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Joint User Requirements Meeting

ERA Policy and Technical participated in the 74th Joint User Requirements Group Meeting hosted by Airbus at their facility in Toulouse on 11–12 June. The meeting, at which ERA is an observer, provides an invaluable platform for discussion concerning the Communication, Navigation and Surveillance landscape across Europe and affecting airspace bordering the EU such as North Atlantic.

The meeting was attended by a number of IATA airline representatives including British Airways, Ryanair, TAP Portugal, SAS, Air France, Lufthansa, Delta and United Airlines and gave excellent insight from the perspective of regional operators to hear about the issues affecting legacy carriers, which it became clear, are not dissimilar to our own.

An impassioned discussion concerning the implementation of ADS-B Out and the impending 7 June 2020 European mandate started the meeting; many European legacy operators have aircraft which are planned for withdrawal from service shortly after the mandate, either to be retired, sold outside of the EU or returned to lessors and would never provide a return on investment. Others operate types which are either disproportionately costly or architecturally difficult to retrofit (early Airbus 320s were cited as examples of such types). Clearly, this is precisely the issue facing a number of ERA member airlines and the European Commission has been approached with a request for an exemption policy to accommodate these types for at least a limited period.

The SESAR Deployment Manager, tasked by the Commission to develop an implementation plan for ADS-B delivered a presentation similar to one provided to ERA members during a specially convened meeting in early May. This showed that approximately 74 per cent of European operators expect to be compliant by June 2020 (in fact 74 per cent of those who responded to the SDM survey). This demonstrates that despite the absence of a credible business case for European operators flying in continental European airspace, there is clearly a willingness to comply with the mandate and although a plea to the Commission has been made on numerous occasions by a number of different airspace user organisations as well as airlines themselves, the Commission will not commit to establishing an exemption framework or amendment to the regulation. The question has now been asked, what will happen to aircraft that are not equipped by the deadline?

A Datalink services presentation was provided and it has become evident that although improvements in provider abort rates have been measured over the past two years since a multi-frequency environment was created, this rate is increasing again largely due to significant increases in AOC traffic. Another issue affecting ERA members is the recent Eurocontrol blacklisting of two types of VDLM2 equipment which is fitted to a number of regional airliners and business aviation types. This presents a problem for those who have retrofitted, in good faith, with these types of Datalink avionics as although they were compliant, as the equipment is unusable whilst blacklisted, the question arises as to whether these previously compliant aircraft are still so. On a more positive note, EASA advised that the draft Datalink exemption list that has been in circulation for some time is anticipated to be approved by the Commission and is currently passing through the EC Legal Services unit.

NATS UK provided an excellent overview of UK airspace modernisation – infrastructure that has gone largely unchanged for over 50 years. There are a number of changes planned which have the capacity to bring many benefits to the commercial airspace user community, although some depend on the success of related or associated SESAR projects which are currently being implemented across Europe. Datalink is also a key enabler for this modernisation programme however NATS, as a member of the Aireon – NAV Canada Consortium is looking toward a space-based solution for datalink communications, a similar approach to ADS-B might bring benefits to airlines sooner and strengthen business cases through rationalisation of ground-based surveillance infrastructure.

ERA is working closely with all relevant stakeholders in all the areas described above and will engage with affected members when more information is available.

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