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C 309 E/202

Official Journal of the European Communities



coordinate Europe’s air traffic control systems. As things stand at the moment, a plane flying between, for example, Rome and Paris, is handled by six different air traffic control centres during the course of its journey. This situation is fraught with coordination difficulties aggravated by the fact that the various centres do not use the same computer systems. Experts are not ruling out the possibility of the inquest into this latest accident finding that this succession of ‘mini control centres’ that are not properly coordinated poses an additional threat to air safety.

Would the Commission not agree that there is an urgent need for it to monitor the effectiveness of the arrangements for coordinating European control centres, on which planes flying over Europe depend, in order to ensure that they provide the necessary safety guarantees, not least with a view to the establishment of a ‘single European sky’?

(2002/C 309 E/233)


by Alexandros Alavanos (GUE/NGL) to the Commission

(18 July 2002)

Subject: Air accident in southern Germany and safety conditions in airspace

The probable cause of the collision between a Russian passenger Tupolev 154 aircraft and a Boeing 757 over southern Germany was the fact that the automatic system in the Zurich control tower giving warning of possible collisions was not in operation. This news has increased concerns over the safety of flights in European airspace. Recently, and before the tragic accident, mention was being made of the problems caused by the increasing frequency of flights and related allegations were published. For example, British air traffic controllers believe that since the beginning of the year the number of instances in which safety was jeopardised in their airspace has doubled. Often they are unable to hear the pilots they are monitoring, aircraft disappear from the radar screens, their computers often shut down and aeroplanes cannot maintain the correct safety distances. Greek pilots, in turn, believe that the new system for vertical separation between air corridors (Reduced Vertical Separation Minimums RVSM) creates risks because the technical procedures recommended by Eurocontrol have not been completed.

The Commission:

1. Can it confirm the information regarding the temporary deactivation at the time of the accident of the automatic system providing early warning of imminent danger?

2. Is it aware of the above-mentioned allegations by air traffic controllers and pilots, or other similar accusations? Might they be relevant to the air accident in Germany?

3. What steps does it intend to take to ensure that the increased frequency of flights does not give rise to risks for passengers?

Joint answer to Written Questions E-2130/02 and E-2159/02 given by Mrs de Palacio on behalf of the Commission

(22 August 2002)

The information available on the collision between two aircraft over Lake Constance does not, at this stage, allow us to draw any conclusions as to the cause of the accident while the enquiry is still under way. The information would appear to confirm that the automatic warning system on the ground was not in use because it was being serviced. Following the tragedy, the Commission stressed that it was premature to directly connect the problems which arose at the time of the accident, where human error also seems to have been a major factor, with the solutions offered by the Single European Sky initiative. However, some considerations of a general nature are valid today, as they were before the accident occurred.

The growth in air traffic in recent years has put more pressure on national air traffic control systems. More data is exchanged between control centres and there is greater coordination between them. Rules must be observed regarding airspace structure, data exchange, means of communication and the procedures to follow if the system breaks down. Responsibility for ensuring that the rules are correctly observed and are effective lies first with the service providers and, second, with the national authorities, who must monitor their application.