Single European Sky (SES) II

Single European Sky (SES) II

The Need for a Second Legislative Package

The first Single European Sky (SES) legislative package was adopted in 2004 in order to improve safety and efficiency of air transport in Europe and foster the restructuring of European airspace and air navigation services. It provided the framework for the creation of additional capacity and for improved efficiency and interoperability of ATM systems in Europe.

The Single European Sky has already delivered a number of achievements identified in the first report on the progress of Single European Sky implementation: safety has been strengthened, safety oversight is separated from service provision, EUROCONTROL Safety Regulatory Requirements (ESARRs) have become Community law. Going beyond interoperability rules, the SESAR project was launched as the technological and industrial component of the Single European Sky.

However, the SES has not delivered the expected results in important areas, like integration of the airspace in Functional Airspace Blocks (FAB) and improvement of cost-efficiency of European ATM network.

The Single Sky legislation needs to be sharpened to deal with performance and environmental challenges. Air traffic management must also contribute to sustainable aviation. Aircraft should be able to follow the shortest routes with optimised flight profiles. Integrating en-route and airport operations through a holistic network approach will reduce unnecessary noise and emissions.

There is a need to further increase safety levels in parallel with increasing traffic by applying a consistent safety approach across all aviation sectors.


The second SES package has been put forward by the European Commission in order to make the European sky safer and more sustainable by:

  • Introducing a performance framework for European ATM with quantified target setting;
  • Creating a single safety framework to enable harmonised development of safety regulations and their effective implementation;
  • Opening the door to new technologies enabling the implementation of new operational concept and increasing safety levels by a factor of ten;
  • Improving management of airport capacity.


During the past years the ATM situation has changed considerably and whilst safety and capacity are still major issues, a greater emphasis is put on environment and more recently due to the fuel price and economic crises, on cost efficiency. Additionally, the regulatory approach has been changed due to requests from Member States and stakeholders for a less prescriptive approach ("better regulation"). Therefore the SES II proposals put more emphasis on the goals, than the means to reach the goals. The new legislative approach is built on several pillars briefly described below.

Implementation of a Performance Scheme

One of the key features of SES II is the performance scheme. It was set up by the European Commission through the adoption on 29 July 2010 of Regulation 691/2010 Performance Scheme for Air Navigation Services and Network Functions. The regulation reinforces the performance-oriented approach to ANS, principally through the adoption of EU-wide performance targets and binding national/FAB performance plans. Regulation 691/2010 was repealed and replaced by Regulation 390/2013 - Performance Scheme for Air Navigation Services and Network Functions that applies during the second reference period. Regulation 390/2013 was, in turn, repealed by Regulation 2019/317.

EUROCONTROL, acting through the Performance Review Commission (PRC) and supported by the Performance Review Unit (PRU), has been designated as the Performance Review Body (PRB) until 30 June 2015. The PRB will advise the EC in setting EU-wide targets, assessing national/FAB performance plans, and monitoring the performance of the system in four key performance areas: safety, capacity, environmental impact and cost-efficiency.

The European Commission shall adopt the EU-wide performance targets and pass them on to the National Supervisory Authorities (NSAs). Following consultation with concerned organisations the NSAs shall draw up performance plans at either national or FAB level, containing targets consistent with the EU-wide performance targets. The Commission shall assess the performance plans for consistency with the EU-wide targets and recommend revisions where needed. The NSAs, at national or FAB level, and the Commission shall monitor the implementation of the performance plans.

Integration of Service Provision

The European Commission will support current initiatives to set up FABs as an instrument for regional integration by:

  • Setting firm deadlines for implementation (by end 2012);
  • Extending the scope to lower airspace up to the airport;
  • Clearing national legal and institutional obstacles.

Network Management

Implementing rules will be developed to ensure optimal management of the European ATM network and provide global interoperability and cooperation with neighbouring countries. The following tasks will be subject to regulation:

  • European route network design;
  • Management of Scarce Resources;
  • Traffic Flow Management, slot coordination and allocation;
  • Management of the deployment of SESAR technologies and the procurement of European-wide infrastructure elements.

Single Sky Safety Framework

Differences in application of and compliance with non-binding aviation safety rules throughout the Member States lead to diverging processes and different level of safety standards applied.

Europe has already decided in 2002 that the adequate answer to those safety challenges had to rest in the establishment of one single European safety entity, known as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).

Following this approach the European Commission proposed in 2008 to extend the competence of the Agency to the remaining key safety fields of aerodromes and Air Traffic Management / Air Navigation Services. This pillar therefore provides the safety element of the Single European Sky endeavour.

The proposal for the extension of EASA remit to ATM, ANS and airports was adopted as Regulation (EC) No 1108/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 amending Regulation (EC) No 216/2008 in the field of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services and repealing Directive 2006/23/EC. Regulation 1108/2009 was later repealed by Regulation 2018/1139.

Deployment of New Technologies

Europe must accelerate the development of its air traffic control system to respond to the challenges and synchronise both airborne and ground deployments. Recognising this need the EU States launched in 2005 the “Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR)” programme. SESAR is to increase safety levels by a factor of ten, capable of handling a threefold increase in traffic at half of today’s cost per flight. SESAR future operational concept represents a paradigm change, creating a form of collaborative information system for aviation operations.

On the basis of the SESAR Master Plan, the EU Transport Council endorsed on 30 March 2009 the European ATM Master Plan. The plan will be used by the SESAR Joint Undertaking to manage and organise the development activities of the SESAR programme.

The successful implementation of SESAR is a collective responsibility and demands the commitment of the whole aviation community. The implementation of SESAR will overcome fragmentation in equipment for both air navigation service providers and airspace users and speed up the pace of technological progress.

SESAR deployment requires solid governance structures. These structures have been put in place by Regulation (EC) No 219/2007 of the European Council of 27 February 2007 on the establishment of a Joint Undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR).

Regulation (EC) 219/2007 on the establishment of a Joint Undertaking to develop the new generation European air traffic management system (SESAR) (OJ, 2.3.2007)

Management of Airport Capacity

The European Parliament and the Council have endorsed an ‘Action plan for airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe (full text can be viewed here). The action plan contains several measures to increase the output and optimise the planning of airport infrastructures, while at the same time raising safety and environmental standards:

  • Better use of existing infrastructure. New technologies, derived from SESAR, will increase the safety and efficiency of airport operations;
  • Improved infrastructure planning. Priority should be given to optimising the use of existing capacities; better account will be taken of environmental constraints;
  • Promoting intermodality and improving access to airports. Close coordination with planning for rail and road networks will ensure the design and construction of truly complementary transport networks at minimum cost;
  • Setting up of a Community Observatory on airports capacity. In 2008 the European Commission will set up an Observatory, composed of Member States, relevant authorities and stakeholders. It will advise the Commission on the development and implementation of Community airport capacity and assist in network management tasks.

Entry into Force

On 30 March 2009 the EU Transport Council endorsed the SES II Regulatory Package. The Regulations (EC) No 1070/2009 and (EC) No 1108/2009 were published in the Official Journal of the European Union in Novemebr 2009 and will enter into force in December 2009. The development of Implementing Rules by the European Commission is the next step.

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