Delegation of Air Traffic Services

Delegation of Air Traffic Services


International cross-border delegation of air traffic services occurs when air navigation service providers (ANSPs) draft collaborative agreements with neighbouring States so that they will assume responsibility for some of their workload under contingencies.


International cross-border delegation can provide a cost-effective means of cooperating with neighbouring states to provide mutual assistance in the case of contingency; it also accords with the objectives of Single European Skies initiative.


International cross-border delegation assumes that ANSPs will draft collaborative agreements with neighbouring States so that they will assume responsibility for some of their workload under contingencies. This can be flexible and cost-effective. However, whilst such arrangements show that it is theoretically possible to use them for contingency provision, the reality on the ground suggests that the actual practical implementation is fraught with difficulties. For instance, such agreements require both technical (e.g. frequency/surveillance cover) and political agreement. This can be difficult if there is any perception that control will be surrendered for some portion of national airspace even under a contingency. Moreover, it can be difficult to coordinate the drills that are required to ensure that these agreements can be implemented. Licensing and regulatory issues associated with provision of services in another State's airspace need to subject to binding state agreements.

It is also important to consider the applicable rules and legislative context for the delegation of Air Traffic Services. There is a need to clarify which laws and regulations, or operational rules and procedures (e.g. which operations manual?) will be applied by an ‘aiding’ unit temporarily controlling part of the airspace of a foreign State. In application of the principle of territorial sovereignty, only the laws and regulations of the State in which the service is provided should be in force and applied. However, it appears difficult from a practical point of view to request a foreign ‘aiding’ ANSP to know and apply these rules. Should a temporary deviation from the national rules be implemented, notification should be made to the users (via Aeronautical Information Services (AIS) and to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), if it involves a difference with the Annexes to the Chicago Convention. Delegations of services or arrangements between ANSPs do not lift/remove the responsibilities and potential liabilities of the delegating ANSP (e.g. the ‘failing’ ANSP), which remains the one originally designated by the State in which airspace the service is provided. The liability of the air traffic controllers (ATCOs) involved in an accident when working under degraded or contingency modes would remain, but the level of the due diligence exercised would probably be assessed against the particular context and help to mitigate the liability exposure.

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