Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC) Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) are preparing for traffic recovery following 18 months of unprecedented decline caused by the pandemic. European air traffic demand is growing continuously, in line with the highest Eurocontrol traffic scenario which predicts a return to 2019 levels by 20241. To ensure airspace users continue to access safe and efficient services ANSPs have started campaigns to recruit over 300 air traffic control trainees to start training in 2022.
Airspace management relies on highly skilled personnel to operate and maintain advanced electronic infrastructure and a shortfall in human resources can have an immediate effect on airspace capacity. A high number of FABEC controllers are due to retire within the next few years so these ANSPs – who control some of Europe’s busiest airspace - are planning ahead to ensure new recruits qualify in time to meet rising demand, a process which typically takes between three to four years.
Michel van Dorst, FABEC Champion Human Resources and CEO LVNL: “We have to think three to four years ahead in our investment strategy to be sure we have sufficient qualified personnel to meet future demand. Controller training is only provided at dedicated ATC academies which means qualified personnel cannot be sourced from other industries. We have relied on simulator training to maintain competencies during much of the past 18 months.”
Digital skills are becoming increasingly important in the transition to the European Digital Sky and attracting the right competencies is crucial to a process where many do not attain final qualification. It is by planning resources effectively to meet traffic recovery that FABEC ANSPs can ensure they continue to provide safe airspace management and meet rising capacity needs in the future.
The airspace of the six FABEC States of Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland is one of the busiest and most complex in the world. The majority of major European airports, major civil airways and military training areas are located in this area. FABEC airspace covers 1.7 million km2 and handles over 55% of European air traffic. In 2020, FABEC won the ATM Environment Award for the second consecutive year.
1 STATFOR traffic forecast: https://www.eurocontrol.int/sites/default/files/2021-05/eurocontrol-four-year-forecast-2021-2024-full-report.pdf