL  replaced the cooperation agreement signed in 2021 and is aimed at reinforcing EASA’s and EUROCONTROL’s shared commitment to enhancing the synergies  between the two organisations as well as building the highest levels of safety, efficiency and sustainability in the European civil aviation landscape. It also addresses four areas of cooperation, covering training, cybersecurity, research and innovation as well as communication, navigation, and surveillance (CNS).

To be sure, cooperation, collaboration, integration, coordination, harmonisation and policy cohesion have become the core enablers of the efficiency, security, safety, and sustainability of civil aviation operations in Europe. The operationalization of these attributes, though, are not limited to European entities but extend to international organisations as well as regional and national entities outside the European enclave. European aviation entities, for example, EASA, EUROCONTROL and SESAR (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management (ATM) Research) have been cooperating with international associations such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), IFATCA (International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers Associations), and IFATSEA (International Federation of Air Traffic Safety Electronics Associations. Costas Christoforou, IFATSEA Regional Director for Europe, told Air Traffic Safety Electronics International in a recent interview that this cooperation has helped in defining the essence of the air traffic safety electronics profession.

“It is true that 15 years ago the acronym, ATSEP, could not be found anywhere apart from some initial documentations we started to draft in 2006 (the ESARR 5) at the EUROCONTROL level, where we set out the general safety requirements for all ATM services personnel responsible for safety-related tasks within the provision of ATM services,” said Christoforou. “These were the safety requirements for air traffic controllers and the safety requirements for engineering and technical personnel undertaking operationally safety-related tasks.”

“In 2009, we had the EUROCONTROL Specification for Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel Common Core Content Initial Training,” Christoforou added. “This is where it all started. Then, after a couple of years in 2011, we had the publication of ICAO ATSEP Training Manual, which is Doc 7192. So, after a lot of struggles from IFATSEA in all the international fora, we have succeeded in bringing the ATSEP profession to a status which we have now and for which we can be proud.”




By all indications, the European continent can stand shoulder high among global players in the civil aviation sector. And quite a number of metrics serve as a veritable proof of this claim.  For example, based on expectations of strong demands for air travel, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Global Outlook for Air Transport (December 2023) projects a net profit margin of 3% for European carriers in 2024. The continent has also been performing extraordinarily well when it comes to safety performance indicators. According to the IATA Annual Review 2023, of the global average jet hull loss rate for the 2021-2022 period, the European continent accounted for a paltry 0.27 jet hull loss rate in 2021 and a zero (0.00) rate in 2022, which represent a huge improvement in safety, especially when juxtaposed against the 0.33 and 0.00 rates for the Asia Pacific region and the 0.00 and 0.95 rates for Latin America and the Caribbean for the same time period.

In the realm of decarbonisation and sustainability, the European arm of the Airports Council International (ACI-Europe), which represents over 500 airports in 55 European countries, is taking a lead, having launched an Airport Carbon Accreditation certification initiative. The initiative, according to ACI-Europe, has undertaken the certification of 289 European airports so far. In its Airport Industry Manifesto for Next EU Political Cycle 2024-2029 released on 23 January 2024, ACI-Europe states concerning these airports: “All have formally committed to achieve Net Zero from those CO2 emissions under their control (scopes 1&2) by 2050 at the latest – with 130 of them having even set their target date for 2030 or earlier.”

Nestling snugly between the Northern and the Eastern Hemispheres, Europe is made up of 44 countries – excluding dependencies, autonomous territories and states not enjoying global recognition, for example, Kosovo. Going by the United Nations’ yardstick, European countries are partitioned into four sub-regions, namely: Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Northern Europe and Southern Europe. The eastern flank is occupied by Russia, Czech Republic, Belarus, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia, while the western flank accommodates Belgium, Austria, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Monaco, Luxembourg, and Liechtenstein.

The northern landscape comprises Finland, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Latvia, and Iceland, while the southern flank is occupied by Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Andorra, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Serbia, Greece, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Montenegro, San Marino, Malta, and the Holy See (Vatican City). There are countries that straddle Europe and Asia and those that are sometimes classed with Asia such as Cyprus, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Kazakhstan.

In terms of population as at the end of 2023, Russia is the numero uno with a little over 144 million, followed by Germany and the United Kingdom with a little above 83 million and 67 million respectively. The Holy See (Vatican City) occupies the last slot with just a little over 500.

Looking at the rankings in terms of population distributions, available data have shown that the population patterns bear no relationship with the patterns of activities in the European civil aviation sector. According to the Airports Council International (ACI) World report on the preliminary top 10 busiest airports worldwide for 2023 released on 15 April 2024, of the global total passenger estimate of close to 8.5 billion, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the United States of America (USA) clinched the number one position in terms of total passengers enplaned and deplaned with 104,653,451 passengers, representing 11.7% change and -5.3% change compared to 2022 and 2019 respectively.

The ACI World report listed five United States airports among the world’s top 10 in terms of passenger figures, while just two European airports – London, UK (LHR) and Istanbul, Turkey (IST) – secured the 4th and 7th positions respectively with 79,183,364 passengers (accounting for a 28.5% change and a -2.1% change respectively over the 2022 and 2019 figures) and 76,027,321 passengers (accounting for a 18.3% change and a 45.7% change respectively over the 2022 and 2019 figures). In terms of international passengers enplaned and deplaned in 2023, the ACI World report listed six European airports – London, UK (LHR), Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS), Paris, France (CDG), Istanbul, Turkey (IST), Frankfurt, Germany (FRA), and Madrid, Spain (MAD) –  among the top 10 with LHR, AMS, CDG, IST, FRA, and MAD assuming the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, and 10th positions respectively. In this category, Dubai, UAE (DXB) took the first slot (86,994,365 international passenger, representing 31.7% and 0.81% changes respectively over the figures for 2022 and 2019), followed by LHR 74,909,019 international passengers, accounting for a 28.6% change and a -1.5% change respectively compared to the 2022 and 2019 figures.

No European airport made the 2023 top 10 rankings in terms of freight and mail loaded and unloaded. However, in relation to aircraft movements (takeoffs and landings), only Istanbul (IST) managed to secure the 8th position (505,968 aircraft movements), while eight United States airports shared 8 of the remaining 9 slots among themselves with Atlanta (ATL) securing the first position with 775,818 aircraft movements.





In Europe, the provision of air navigation services is typically a collaborative operation, which is usually patterned after the body of techno-operational regulations coming from a central body.

            “The Europe-wide air navigation service provision scenario is a complex and evolving landscape, which implies a coordinated and harmonized approach to air traffic management in order to ensure seamless, efficient, and cost-effective operations across the continent,” says Nikola Cojic, a Montenegrin air traffic safety electronics professional and International Federation of Air Traffic Safety Electronics Associations (IFATSEA) Treasurer. “The implementation of the Single European Sky initiative, which aims to harmonize air traffic management across European countries, has brought about increased collaboration and harmonization among the member states, resulting in improved efficiency and safety in air traffic management.”

            “The air traffic safety electronics working environment in Montenegro is following the changes in the European Union. All regulations adopted by the European Union are transposed into Montenegrin legislation. This is a process that lasts for a certain period of time, which can be seen as a disadvantage or an advantage depending on the case,” Cojic adds. “The advantage is that by the time the regulatory change is implemented, we can already glean some experiences from our colleagues in other European countries and implement them in our system.”

In Europe, air navigation services and air traffic management (ANS/ATM) are regulated by the EASA using the Easy Access Rules for Air Traffic Management/Air Navigation Services (Regulation (EU) 2017/373, whose February 2023 revision incorporates the ED (Executive Director) Decision 2022/023/R of 16 December 2022.

“With the provision of the EU 373/2017 regulation coming into force on 02 January 2020, everything has changed,” said Costas Christoforou, IFATSEA Regional Director for Europe. “ATSEP and air traffic control officers (ATCOs) are the two ATM professionals in the European Union under the regulation. The demanding training climate and the high level of required competence for the electronics profession in combination with the digital revolution and the implementation of all the new innovative solutions of SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) in aeronautics have also increased significantly the responsibilities and tasks of ATSEP.”

The EASA Easy Access Rules for Air Traffic Management/Air Navigation Services (ATM/ANS) – covering the Commission Regulation (EU) 2017/373 – contains all applicable rules relating to the provision of ATM/ANS. The revision to the Commission Regulation from February 2023 incorporates the ED (Executive Director) Decision 2022/023/R of 16 December 2022 relating to Amendment 4 to Issue 1 of the Acceptable Means of Compliance and Guidance Material to Annex IV (Part-ATS) to Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/373 in support of the implementation of the U-Space Regulation, that is the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/665.




            Talking in terms of bottom line, the good times appear to have dawned for the league of European original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), designers and suppliers in the aviation cum aerospace systems arena. Let’s take for example the Vienna Austria-headquartered global supplier of ATM communication and information systems, FREQUENTIS, which is listed on the Vienna and Frankfurt stock exchanges having completed its IPO in May of 2019. Boasting a 30% market share, the company’s share price has strengthened by almost 50%, rising from the issue price of €18.00 to the current €26.30. With an improvement in EBIT margin to 6.2%, the company also recorded as at the end of 2023 a 50% growth in revenue. According to Frequentis, in 2023, revenues were €427.5 million, while EBIT stood at €26.6 million.

            The France-headquartered Thales Group with corporate presence in 68 countries across the world is another giant OEM worth looking at. The company’s focus is riveted on three core business segments – Aerospace and space, defence and security as well as cybersecurity and digital identity. With an EBIT margin standing between 11.7% and 12% and a revenue of €18.4 billion, the Thales Group announced a €5 billion order intake for the first quarter of 2024, representing a 47% jump. Sales for the same period stands at €4.4 billion, up 9.8% with the Defence and Security business segment accounting for €2.3 billion, followed by the Aerospace segment at €1.18 billion. ◙