FAB CE controllers safely handled 2,153,000 flights in 2017, an increase in 4.5% over the previous year, according to the most recent figures from Eurocontrol.

All the major indicators were positive for the year – with airport arrivals up 5.8% at 329,700; departures also rising 5.8% to 329,600; overflights growing 3.9% over 2016 to 1,418,200 and internal flights rising 3.9% to 75,600.

Flights by market segment

Traditional scheduled




Business aviation










The fastest growing airport in the FAB CE airspace alliance area was Split/Kastela, where daily movements were up 14.5% year-on-year, followed by Dubrovnik/Cilipi (13%) and Ljubljana/Brink (11.2%).

“Our forecasts suggest that traffic will continue to rise over the next five years, though probably not at the same rate as last year,“ said Matej Eljon, FAB CE Programme Manager and Director of FAB CE Aviation Services. “This is a period of serious traffic growth in our region which will mean we have to focus even more intently on capacity-enhancing measures for our customers, while continuing to increase our efficiency and cost-performance targets.“

SCIn January 2018 FAB CE technical experts released their interim report into the introduction of Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) procedures to handle peak time traffic loads with reduced delays.

During times of peak demand, airspace flow managers sometimes have to hold aircraft on the ground rather than increase the pressure on congested airspace sectors – leading to delays and disruption for aircraft operators and their customers. One solution to the problem is the implementation of short-term air traffic flow capacity management (ATFCM) measures (STAMs) and dynamic airspace management (DAM) procedures, where controllers apply small changes to traffic patterns – such as constraining flights at a lower altitude for a short period of time – or temporarily changing sector boundaries so that flights can be safely managed even at times of peak demand.

In 2016 FAB CE launched its DAM/STAM study project to understand how these measures can be introduced within the FAB CE airspace, specifically to determine the high level operational concept for DAM/STAM in FAB CE and to define a roadmap for future implementation. The study, with the financial backing of the European Union’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency, is due to be completed in December 2018.

“The interim study reports on the simulations we have undertaken to look at how these new procedures can be introduced at a FAB level and some of the challenges that still remain to be overcome before we can introduce DAM/STAM measures,” said Darko Kranjc of Slovenia Control, one of the study project leaders. “Nevertheless, we are on course to deliver the final study by the end of the year.”

SECSI FRA Overview teaserIn just less than a year after signing the memorandum of cooperation aimed towards merging the two Free Route Airspaces SAXFRA (Slovenian Austrian Cross-border Free Route Airspace) and SEAFRA (South-East Axis Free Route Airspace - project of three ANSPs from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro) the South East Common Sky Initiative Free Route Airspace (SECSI FRA) has successfully been implemented, with the support of the Network Manager.

On February 1, the SECSI FRA went operational offering airspace users significant benefits along the South East Axis, by delivering the shortest route options from Central Europe to South Eastern Europe. The benefits gained through the SECSI FRA are substantial. Based on the shortest route assignment potential savings per day are up to 1.940 NM in flight distance, 285 minutes in flight time, a reduction in fuel consumption of 8,000 kg and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 25,500kg.

SECSI FRA is expected to deliver potential savings of 600.000-700.000 NM in flight distance per year. It will make more options available when determining the user-preferred trajectory. Full cross-border FRA allows airlines to take better advantage of wind or adapt to network disruptions. The better use of FRA options at flight planning level improve predictability and reduce ATC workload. This initiative not only works towards achieving the goals of the European Commission regarding the implementation of “Free Route” across Europe but also fulfils airspace user´s requests for having multiple route options available for the same city-pair.

“This is the next significant milestone towards Free Route airspace across all of Europe – step by step Single European Sky is becoming a reality. The South East Common Sky Initiative Free Route Airspace will benefit airlines, passengers and the environment in reducing fuel consumption, travel time and CO2 emissions. ”, said Austro Control CEO Heinz Sommerbauer.

“It is a major achievement, that five ANSPs closely working together were able to implement SECSI FRA in less than a year. This project will not only make the flow of air traffic through Europe more efficient, but is also a clear sign that significant progress towards achieving the goal of a Single European Sky is being made”, said Austro Control COO Thomas Hoffmann.

“BHANSA is pleased to be part of the SECSI FRA project, which, as one of the most complex aviation projects in Europe, required cross border cooperation between five air navigation service providers. Implementation of SECSI FRA concept will result in increase of the flexible use of airspace, environmental protection, reducing of fuel consumption and airspace user costs. Therefore, with this project realization, we are very close to achieving the goal for the most efficient use of the airspace based on actual needs and, where possible, to avoid permanent airspace segregation while optimizing the network performance in line with international aviation standards and recommended practices”, said BHANSA Director Davorin Primorac.

„The implementation of the South East Common Sky Initiative (SECSI) is a significant achievement in the field of airspace organisation. It is a result of innovative technology and excellent relations built between the ANSPs and the Network Manager, while working on many key projects over the years. This initiative offers significant opportunities for further airspace optimisation. The airspace users will benefit from a shorter flight time, reduced fuel consumption and decreased emissions of CO2 and NOx. The expansion of FRA across several borders moves us all towards achieving the Single European Sky“, said Vlado Bagarić, Director General of Croatia Control.

“SECSI FRA is making the future, today. Its implementation is a demonstration that wide European visions are possible, with ANSPs, States, partners, working together for greater benefits of air traffic and fragile environment, but at the same time retaining identity and sovereignty. Building on experience, expertise and with perfect cooperation between five ANSPs and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager, the future multistate cross-border Free Route Airspace is achievable, and working together we can make it a reality on time”, said Slovenia Control CEO Franc Željko Županič.

For Eurocontrol the successful implementation of SECSI FRA also represents an important step towards achieving Free Route airspace across Europe. “Following the successful implementation of the SAXFRA and SEAFRA initiative, the South East Europe Common Sky Initiative is an excellent example of how cross-border Free Route Airspace implementation progresses in Europe in complex airspace.  The detailed and innovative work conducted by the five ANSPs in close coordination with the Network Manager and completed in under a year makes this initiative a tangible example of how the European ATM network can be optimised. It opens significant opportunities for further airspace optimisation in Central and South East Europe with similar neighboring initiatives”, said Joe Sultana, Network Manager Director Eurocontrol.

For FAB CE the success of this project is also an important step towards estblishing Free Route airspace across FAB CE and also to Non-EU airspace. FAB CE just recently initiated a project to monitor all Free Route projects within FAB CE.

Interfab 2

On 18-19 January 2018 the FAB communication experts met at the 2nd Inter-FAB Communication Workshop held in Warsaw, Poland. The event is a platform for sharing communication-related best practices and discussing objectives of FABs, their challenges and opportunities. Representatives of six FABs (Baltic FAB, FABEC, FABCE, BLUE MED, Danube FAB, Danish-Swedish FAB) were present at the workshop.

Issues tackled during the workshop were among others Social Dialogue at the FAB-level, the Special Report of the European Court of Auditors on the Single European Sky, regulatory perspective of State Authorities concerning FABs, conclusions of the past InterFAB meetings and coordination of the future events (Performance Workshop in Sofia, Air Traffic Volatility Workshop in Warsaw, World ATM Congress in Madrid). FAB CE Communication managers held presentations on FAB CE Social Dialogue, the Interfab OPS Workshop and ongoing communication activities.

Functional airspace blocks (FABs) constitute one of the cornerstones of the Single European Sky initiative. They were established already in 2012 and are vital for airspace integrity. However, many of the achievements and benefits of FABs often remain known to a limited number of stakeholders only. Thus, the InterFAB communication aims at improving awareness of FABs EU-wide.

SD Prague

FAB CE will focus on streaming projects to give stakeholders more time to move further and faster on activities such as common procurement and airspace consolidation, said Jan Klas, chairman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ANS CR in his opening remarks to the Prague FAB CE Social Dialogue meeting in December.

The meeting brought together representatives of FAB CE Air Navigation Service Provider (ANSP) management and staff from across the FAB CE community. Priority issues discussed were the Common Charging Zone (CCZ) and the overall performance of FAB CE. In terms of the CCZ, activities were at a very early stage, said Jan Klas, and a common approach still needed to be agreed. But ANSP CEOs did agree that the CCZ was not an end in itself but could be prerequisite to more substantial airspace consolidation. Social partners would be asked to play an active role in the process - via their trade unions or professional organisations - after the basic concepts had been developed.

In terms of performance FAB CE is one of Europe’s best performing FABs. A common position on RP3 has been synchronised within the CANSO community in response to the concept of minimum service level requirements. The Inter-FAB workshop on performance - taking place in Sofia on 31 January-1 February 2018 - will discuss how performance targets should be changed to be more realistic.

Social partners wanted to improve the level of communication between ANSP employers and employees. Matej Eljon, FAB CE Programme Manager and director of FAB CE Aviation Ltd, said the FAB CE social dialogue meetings could only discuss FAB CE issues related to regional operations - technology, finance, safety, capacity. He then gave a progress report on the various programmes underway and the outcome of recent inter-FAB meetings.

The EASA proposal of regulation of duty time and right of strike was then discussed and presentations were given on duty time and the right of strike in Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Croatia. The results of a study into working conditions among ANSP employees undertaken by consultants CCL would be discussed at the next meeting.