Implementation Methodology Considerations

This section covers generic aspects pertaining to the overall methodology.  These topics stretch across the entire process, sometimes more pronounced in a particular activity or set of activities.  These over-arching topics are:

  • Consultation
  • Trade-offs
  • Regulatory Considerations
  • Iterations
  • Management & Administration
  • Help and Support

An Airspace Change process, whether triggered by PBN or not, requires extensive coordination and consultation to take place with a variety of partners. At government or regulatory levels, these may be political interlocutors whilst at operational level; they may parties responsible for an adjacent sector or ACC. Consultation with key partners permeates the entire airspace design process.  Who these partners are depends on the situation, the activity, and, most importantly, on the particular circumstances within the airspace to be designed. There can be no common blue print.

Eurocontrol’s Methodology described in ERNIP Part I and the European Airspace Concept Handbook for PBN Implementation (No 1) has intentionally not invented special terms dealing with consultation. Nevertheless, the consultation is often mentioned, and in the Methodology, the narrative uses terms like key partners which generically includes stakeholders and those parties or partners involved in public consultation.

In context, stakeholders can be pilots, controllers, procedure designers, airspace designers i.e. civil/military: ATM/CNS, Airport Operators, providers of ATM/ANS, Airspace Users, Airport Operators including the airport’s Environmental Manager who often interfaces with the general public.  In contrast, public consultation is usually oriented to and with non-aviation/non-operational members of the general public or representative groups such as airport neighbours or local communities. The terms for public consultation are varied and numerous. Common expressions include community engagement, neighbourhood awareness and community groups.  The notion essentially remains the same – consultation for a between aviation and other communities.

Many States now have, enshrined in law, regulations related to environmental protection, which applies across a vast number of industries including aviation.  In airspace changes, this translates to providers of ATM/ANS and airport operators being required to undertake public consultation regarding any changes to the placement or interaction of ATS Routes including SIDS/STARs and instrument approach procedures – particularly around airports. To these ends, many providers of ATM/ANS have developed considerable expertise and refined processes applicable in public consultation for airspace changes.

Our 21st century society is increasingly characterised by an amplified awareness of the state of our planet, our need to protect the environment and to maximise the space and place given to nature and humanity’s place within it. Aviation’s trajectory has witnessed an apparently limitless upward trend graph (punctuated by various crises). As aviation has boomed in the last 40 years, so has the public’s increasing impatience with aviation’s noise, emissions, visual intrusion and its contribution to global warming. European nations share the challenge of maintaining a balance between aviation’s key economic role and societal as well as environmental protection. 

Consultation is discussed in Chapter 2 and repeatedly during various activities detailed in The European Airspace Concept Handbook for PBN Implementation, Handbook No 1.

In the context of PBN implementation, trade-offs can be discussed under two main banners. One relates to the trade-offs between stakeholder interests: different stakeholders have different priorities and this becomes evident when undertaking an airspace change. Whilst AUs want the shortest track and no delay, their ATM counterparts invariably seek to spread and minimise the delay for all, which may mean that each AU accepts a small delay. By the same token, the airport may prefer that one runway be used for reasons associated with ground handling logistics, but from an ATM perspective it may be more efficient to use another runway. Add into this mix the diverse priorities of external parties whose views are usually expressed through public consultation, and it becomes evident that the need for compromise (trading off of interests) becomes essential. Simply put, ATM’s ideal airspace design or dream list cannot be fulfilled because there are other parties’ priorities to consider. One risk must be avoided, however, in this trade-off/compromise process: safety must not be inadvertently traded off in the process of reaching a compromise.

Trade-off between technological enablers/solutions is another kind of trade-off. Here, it is necessary to point out that introduction of one technology into the greater ATM/CNS system can make implementers tend towards tunnel vision and see only the new technology.  In reality, a new technology joins an existing system, and its strengths and weaknesses brings with it a need for its own processes and procedures. Especially when dealing with contingency operations related to technology failures, an implementation team should not trap itself into believing that a navigation failure through the outage of one navigation positioning source must be solved by another navigation system.  It may be more cost-effective and perfectly safe, to provide contingency procedures using surveillance or communication, for example. This must be borne in mind by the team responsible for the implementation – and when determining the best way forward on such issues, the joint efforts of ATM operational personnel, airspace designers and CNS infrastructure managers in particularly come to fruition.

Trade-Offs are repeatedly discussed in various activities detailed in The European Airspace Concept Handbook for PBN Implementation, Handbook No 1.  Stakeholder trade-offs pertain mainly but are not limited to Activities 1, 3, 7, 8 and 9, whilst trade-offs between technologies are discussed at length at Activity 6.

PBN may be implemented in various contexts. Providers of ATM/ANS may elect to undertake an airspace change and introduce or amend PBN procedures, or regulations may require them to do so.

In Europe, PBN implementation has been regulated by the European Union, which is why PBN implementers in Europe naturally focus upon the PBN Implementing Regulation and the Standard European Rules of the Air and the Rules applicable to all IFR Flights. Nevertheless, awareness must be maintained that various regulatory sources affect PBN implementation in all States, which in European PBN  implementation, is achieved primarily through providers of ATM/ANS who are the regulated party under the PBN IR.

These sources may be -

  • International, through membership to a United Nations Agency such as ICAO with the State being a signatory of the Chicago Convention which may also include regional specifics introduced through the ICAO regional offices;
  • Regional, through a State’s membership to (or bi-lateral agreement with) a political and economic Union such as the European Union;
  • National, where regulation is promulgated by the sovereign law making body;
  • Local, where regulation is set out by districts or local councils.

In general terms, it can be said that an inferior rule/regulation or law should not contradict a superior law. So if a State wishes to exempt itself from a legal provision embedded in the Chicago Convention to which it is a signatory, the Convention provides a ‘let out’ clause in Article 38.

Whatever the source of a regulation, law or rule pertaining to aviation, in democratic nations, all regulation (irrespective of its source) is given the force of law or enabling power through the nation’s body of elected representatives (parliament, national assembly). These national representative entities are typically the guardian of national sovereignty and responsible for the passing of laws to be applied in a State.


The airspace design methodology with its 17 Activities may give the impression of being linear where one activity is followed by the next and then the next. The methodology is neither linear nor closed. It should be viewed as providing a critical path of activities to be accomplished so as to achieve implementation. In reality, a multitude of iterations naturally occur, and must be addressed by the airspace design team as it continuously re-examines previous decisions when a new one is taken. Typically, this can be illustrated by looking at Activity 3 where the Project Objectives, Scope, Resources and Time Scales are decided.  Whilst this activity evolves from Activity 1 where the Operational requirements have been identified, it is possible that constraints (not enough personnel) may force an alteration of the project objectives and scope and time lines, thereby affecting the operational requirement and creating a need to revisit the operational requirement or to modify it.  Furthermore, when in Activity 6 constraints are discussed, these can, and often do, affect the project objectives and scope decided in Activity 3.  Constraints are not automatically under the control of the airspace design team, so it may be necessary to revisit Activity 3 after Activity 6, which may in turn affect Activity 1!

Complex consultation processes and trade-offs, increasingly complicated regulatory considerations and the need for iterations effectively explain why PBN implementation projects must be started well in advance and why their duration may be protracted. Whilst it is good practice to have a solid management structure and rigorous administration, which includes having meeting agendas, recording minutes and documenting the progress made of the evolving airspace concept in the project lifecycle, the reality of projects with a prolonged duration is that personnel move on or retire and knowledge and awareness can be lost.  Therefore, it makes common sense to have a robust management/administration as best practice.  With these prolonged projects, team members can change, situations change, and the documentation record and careful categorising of data is essential to not wasting time, not making contradictory decisions and continuously understanding the rationale for each step taken.

This PBN Portal and its reference material as well as the PBN Handbook Family (search ‘Handbook’ on this site) are sound bases of support for those embarking on a PBN Implementation project for the first time.  Specifically, the European Airspace Concept Handbook for PBN Implementation, Handbook No 1 speaks to the implementation process. 

The Training Zone managed by Eurocontrol’s Institute for Air Navigation Services (IANS) provides catalogues of courses and e-learning provided by the Institute. The information and training available starts at a basic/generic level and, in some cases, evolves to very in-depth and advanced levels of training.

EUROCONTROL’s stakeholder consultation fora are also excellent sources of information on the tips, tricks and traps of PBN Implementation. Specific groups such as the Navigation Sub Group (NSG) and the PBN Implementation Support Group are the key consultation groups for these topics. In real-time, these groups can have up to 100 attendees and in virtual meetings greater numbers become possible. Certain requirements must be met to join such groups, and information can be obtained from the


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