The Administrative Board of the SESAR Joint Undertaking today formally approved the 2020 edition of the European ATM Master Plan, signalling strong consensus across Europe’s aviation sector to move ahead swiftly with the digital transformation of Europe’s aviation infrastructure, making air transport smarter, more sustainable and accessible to all.

This move towards a “digital European sky” by 2040 relies on bringing forward technologies that can increase the levels of automation, cyber-secure data sharing and connectivity in ATM. This will allow for smarter air traffic service provision, catering for conventional aircraft and new entrants in all types of airspace including very-low and high altitude operations. In doing so, these technologies enable the system to become more modular and agile, while building resilience to disruptions, traffic growth and diversity of air vehicles.

The Master Plan is fully aligned with the political priorities of the new European Commission, which has placed the “European Green Deal” front and centre of its political agenda, together with a “Europe fit for the digital age”. The Plan sets out how technology can eliminate environmental inefficiencies in aviation operations and how to fully exploit the potential offered by the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft. While recognising that an energy transition is the only way to ensure carbon neutral air transport in the long term, the plan shows that aviation infrastructure can be modernised at a more rapid pace and bring environmental benefits in the shorter term.

The investments required to deliver the vision are set out in the Master Plan, as well as the returns that these investments will yield between now and 2040 - estimated at EUR 80 billion in annual recurring benefits for Europe. Realising the benefits largely depends on the ability of the industry to create the conditions to shorten the innovation lifecycle for infrastructure transformation. With this in mind, the Master Plan outlines the concrete measures that should put in place in the short, medium and long term in order to set in motion these changes.

"Digital disruption, capacity constraints in the air and on the ground, and growing sustainability concerns are today major challenges for European aviation. These challenges concern all of us, each and every link in the aviation value network as well as the States, aviation regulators, and, of course, the travelling public. The Master Plan is critical to ensuring consensus and cooperation as we forge ahead with the transformation of aviation’s infrastructure, resulting in safer, smarter, more sustainable, more performant and more affordable air transport,” says Henrik Hololei, Director General of the Directorate General for Transport and Mobility (DG MOVE), European Commission, and Chair of the SESAR JU Administrative Board.

"Aviation in Europe is going through difficult times. Over the past two years we’ve been confronted with a serious capacity crisis and that is far from over. With airline profit margins under pressure and an economic downturn looming, we need to work together more than ever to transform the industry and meet the environmental goals of the European Green Deal. This latest update of the European ATM Master Plan sets a clear direction towards a Digital European Sky that can meet this challenge. EUROCONTROL is ready to support all stakeholders to make this plan reality. We’ve already taken a first important step as our Member States have approved a major investment in a digital transformation programme for the Network Manager, featuring advanced capabilities and new services that will support the evolution of operational concepts over coming decades,” says Eamonn Brennan, Director General, Eurocontrol, and Vice-Chair of the SESAR Administrative Board.

By bringing every aviation stakeholder to the table, the plan provides strong consensus on the vision, research and development, and deployment priorities, and where and when investments should be made to deliver the digital European sky. The roadmap is available, it is now time to implement it!” says Florian Guillermet, Executive Director, SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Updated every three to four years through an extensive consultation process involving all industry and institutional stakeholders, the European air traffic management (ATM) Master Plan sets the direction for developing, delivering and deploying the technologies and standards needed to transform Europe’s aviation infrastructure enabling it to handle the future growth and diversity of air traffic safely and efficiently, while minimising environmental impact. The plan is also instrumental for ensuring global harmonisation and interoperability, in support of the Global Air Navigation Plan (GANP) of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The Plan also reflects the recommendations made by Wise Person’s Group as well as a joint declaration by industry on the need to implement a digital European sky.

Read the European ATM Master Plan

Read about the digital European sky

SESAR JU: Master Plan adoption and discussion on future european partnership