One of the first events I attended after joining Think, four years ago was the “Sneak Preview” event organised by the SESAR Deployment Manager for the 2016 transport calls. It was a well organised and typically Brussels event. Over a hundred industry experts gathered at the Sheraton Hotel to enjoy each other’s company as much as the presentations. An excellent networking opportunity for a consultant in a new role with a new company.

Yesterday, I “virtually” attended the Commission’s “PCP to CP1” event to launch the formal consultation on the next stage of the SESAR Deployment phase. This is clearly a difficult time for the industry and a particularly difficult time to think about what deployments are necessary over the next 10 years. I missed the comradery of the physical event; but we must congratulate the Commission for a well organised virtual event, and as consultant I “doff my cap” to the excellent use of Sli.do.

Four years ago, noting that the PCP required a review by the end of 2017, I wrote:

“So, maybe the PCP review should be seen more as a lessons learnt exercise prior to launching the process for determining the contents of the next Common Project?”

Time of course has taken its toll, and today’s event doubled down as both review of the PCP and a launch of the next common project – now entitled CP1.

This need to understand the lessons from the PCP and SDM experience was highlighted by the European Court of Auditors Report on SESAR Deployment. To learn the right lessons we must be careful to distinguish between process and content.

 

Process is important.

Process includes:

a) How to define the contents of Common Projects, including the need to assess “maturity” and need for “synchronisation”.

b) How to manage the deployment – a role the Wise Persons Group recommends is performed by the Network Manager under the guise of Infrastructure Manager – but which must also fully involve the affected stakeholders.

c) How to enforce provisions established by a Common Project.

The focus of the presentation was on enforcement – with the Commission seeking views on potential options that really penalise States and/or stakeholders for non-compliance after the event. This is too late. When looking at large scale synchronised deployment, the lead time for planning and executing the projects spans several years. We need a process that ensures the planning is performed adequately to meet the milestones. The Commissions suggestion that commitment to implement Common Projects should be included in the Performance Plans is of course to be welcomed.

However, rather than looking for specific enforcement mechanisms within the Common Project legislation, the Commission should be encouraged to take a step back and look at the best way of using (and refining) existing mechanisms across the entire SES portfolio. Whilst Article 9 of the framework Regulation was discussed today, no one mentioned Article 10 of the network functions Implementing Regulation, or the ANSP certification process.

 

 

Content is important.

The PCP, of course, has its critics. The content wasn’t mature enough, the solutions didn’t need synchronised investment. As the ECA puts it: The EU’s regulation for the modernisation of air traffic management has added value – but the funding was largely unnecessary.

Hindsight can be harsh. The PCP was developed at a rush to get the deployment phase moving, and at a time when we didn’t fully appreciate, “what has become know as“, the V4 Gap. I think we all understood at the time there was risk, particularly in AF5 SWIM and AF6 Datalink. There are clear lessons to be learnt, particularly on the definitions of “maturity” and “synchronisation”. At first glance, the Commission have developed a balanced approach. As presented, CP1 would be very much a revision of the PCP. Elements that don’t need a synchronised approach – including big hitters like Time Based Separation  – are removed. Some limited additional functionality is added – AMAN/DMAN integration, Airport Operations Plan and Enhanced Network Integration for Airports.

The extension of AF5 may prove another step too far. Even with the proposed industrialisation gate the SWIM Blue Profile could be problematic and needs to carefully aligned with the airspace architecture proposals – the priority and timelines of which may need to change given the current crisis.

So a slow read of the detailed proposals will be needed when released on the Better Regulation Website in June; but for now the overall balance seems about right.

Does it stop those from benefiting from TBS implementing it? No. That was always better as a local decision.

Does it advanced transition to the Airspace Architecture? No. The SJU and partners have some work to do and some very very Large Demonstrations to perform to ensure the evidence exists to make those decisions. We will need CP2, and three and four.

Does it provide a sensible baseline deployment for the next few years? Yes. In arguing for additional content, stakeholders will need not only to address maturity and need for synchronisation, but also need. That is part of the new normal. We must focus our efforts on rationalisation and renewal.

 

But, what really matters is consensus.

Perhaps more than ever, consensus is really important. The history of interoperability implementing rules demonstrates once again that widespread consensus is critical in achieving synchronised deployment. Consensus has to be forged during the public consultation and maintained by proactive programme management throughout deployment.

So, a final word to the Commission: Achieve genuine consensus now and you will need a lot less enforcement later.

Paul Ravenhill, Technical Director, Think Research

Author: Paul Ravenhill, Technical Director

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