GATCO has issued Controllers’ Views on the European ATM System of the Future – a white paper, written by GATCO President, Luis Barbero, looking at how we can we address the challenges our ATM system is facing. The paper sets out a different approach to avoid past mistakes and actively promotes concrete measures to improve the European ATM system, taking into account the views of the professionals at the coal face who battle the inefficiencies and shortcomings of the system day in day out. The paper focuses on five areas that in the medium term would pave the way for the capacity, flexibility, efficiency and resilience the European ATM system needs if it is to deal successfully with the forecasted traffic growth in the next 20-30 years.


  • Tackling the biggest elephant in the room – political issues.
  • Structuring European airspace and sectorisation based on traffic flows and controller workload and not being conditioned by Member States’ national borders.
  • More effective cooperation between civil and military authorities to release restricted areas.
  • Simplifying and optimising airspace by reducing the classes of airspace.

Supply and demand

  • Despite airspace capacity not meeting demand, only a relatively small number of sectors are congested, and even those are not congested 100% of the time. Is it now time for a flexible price structure that takes into account the law of supply and demand?.

The ANSP model

Most ANSPs have become ATM solutions companies owning all of the assets required to provide air navigation services, with ATC being one sector of the business. Could it be that ANSPs would be able to truly work together and concentrate on providing ATS by moving to a service-based system where the provision of ATM data (flight information, surveillance, weather, aeronautical information) is separated from the provision of an air traffic service?


While harmonisation is an often heard theme, it is one step short of what is really needed – standardisation, which would ultimately ensure interoperability of all platforms.

The human is key

  • The human is at the centre of decision making and the development of technology cannot take place independently of the human, who is the most critical source of the ATM system’s performance, safety and resilience.
  • The work-life balance and quality of life expectations of today against the 24/7 nature of the job with its shift patterns are not sufficiently attractive to young professionals. Different ways of working, more flexible training for those that already have some experience, for example military controllers, need to be considered.

The full article has been published on the Air Traffic Management Magazine website and can be downloaded here.