Single European Sky
The provision of air traffic control is a task of public authority performed under the responsibility of each individual State. For this reason, Europe has a great number of control centres, approach control units and control towers. This is also the case in comparable airspaces elsewhere.
Aviation is highly dependent on international cooperation and communication. As early as in the 1960s, EUROCONTROL, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, was founded to cater for these needs. The Member States launched further harmonisation steps in the 1970s and established supranational control centres, as the one in Maastricht. Since then, the control centre in Maastricht has controlled air traffic in upper airspace over northwest Germany and the Benelux countries.
In light of growing traffic figures, however, the highly frequented European airspace presents ever-increasing challenges for all stakeholders. In 1999, the European Commission launched the Single European Sky (SES) initiative to ensure that air traffic can continue to be handled in a safe, orderly and expeditious manner in the future. The goals of the programme are to introduce high, uniform safety standards throughout Europe, to enhance capacity and to increase the cost-efficiency of air navigation service providers.
The creation of the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC) in keeping with the SES initiative has resulted in the optimisation of many flight routes for the benefit of the airlines. In the years from 2013 to 2025, the airlines will save about EUR 50 million per year thanks to direct routings and the free route programme for upper airspace.
Cross-border cooperation, however, is not limited to matters that can be resolved by air navigation service providers alone. Sovereign, military or liability-related issues have to be addressed at a State level. The relevant State ministries along with experts of the European air navigation service providers attend to these questions.