Drivers for Change

Strategic Objectives such as Safety, Capacity, Flight or ATM Efficiency, Harmonisation, Environmental mitigation and Access will trigger a need to make an airspace change.

While some strategic objectives may be explicitly identified, others may be implicit. Whilst operational requirements may be considered as national ATM or flight operations requirements, it is to be noted that some strategic objectives have political or geo-political origins.  This section will look at the global and regional drivers for change.

In 2007, the ICAO General Assembly at its 36th meeting resolved that States should start using the newly published PBN Manual and that they should develop PBN Implementation Plans that, when completed, were to be lodged with the ICAO Regional offices; the General Assembly set a target date for this to have been completed of 2009.  The Assembly also resolved that States should introduce APproaches with Vertical Guidance (APV), either using barometric altimetry or SBAS for the vertical path positioning, for every Instrument Runway End (IRE).  ICAO set a target date for global completion of 2016.  These resolutions were published as 36-23.

In 2010, at the 37th General Assembly ICAO recognised that there was slow development of State Implementation Plans and that a level of clarification on APV deployment was required.  Therefore, the ICAO GA published the 37-11 resolution which superseded 36-23 but reinforced its objectives.  The target date for a total global introduction of APVs had been set for the end of 2016 and that date remained.

Although within ECAC we have not achieved this global objective yet, it is the reason that RNP APCH introduction at all IREs has been mandated in European Single Sky legislation.  Both the Pilot Common Project and the Performance-based Navigation Implementing Regulations (PCP IR, PBN Rule) require all contracting Member States to put a RNP APCH with vertical guidance (3D operation) to each IRE; however, the dates set are 2020 and 2024.

The European Commission published the first legislative package of the Single European Sky (SES) in 2004 and enhanced with a second package in 2009.  The expected benefits of the SES are as follows:

  • Improved level of safety of air navigation
  • A more effective and integrated air traffic management architecture
  • Demand driven air navigation service provision
  • Enhanced cross-boarder co-ordination
  • Improved decision-making and enhanced enforcement in ATM.

To meet these goals and to comply with ICAO's 37-11 resolution, in the area of navigation, the European Commission has published 2 legal instruments: The Pilot Common Project Implementing Regulation (EU 716/2014) and The PBN Implementing Regulation EU 2018/1048).

The PCP IR was published in 2014 and is the culmination of quick wins identified during the first evolution of SESAR.  These quick wins are referred to as ATM Functionalities (AFs).  Of interest to PBN operations is AF#1 and AF#3.  These functionalities will be discussed in the following pages.  It should be noted that AF#1 targets 25 specific airports in ECAC with the highest density of annual movements; 22 of these are within the European Union, 2 are in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and one is in a third country.

ATM Functionality 1 (AF#1)

AF#1 has two distinct elements:

  • The first is the introduction of extended Arrivals Managers (AMAN) at the busiest 25 airports in ECAC.  The range of the AMAN is planned to be pushed out from a nominal 100NM to a range of 180-200NM.  This will provide the opportunity for the aerodromes to start coordinating and sequencing the aircraft whilst they are still in the cruise phase.  There are challenges, such as cross border/cross ATS units traffic management and data flows and an effective display of information upstream and downstream on Time to Gain/Time to Lose. 
  • The second element is the introduction of RNP operations at the specified airports.  These operations are to include the introduction of approaches with vertical guidance (APV) to every instrument runway end and to introduce RNP 1 with radius-to-fix (RF) turns for SIDs, STARs and transitions to provide environmentally friendly procedures in high density terminal control areas (TMAs).

There is no specific mandate on the airspace users; however, aircraft operators (AOs) wishing to operate along these routes and procedures will be required to ensure that their aircraft and flight crew are qualified for the required PBN operations.

Certifying the aircraft to RNP 1 with RF is possible with the Certification Specification for Airborne Communications, Navigation and Surveillance (CS-ACNS) now published by EASA.  Operational approval, except for RNP AR APCH and rotorcraft crews operating to RNP 0.3, is covered under PBN privileges that will be attained from a qualified training establishment providing IFR training courses.

ATM Functionality 3 (AF#3) 

ATM Functionality 3 (AF#3) is about Flexible Airspace Management and the provision of Free Routes at and above flight level 310 within the ICAO EUR region airspace under the responsibility of the EU Member States.  This AF affects all EU Member States and those States holding bi-lateral agreements, such as the EFTA will have to comply to this regulation.  There are two stages to the Regulation.

  • Firstly, by 1 January 2018 the Network Manager, ANSPs and airspace users shall operate DCTs.
  • By 1 January 2022, the Network Manager, ANSPs and airspace users shall operate FRA.

SWIM is a key enabler for Free Routes.  Free route operations allow an aircraft to enter an airspace at a given location and to fly a user preferred trajectory rather than following a published ATS route to the exit point of that airspace.  The desired path will be notified to ATC before dispatch and ATC will either accept or decline the requested path.  The aircraft remains under ATC control and there is no change in responsibilities between the flight deck and the controller; ATC retains responsibility for separation assurance.

Performance-based Navigation (PBN) Implementing Regulation (EU 2018/1048)

There are three distinct timeframes identified in the PBN Rule.  The table to the right identifies the timeframe and the associated reference in EASA's AUR.PBN.2005 Routes and Procedures.

The Rule requires the State to sign off a transition plan which has been developed by the Service Provider in consultation with the aerodrome operators, airspace users, the Network Manager and other interested parties.  This plan should form one element of the national PBN Implementation Plan which is then submitted to the ICAO Regional Office. 

The PBN Rule defines an updated date of 25 January 2024 for the 'PCP' aerodromes to have their APVs in place; this conforms with the AIRAC cycle.

All RNP APCHs published will require three minima lines (LNAV, LNAV/VNAV and LPV) where it is possible to do so.  States who do not yet fall inside the APV 1 Service Area as defined in the EGNOS Safety of Life (SoL) Service Definition document (SDD), will have 18 months to implement the LPV line when that service area expands to incorporate the State.

For rotorcraft, service providers have the option to apply RNP0.3, RNP 1 or RNAV 1 for their SID/STAR procedures and en-route operations.

The Network Operations Plan has been developed in the context of the Network Management Functions, by the areas concerned with European ATM Network Operations Planning and Management. This Plan covers the activities planned and required to enhance European network operational performance over the period 2019-2024, and will be updated on a yearly basis or as deemed necessary. The Network Operations Plan implements, at operational level, the Network Strategy Plan and the Network Performance Plan.

The Plan provides a short to medium-term outlook of how the ATM Network will operate, including expected performance at network and local level. It gives details of capacity and flight efficiency enhancement measures planned at network level and by each Area Control Centre (ACC), as well as a description of the airport performance assessment and improvement measures that are planned at those airports that generate a relatively high level of delay.

EUROCONTROL provides a Portal, which is designed to meet users’ needs for accessible, ‘one-stop-shop’ air traffic management (ATM) information and the Portal provides the entire aviation community with a common view of the European ATM network situation.

The ultimate goal is to facilitate decision making for all ATFCM actors by sharing the most up to date view on the Network Operations situation along the ATFCM cycle (plans, events, scenarios, real-time information on flights and measures, etc.).

Select here to open the public access Network operations Portal.

The current European Network Operations Plan can be accessed below:


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