International air travel, by definition, includes crossing country borders. With separate regulatory arrangements and air traffic management systems, this naturally poses problems in efficiency. The European Union, however, is undertaking to overhaul EU airspace to solve this problem.

Europe has some of the busiest skies in the world, with as many as 33,000 flights in the air every day. In 2004, the European Union launched the Single European Sky initiative and its technological pillar, SESAR (Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research) to modernise and harmonise air traffic management systems through the definition, development and deployment of innovative technological and operational solutions.

Established in 2007, the SESAR Joint Undertaking is a public-private partnership which pools the knowledge and resources of the entire air traffic management community in order to define, research, develop and validate SESAR solutions. The SESAR project brings together industry members and works closely with staff associations, regulators, airport operators, and the scientific community.

One of SESAR’s main environmental goals is to simplify flight paths in the EU, which are currently often longer than necessary, due to the need to follow particular corridors and circle destinations waiting for a landing slot. SESAR technology and operational improvements will enable more direct flight paths and smooth descent and climbing, which will eliminate some of these inefficiencies.

SESAR will enable airspace users, air navigation service providers and airport operators to reduce the environmental impact of their operations for each flight phase through better technology and improved communications channels. But the SESAR collaboration is not just about reaching the Single European Sky goal. Each of the projects in the programme is also bringing efficiency measures in its own right. A number of them are featured in this publication.