Setting the scene for incisive debate

Airspace World’s theatres set the tone for three days of industry insight with their opening sessions.

At the Boeing Theatre, a high-level panel discussed sustainability. Aviation’s commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 is essential to its future. Environmental pressure is coming from a number of directions, including governments, investors and passengers. The Dutch Government’s desire to cap flights at Amsterdam Schiphol at 440,000 annually shows the mindset that aviation is facing.

Sustainable aviation fuels will do the heavy lifting but the panel highlighted the immediate gains to be made from infrastructure and operational efficiencies. The 8-11% carbon reductions on offer would add up quickly if made available from 2024 onwards. The challenge is pursuing these efficiencies while providing capacity as these two goals can be in conflict.

At the Frequentis Theatre, a panel explored how to deliver technologies for safer skies. Change management was central to the debate. If this is not tackled properly, delays or sub-optimal implementation could result. Workforce buy-in is always essential but often neglected. The panel also tackled the possibility of industry disruptors, noting that major tech companies outside of industry have far larger war chests and could yet upset the best-laid plans.

At the Wing Theatre, integrated airspace topped the agenda. From an air navigation service provider (ANSP) perspective, there is a huge new customer base waiting to be served if the right technology is in place. But ANSPs still largely deal with crewed aviation through voice communication and so integrating drones into their systems and processes will take time and effort. A flexible and dynamic approach is vital, agreed the panel, which integrates whenever possible and segregates only if necessary. Drones are already taking to the skies and the experience gained will play a key role in reducing timelines.

At the FABEC Ops Theatre, CANSO and FABEC opened industry discussions on future operations. The challenges for air traffic management are legion. They range from a volatile traffic recovery to new airspace users, taking in geopolitical turmoil, sustainability and disruptive technologies along the way.

But the industry is improving its resilience and agility. Embracing the potential of data is the key to continuing those improvements, said skyguide CEO, Alex Bristol. “Making data central to our operations and being willing to share that data is the way we will create efficiency,” he said. He added that it was a “duty” to collaborate to deliver better operations.

At the SESAR Showcase Theatre, the focus was on the practical implementation of new technologies and procedures with “walking tours” that explained how innovative ideas are delivering enhanced network operations in Europe. Dynamic airspace configuration, free route airspace, flight-centric operations and accurate weather forecasts were all presented and explained. Traffic flow and capacity can be optimised despite the complexity involved, the presentations concluded.