Since the beginning of the year, Andre Biestmann (54) has been the new Director Operations for DFS, the German air navigation service provider, at its Bremen site in northern Germany. For the past 14 years, the former air traffic controller at the DFS Bremen Control Centre had been in charge of two corporate functions at DFS Headquarters in Langen, which deal with air traffic controller regulations and the planning of flight procedures. As the DFS Pandemic Officer, he also brought DFS safely through 2020, a year dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andre Biestmann replaces Christine Schierhorn as the new DFS Director Operations in Bremen. Christine Schierhorn moved to DFS Headquarters in Langen to head the Operational Performance and Development area in the new year. "I am very happy to be returning to my home in the north after 14 years," said Biestmann, who was born less than 100km from Bremen in Damme explaining his move. Biestmann began his career as an air traffic controller at the DFS Control Centre in Bremen in 1990. Between 2003 and 2006, he headed the operational office there before moving to DFS Headquarters in Langen near Frankfurt in 2007. As Director of Airspace and Procedures, all flight procedures in German airspace crossed his desk. In addition, he chaired the expert group on active noise abatement for Frankfurt Airport and the Rhine Main region, the area surrounding the airport. Since January 2020, he has also been the Pandemic Officer at DFS and ensured the safety of the approximately 5,600 employees nationwide. "We are part of the country's critical infrastructure and still have to provide our services in times of crisis. Aviation remains highly important, not least for the distribution of vaccines worldwide."
At the DFS Bremen Control Centre, around 500 staff members are responsible for safety in the airspace of northern Germany. This airspace covers 180,000 square kilometres and stretches from west to east from the Dutch to the Polish border and from north to south from the Danish and Swedish borders to the German cities of Kassel and Cottbus. Within this airspace, the air traffic controllers also provide approach and departure control for Bremen, Hannover, Hamburg and Berlin airports.
DFS controlled fewer aircraft in 2020 than at any point since it was founded in 1993. In the year 2020, around 1.46 million flights were logged in German airspace, less than half the previous year's figure. As such, the volume of air traffic in Germany has fallen back to pre-reunification levels.
The decline in air traffic in the German airspace falling under the responsibility of the DFS Bremen Control Centre was 56.4 percent in 2020. The air traffic controllers in Bremen controlled only 290,877 flights (2019: 667,288). The decline in volumes for the airports in northern Germany in 2020 was as follows: Bremen: 15,187 (-49.3%); Hannover: 27,367 (-57.8%); Hamburg: 60,144 (-59.7%), Berlin: 95,461 (-66%)
DFS does not expect the volume of air traffic to recover quickly even following the successful development and roll-out of coronavirus vaccines in each country. "It will probably take until 2025 to reach the old level again," said Andre Biestmann considering the uncertain future for the aviation industry.
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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2020. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Before 2020, around 2,200 air traffic controllers guided up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than 3 million movements every year. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 16 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. R. Eisenschmidt GmbH is another DFS subsidiary which markets publications and products for General Aviation. Kaufbeuren ATM Training (KAT) is responsible for training military air traffic services personnel. DFS has been working on the integration of drones into air traffic since 2016 and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom.