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2007.08.22, 16:46

The Airspace Has No Boundaries – An Interview with Maciej Rodak, The President of Polish Air Navigation Services Agency.


Mr. President, The appointment of Polish Air Navigation Services Agency is an escape from the principle that the aerodrome controller is also the area controller at the same time. Did we fulfill the European Committee requirements?

That kind of regulation is, actually, coherent with Eurocontrol requirements and with EU regulations, which clearly state, how we can allocate resources received for Air Navigation Services. Without this dispensation we would not get the air traffic management unit certificate.

Do other European countries have similar regulations?

Yes, they do. The only exceptions are Spain and Sweden, but in these countries both aerodrome and air traffic management functions are separated within one agency. There is no possibility to crossubsidize. In Sweden, Thomas Allard, who is the counterpart of PANSA’s president, does not share the budget with the aerodrome management within the aerodrome- aerial syndicate. On the other hand, The Spaniards are following European solutions.

So, airports have less income because of the division of financial resources nowadays. I think that they are not happy about it.…

I am sure they are not, but leaving the previous system working, would indicate the existence of the system operating on different basis, than in other European Union countries. This situation would be hard to imagine.

Polish Air Navigation Services Agency operates, according to legal regulations, since 1st May, 2007. Was it difficult to start?

Yes, it was. First of all, according to the Act, the partition of “Polish Airports” State Enterprise assets was necessary. It was prepared on the basis of earlier works of “Polish Airports” and a committee appointed by the Minister of Transport. Properties like grounds and structures have been parted, but it does not mean that we have left all problems behind us. At present, we revaluate those elements. For Polish Air Navigation Services Agency’s proper functioning we need working capital. Treasury’s credit provided that money.

Nobody said it was easy...

You are right. We hack it, but we also realize that a long path is ahead us. While leaving “Polish Airports” structures we were employing slightly more than 1300 people. It is planned to have the employment on the level of 1500 people, but I do not think that we can do it. The increase of employment is caused mainly by the necessity of raising the number of controllers, because the air traffic dynamics in Poland is one of the highest in the world. We also have to create financial and administrative crew. We started our activity under some public pressure, which we inherited from our predecessor. The initial negotiations with the controllers were not easy, but we managed to overcome the difficulties. Nevertheless, many issues are still to be solved. We are undertaking further discourse with controllers and other professional groups, but not in such nervous atmosphere as it was earlier. We have to communicate, and we are doing it.

What are PANSA’s present key-tasks?

As you surely read in “Aerodromes and Ground Installations Development Agenda” we wait for total, unparalleled in scale, growth of the air traffic. According to the prognoses we are going to meet a few years of dynamic rise of number of aircrafts using our sky. After the year 2010 this dynamics would go slower, because we will get close to the European level of air traffic intensity, so we have to deal with air traffic’s increase. Our radar system, contracted in 1990, and working with some modifications since 1995, would not cope with these tasks, and its further development is impossible. The situation that its producer stopped developing it testifies this point.

And the new system was already contracted within “Polish Airports”…

Yes, it was. It was established that nobody is going to continue managing air traffic using the old system and equipment. We are going to launch this contract, but I cannot exclude that we will renegotiate it. The delays would impeach PANSA’s and Polish airspace’s ability to serve rising air traffic. We cannot cause such situation.

When will the system start working?

The replacement must not be finished later than in 2009. The new system is already installed in Gdańsk, Kraków and Katowice, where we just wait for the technical acceptance. Warsaw, the final step, is right ahead us.

The airspace has no boundaries. How does our sky look on Europe’s firmament?

EU and EC Regulations, from 549/2004 to 552/2004 are to reorganize air traffic management in Europe. The existence of certificated agencies managing air traffic in particular countries, is the first step to reduce the number of units managing airspace in Europe, in the next several, or several dozen years.

The process has already started.

You can say so. The essence of launching air traffic control centre in Maastricht, managing the airspace of Western Germany and Benelux countries, was the airlines aspiration to shorten the time of getting (przelotowy) arterial altitude and to keep it as long as it is possible. It was impossible to achieve in the airspace divided into small parts. The EC aspiration is to duplicate such centres in the whole Europe.

How many centres do we speak of?

Five. That is why it is so important to show that we manage our airspace properly. That is why we are installing the new system. That is why we have to get more air traffic controllers.

Do you miss them so much?

It is enough to read professional press and to surf the internet, to see that the whole world looks for air traffic controllers. Their training takes a lot of time, and the licences are accepted on the whole world. The increase of the air traffic requires the division of the airspace into the smaller sectors, therefore, the necessity of work of the larger number of controllers.

What will be the way of establishing the global airspace management centres in Europe?

This is state’s responsibility to provide safety in the airspace. The airspace is in state’s possession and the state nominates the unit, which will fulfill this duty in its name. However, as I said before, the airspace has no boundaries. EC wants to work up institutional fusions. Particular national airspace management units will unite in companies or other formal attachments. The trail-blazers in this sphere are Swedes and Danes. They organized „European Company“ structure, for training purposes as yet. Norway, and probably Finland are going to join them. The basis of these alliances is one way of financing the organizations dealing with the airspace in particular countries.

Is Polish Airspace expensive?

No, it is not. We are relatively cheap, clearly under European average. In other words, our prices for using the airspace are on good, acceptable level. However, we have to verify so-called terminal charge, which is a fee for approach and tower control service. These prices must be updated.

Is there a possibility of installing one of the European airspace control centres in our country?

We have got some strengths. Our airspace is not divided into flight information regions. I think that it is the largest area in Europe controlled by just one centre. We had additional centres in Pułtusk and Poznań, but their functions are now integrated in Warsaw centre. So we can manage large airspace. We have also got emergency centres in Katowice, Poznań, Kraków and Gdańsk. So, we have got alternatives in case of the Warsaw centre being in danger. Such solution will be also profitable in global European conditions. We showed Europe that we can cope with the centralization of the air traffic management systems. And now, we only have to launch installed system and installations.

We are in the EU for a long time now and we must obey international regulations. It must be a challenging task.…

We cooperate with Eurocontrol for a long time. Joining Central Route Charges Office is crucial for us. We enter CRCO on 1st January 2008, and from that moment route charges are not going to be collected by PANSA, but by Eurocontrol, and transferred to us. It needs obeying the regulations strictly. Nothing can be hidden. And of course we can expect the transformation of Eurocontrol, coming together with rising common airspaces.

A tremendous rise of air traffic in our country generates many projects of building and modernization of aerodromes. Do we have enough room for new aerodromes?

There is a film, in which, during the Second World War, the inhabitants of one of the Pacific islands saw enormous amount of aircrafts in their sky. They wanted an aircraft to land on their island, so they decided to build an airstrip. They still wait for airplanes. Our local governments want to have aerodromes and we can understand that desire. I do not want to state opinions about financing of aerodromes, but we must remember, that the 550/2004 and 1794/2006 EU regulations state clearly, that all the services on particular aerodrome, or aerodromes, must be financed by the aerodromes’ own air traffic. It is impossible to subsidize them by the transit traffic. Economy decides about everything.

So, no subsidizing, no help from the public finance? But, in some circumstances, such help is possible. Is it worth to have it in one’s mind?

I am sure it is. It is good to mention the so-called High Level Group, which was brought into being by EC. It came into existence to describe the guidelines of Single European Sky. Three countries, Norway, Turkey and Ukraine, were questioned. Each of these countries has different aerodrome and air traffic conditions. For instance Norway provides public help for its small aerodromes to equip them with lower requirements then EU average. On the other hand, terminal charges system in Germany allows mutual subsidizing, but only among aerodromes. However, it doesn’t mean, still speaking of our aerodrome boom, that it is hard to leave out economic account.

Using aerodromes and the airspace must take place on economically accepted level. That is why minimum aerodrome and air traffic services equipment must be stated, taking safety and airlines costs into consideration.

“Cheap is good”?

Yes, and it also concerns small general aviation aerodromes. This market will develop in Poland. Because of EURO 2012 lots of people will visit our country, and some of the visitors will not use airlines but own airplanes.

Thank you for the conversation

Interviewer: Krzysztof Merling

The interview taken from LOTNISKO magazine