Corporate history


Foundation of the Federal Administration of Air Navigation Services (BFS)


The foundation of DFS
In the early morning hours of 1 January 1993, the foundation of DFS was celebrated in Frankfurt. This act marked the transfer of responsibility for the provision of air traffic control in Germany from a government authority, which had carried out these tasks for the previous 40 years, to a private limited company. This transfer faced many challenges before it could be realised. In 1991, the Federal President of Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker, refused to sign the required amendment to the German Aviation Act (LuftVG). He saw this as a violation of the German constitution (Basic Law), which stipulated that air traffic control in Germany be administered by the German government. The Basic Law was amended in 1992 and this paved the way for the foundation of DFS, which is wholly owned by the Federal Republic of Germany. The formal foundation was in October 1992 and DFS went into operation on 1 January 1993.

Civil-military integration
Until DFS was founded, civil and military air traffic control in Germany were two distinct worlds. This meant that military training airspace was taboo for civil aviation, even when it was not needed for military purposes. This changed when DFS was founded. The German military continues to be responsible for controlling military air traffic at its air bases and for tactical flight exercises, while DFS is responsible for regional military air traffic control. The air traffic controllers for the military were German soldiers. After DFS was founded, they were released from regular service and transferred to DFS. Together with their civilian colleagues, they now control air traffic side by side. This makes it possible to use airspace flexibly and to make areas that are not needed for military purposes available for civil flights. DFS was the pioneer of this kind of civil-military integration in Europe.


More than two million flights
By 4 December 1995, DFS had controlled more than two million flights that year conducted under instrument flight rules. This was the first time this threshold had been broken in German airspace.


DFS control centres merged
DFS started to reorganise its control centres and their responsibilities. Until 1996, air traffic control in Germany had been provided from six locations (Berlin, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Langen, Munich and Karlsruhe). Gradually, they were consolidated so that only four locations remained. The control centres in Berlin and Düsseldorf were closed and staff were transferred to the other locations. Approach control was also transferred from the tower locations to the control centres. The last step in the process was completed in 2012 when the control of upper airspace was transferred from Munich to Karlsruhe.


Eagle Award
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) honoured DFS as the world's leading air navigation services provider with the Eagle Award 2000.


No more borders in the European sky
With Regulation No. 549/2004, the EU Commission laid the foundation for the creation of a Single European Sky, known as SES. This regulation has triggered a whole series of provisions with great influence on DFS activities. The SES I package contained various measures – from the establishment of national supervisory authorities to supervise the work of air navigation service providers to the harmonisation of air traffic control systems in Europe. The subsequent SES II package also stipulated that European air navigation service providers (ANSPs) must adhere to a performance plan and achieve certain performance targets. To this end, target values for safety, capacity, environment and cost-efficiency were defined.


DFS subsidiary for regional airports
The EU regulations on the Single European Sky initiative also changed the rules for air traffic control at regional airports. At regional airports, such as Hahn or Dortmund, air traffic control had to be provided by certified companies and no longer by controllers under the supervision of DFS. The German legislator decided to open up the market to competition. Since then, all certified ANSPs in Europe have the right to tender for the provision of air traffic control at regional airports. For this reason, DFS founded its subsidiary The Tower Company (TTC) shortly before Christmas 2005. TTC became a great success. In May 2006, it was able to secure its first customer – Dortmund Airport. Some airports obtained their own certification or opted for Austrocontrol, but the largest regional airports chose DFS. Finally, TTC had nine customers, including the high-traffic regional airports of Hahn, Dortmund, Niederrhein, Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden and Paderborn.


For the first time in German airspace, more than three million flights under instrument flight rules were counted.


New towers
DFS opened two new control towers on time and on budget. One of them is located at Frankfurt Airport, where a new tower location was required due to the construction of the new northwest runway. The old tower in the south of the airport did not afford a clear and unobstructed view of the new runway. The second tower is located at what will be the new Berlin Capital Airport BER. Frankfurt Tower went into operation in the early hours of 14 June 2011. Berlin Tower opened on 25 March 2012 – right on schedule for the original scheduled opening of the new airport. Although BER is still not open today, the DFS tower has been used to control air traffic at Schönefeld Airport for five years now. DFS chose the design for the two control towers in 1996 by means of an architectural competition. So far, six towers have been built according to the plans of the architects Ondra & Heinzelmann in Hannover, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Dresden, Frankfurt and Berlin.


EU regulation of air navigation service charges
At the initiative of the EU Commission, new requirements for laying down a common European charging scheme for air navigation services were introduced in 2012. Until then, DFS charges had been based on actual costs. This principle of full cost recovery became a thing of the past in 2012. Now, the charges DFS is allowed to levy for its services are based on forecast traffic figures for a specific period. This means that the traffic risk was shifted mainly to the ANSP. If traffic grows less than predicted, the revenue from charges is correspondingly lower and the ANSPs must offset this decline somehow. The new regulation has been in force since 2012 for en-route charges and, since 2015, for terminal charges as well.


FABEC Treaty ratified
The Single European Sky initiative provided for the establishment of Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) in preparation for a Single European Sky. This is why Europe's ANSPs joined forces to form various FAB initiatives. DFS is part of FAB Europe Central (FABEC), the largest FAB project in Europe. FABEC covers the airspace of Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In 2013, the participating countries ratified the FABEC Treaty. Within FABEC, numerous projects have been implemented to improve the situation for airspace users – from the introduction of shorter routes and the elimination of bottlenecks on congested city pairs to the introduction of free route concepts, where airlines can freely choose their flight route between pre-defined points of entry and exit.


Remote tower control
The DFS remote tower control project launched its first operational validation at Saarbrücken Airport in 2015. The aim of the project is to control traffic at small airports remotely in the future. Cameras and infrared sensors replace the view from the tower cab. The system, whose development was awarded to the Austrian technology company Frequentis, has additional tools to facilitate the controller's job. Moving objects are marked and can be tracked automatically with the help of swivelling cameras. The remote tower centre will be located in Leipzig. As soon as the system is ready, air traffic control at the airports of Saarbrücken, Erfurt and Dresden will be gradually transferred there.


Change of guard at Gatwick
A change of guard took place at the control tower of London Gatwick Airport. In the early hours of 1 March 2016, DFS took over the provision of air traffic control at the second largest UK airport via its UK subsidiary Air Navigation Solutions Ltd. With up to 950 take-offs and landings per day, London Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world. From 1 April 2018, Air Navigation Solutions will also be responsible for tower and approach control at Edinburgh Airport. At both airports, the previous service provider was the UK air navigation service provider NATS.


DFS commercial business bundled
With the foundation of the subsidiary DFS Aviation Services, DFS created the conditions needed to further expand its commercial business. DFS Aviation Services markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services. Previously, the commercial business had been handled either by DFS itself or by its subsidiary, TTC. The new subsidiary's primary focus is the provision of air traffic control. Its air traffic controllers today control air traffic at nine regional airports in Germany, about 60 percent of all regional air traffic in Germany. A second focal point is the marketing of products and services related to air navigation services. For example, a radar data processing system developed by DFS is in use in many countries around the world, including Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands. International customers continue to express interest in high-quality German consulting, training and simulations. DFS Aviation Services is headquartered in Langen with representative offices in Singapore and Beijing.

Training for military air traffic controllers
On 1 January 2017, the DFS subsidiary Kaufbeuren ATM Training GmbH took over military air traffic control training in Kaufbeuren in cooperation with the Bundeswehr. In the summer of 2017, construction of a new training campus started. DFS is planning to invest a total of EUR 18 million in the construction of a modern training centre and the renovation of two residence halls. The buildings are scheduled to open at the end of 2019. DFS first replaced all of the Bundeswehr simulators, which cost about EUR 1 million. The analogue devices used up to this point were replaced by modern, digital simulators. This upgrade included totally revamping the software used. Furthermore, DFS introduced a new tower simulator that features a sophisticated rear-projection system with 16 projectors and a resolution of more than 36 million pixels.

New air traffic control system
DFS introduced the new iCAS air traffic control system at its Karlsruhe branch, which controls the upper airspace of Germany. It is faster and more powerful than its predecessor and is backed by a modern technical platform. Over the next few years, DFS will gradually install iCAS at its control centres for lower airspace in Munich, Bremen and Langen. The aim is to use the system across DFS as the standard air traffic control system and thus reduce costs.
iCAS is part of the joint European project iTEC (interoperability Through European Collaboration). Several ANSPs have joined forces in this alliance to develop a new generation of ATM systems with common core components, together with the Spanish IT company Indra. The aim is to make the ATM systems of the individual countries compatible by means of common standards, reducing development and maintenance costs. DFS is collaborating with the air navigation service providers of the Netherlands (LVNL), Poland (PANSA) and Lithuania (Oro Navigacija). In addition, NATS of the UK and its project partner AVINOR (Norway) and the Spanish ENAIRE belong to the iTEC alliance.

New traffic record
In 2017, DFS controlled over 3.2 million flights under instrument flight rules – more than ever before.