The European Commission is investing 600 million euros ($730 million) in research funding to develop new technology needed to deliver the Single European Sky program, heading off a massive congestion issue in the nation’s airspace expected to balloon out of control in the next 20 years.
According to the European Union, today’s congestion is already costing airlines and their customers an extra 5 billion euros annually due to inefficiencies. Officials say 26 kilometers is added to the average flight because of congestion.
“Europe's skies and airports risk saturation. If we leave things as they are, we will be confronted with heavy congestion and chaos in our airspace,” Siim Kallas, Europe’s transport minister, said in a statement. “On the ground, airports will be so crowded that there will be 2 million flights unable to take off or land.”
Kallas added that this congestion is not only a safety risk, but it would amount to significant economic costs. The proposed funding is needed, he said, to “deliver a cleaner, more efficient, European airspace fit for the 21st century."
The money will go to the public-private Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research team in what amounts as a funding extension to keep the group active until 2024. The group will be charged with figuring out how airlines can fly more direct routes while enhancing data exchange between the airline and ground control; placing new types of aircraft into the current air traffic management system; and optimizing traffic management.
The overall goals of the Single European Sky program include cutting air traffic management expenses in half; reducing aviation's environmental impact by 10 percent; tripling the EU's aviation capacity; and improving safety by a factor of 10.
The European government is splitting the cost of the research with the aviation industry and Eurocontrol. - Jon Ross