Starting tomorrow, air traffic management (ATM) professionals, policy makers, and thought leaders from around the world will gather in Madrid for the first annual World ATM Congress, a new joint meeting of the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO) and the Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA). CANSO and ATCA together combine the private companies and government entities that provide and oversee ATM in various countries, along with ATM professionals and the individuals and firms that support them.
This first-ever joint congress comes at a critical moment for the ATM industry. In the United States, the “NextGen” process—an ATM modernization effort that includes operational efficiency efforts to maximize US airspace for safety, efficiency, capacity, while focusing to minimize environmental impacts—has been hampered by fiscal challenges and an excessively partisan atmosphere in the U.S. Congress. In the European Union, member states have been slow to move on the ambitious second phase of the Single European Sky project, which includes efforts to establish uniform performance regulations for Europe’s air navigation service providers (ANSPs) and consolidate the regional “functional airspace blocks” that simplify navigation dramatically, compared to the country-by-country ATM that used to prevail.
Given these challenges, what should you watch for in the discussions in Madrid? Look for:
- Announcements of policy developments in the U.S. and EU. On Tuesday, key policymakers—Matthew Baldwin from the European Commission and Michael Huerta of the Federal Aviation Administration—will offer their perspectives in back-to-back talks. Pay attention for any news on SES II or NextGen.
- Discussion of what the ATM sector can learn from the last major worldwide breakthrough in aviation: ETOPS, the extended operations framework that allowed the revolutionary development of long-range, twin-engine jet aircraft. On Tuesday, several experts will review ETOPS’ lessons for how to shepherd a technological innovation through regulatory and safety challenges.
- Pros, cons, and dynamics of introducing greater private-sector competition into the ATM sector. In many countries, ATM has been privatized or commercialized such that a private company serves as the ANSP while a government agency regulates its provision of services. Representatives from CANSO and local ANSPs will address how best to structure competition in the sector.
You can view the full conference agenda here. What do you think are the greatest challenges to air traffic management in Europe? What should be on the agenda at World ATM Congress that isn’t? Offer your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for updates on the conference as it progresses.