“I think the commission has a tendency to overvalue whether states are compliant or not,” Redeborn says. “For [the EC] it is about checking a box—But that is not the point. The point is creating an environment of cooperation in a way that states or air navigation service providers (ANSPs) have never cooperated before.”
However, Redeborn says the FABs may not be the most efficient vehicle to improve the performance of the ATM network. He cautions that they are not a “silver bullet or panacea.”
“Many people believe that the FABs are the only solution, and if that doesn't work, then the system will collapse,” says Redeborn. “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with setting up FABs, but it is just that it doesn't solve all the problems. Other things could make a bigger difference.”
Through improved upper airspace planning, Eurocontrol and its members are already working to straighten out inefficient routes, and hundreds of these adjustments are being made every year, says Redeborn. He adds that if the ATM system can deliver the most optimum profile for a flight, then the type of organizational structure should not matter.
There are also initiatives like the Borealis Alliance, which promotes cooperation among several Northern European ANSPs. And on the technology side, a group of five ANSPs is collaborating on the joint development of automation systems. Both these efforts are occurring outside the FAB process.
Redeborn says technology has opened the way for new approaches since the FAB concept was introduced.
For example, one concept that could help optimize the network would be for flight-plan processing to be conducted by a centralized provider and then sent to area control centers. “Technology has advanced to the point where this can be done in real time,” says Redeborn. With advanced procedures such as 4-D trajectories, it does not make sense to have processing done at 69 centers in Europe, he says.
This would allow infrastructure to be centralized while theoretically reducing the need for workforces to be moved or control centers closed.
Eurocontrol Director General Frank Brenner says the agency has identified a list of projects that would be best handled at FAB level. However, there are also several others—including calculating time-based 4-D trajectories—that Eurocontrol believes should be handled as pan-European services.