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Faster flights promised
Dec 6th, 2010 by john

Shorter, quicker and less environmentally damaging flights should be the result of a new agreement between Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland to jointly manage their air space. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has praised the European Commission for this new step towards the long-delayed Single European Sky plan.

Until now, European airspace has been divided into 27 different areas under the control of national governments. This has forced airlines to zig-zag between the different airspaces and military exclusion zones, flying longer routes than necessary, increasing emissions and costs for operators and sometimes even jeopardizing safety.

Diagram courtesy of Lufthansa

The EU ‘Single European Sky’ (SES) initiative was launched in 1999 to create a single European air navigation system by setting up nine Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs). Two have already been agreed – UK/Ireland and Denmark/Sweden – and the new central European FAB is the third and most important, as 55 per cent of all flights in Europe pass through this block.

EU Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said he hoped the new agreement will be “an inspiration for the other member states in their efforts to have all the functional airspace blocks in place by the deadline of 4 December 2012.”

The six FABs still to be set up include the ‘Blue Med’ group which will gather together Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Malta along with associates Tunisia, Egypt and Albania as well as Jordan and Lebanon as observers.

Despite the current financial crisis, air traffic in Europe is expected to double by 2030, increasing from the current level of 10 million flights to 20.4 million flights per year.

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