Polish and Lithuanian ANSPs initiate Baltic FAB feasibility study

PANSA and Oro navigacija, the air navigation service providers (ANSPs) of Poland and Lithuania, working with air navigation specialists Helios, have started a major study of the feasibility of a Functional Airspace Block (FAB) in their joint airspace, including cooperation with their neighbours.
Functional Airspace Blocks are a major element of the European Unions Single European Sky programme. Cooperation between ANSPs in providing services in a FAB can both improve their quality and efficiency, and reduce the costs to users.

In many ways, Poland and Lithuania form a natural group for such cooperation. For centuries, the nations were united in a single Commonwealth. The two ANSPs have been cooperating on operational matters for many years, and the formation of a FAB
has been discussed since the concept first appeared in EU legislation in 2004.

Progress is now being made on all levels, between the two service providers, regulators, and governments. Helios has been engaged to help identify the costs and benefits of moving towards a FAB, the potential obstacles that must be overcome, as well as the wider economic implications of this cooperation. The Helios team will be drawn from ANS experts in their offices in the UK and Slovakia, and from their partners Ernst & Young, whose consultants in Poland and Lithuania have extensive experience of airports and ANS. Fittingly, the contract was signed only a few days after the 600th anniversary of the historic victory by a joint Polish-Lithuanian force at
the Battle of Grunwald.

But Polish-Lithuanian cooperation is only the first step. There are substantial further improvements to be gained from cooperation with the pairs non-EU neighbours (the Kaliningrad Region of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Ukraine), and through optimisation along the borders with three neighbouring FABs. Krzysztof Banaszek, President of PANSA, says of the study: 'The Feasibility Study is a major milestone in the process of establishment and development of the Baltic FAB. We are committed to cooperate with our neighbours to provide tangible benefits to the SES, as well as to enhance the ANSPs performance. The benefits of this cooperation have been recognised by the co-financing from TEN-T funds. But beyond this, Poland and Lithuania, working together, have a role as a bridge
between Europe and our eastern neighbours.'

Oro navigacija and PANSA are facing a great challenge establishment of a Baltic Functional Airspace Block. We jointly concluded that we needed the assistance of qualified and acknowledged experts to complete this complex task. We need to understand how each of our countries can benefit from complying with this pan-European requirement said Mr.Algimantas Rašcius, Director General of Oro navigacija. Today the idea is gaining ground. We have no doubt that Helios will find answers to all difficult questions and will come up with recommendations on how optimal results will be achieved. In our turn, we will make every effort to ensure smooth progress of the work.

John Raftery of Helios, who is directing the study, adds: I am impressed by the commitment at all levels in Polish and Lithuanian ANS for this cooperation to succeed. Even during the first few days, we have been able to identify some clear benefits of working together, which will save airlines costs and reduce delays. Our experience of other European FABs will help us add to the ideas that PANSA and Oro navigacija are already generating, but I am sure there will also be some new ideas that are particular to this region, especially the new challenges of working with non-EU members.

The Baltic FAB feasibility study is co-financed by the Trans-European Networks programme of the European Commission and is due to be completed in September 2011.
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