DFS, the German air navigation service provider, worked hard to ensure that Air Defender 2023, the large-scale military exercise, proceeded safely and without incident. There was no noticeable impact on civil aviation. However, summer thunderstorms posed a real challenge for all participants in the second week.
Air Defender 2023 saw more than 1,800 flights by 250 aircraft from 25 nations. The task of DFS was to integrate the military exercise as harmoniously as possible in the already very busy airspace over Germany. It guided the military aircraft to the reserved airspaces and diverted civil aircraft around these areas for the duration of the exercise. Since its foundation 30 years ago, DFS has integrated civil and military air navigation services under one roof. This experience stood the company in good stead.
German Minister of Transport praises DFS
"I am glad that this large-scale military exercise went so well and that civil air traffic encountered only minimal disruption," said German Minister of Transport Dr Volker Wissing. "This is thanks to the excellent civil-military cooperation at the German air navigation service provider. The staff at DFS have done an outstanding job over the past two weeks. Together with the air force, they meticulously monitored the exercise and ensured that as many passengers as possible reached their destination on time. I would like to thank everyone involved who made this smooth process possible. Air Defender is extremely important for Germany's security and defence capability, and we have now demonstrated that our country and our systems work when it matters. Civil aviation passed this stress test with flying colours."
"I am proud of our employees."
DFS is also happy with how the two weeks went. Dirk Mahns, Chief Operating Officer on the DFS Executive Board, said: "We spent months preparing intensively for the exercise and then displayed great focus and professionalism throughout the two weeks in an excellent cooperation with our system partners." He went on to add that "I am very proud of our employees, from the air traffic controllers to our expert staff in the branches and at our Headquarters in Langen. They have all contributed to this extraordinary success thanks to their knowledge and commitment."
Air traffic controllers worked additional shifts
During the exercise, DFS significantly increased the number of staff available by means of additional shifts. On average, 20 percent more air traffic controllers were active in the control centres. A coordination cell was on hand to provide support throughout the entire exercise period, coordinating exercise procedures with the air force and the neighbouring control centre in Maastricht at short notice.
The exercise plans also had to be adapted to reflect the very dynamic and challenging weather situation, particularly in the second week. Due to heavy summer thunderstorms, today's exercise programme has been shortened.
Significantly fewer delays than forecast
There were significantly fewer delay minutes per day than the 55,000 forecast by EUROCONTROL. In fact, civil air traffic remained largely unaffected by the around 22,000 daily minutes caused by the military exercise. However, the summer thunderstorms had a significantly greater impact, adding up to 30,000 delay minutes on Wednesday. On average, there were only a few minutes of delay per arrival/departure at German airports.
Very few flights needed to use the relaxation of night flight rules at German airports. A total of 70 flights took off or landed later than scheduled due to their flight plans being affected by Air Defender 23.
Telephone: +49 (0)6103 / 707-4160
DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (DFS), the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2022. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Around 2,200 air traffic controllers guide more than three million flights through German airspace in peak years, up to 10,000 every day. The company operates control centres in Bremen, Karlsruhe, Langen and Munich as well as control towers at the 15 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. DFS is working on the integration of drones into air traffic and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom. Other subsidiaries include R. Eisenschmidt GmbH, which markets publications and products for general aviation, and Kaufbeuren ATM Training GmbH (KAT), which provides training for military air traffic services personnel. The joint venture FCS Flight Calibration Services GmbH offers flight inspection services.