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Finland and Estonia plan merger of air traffic control systems

Finland and Estonia plan merger of air traffic control systems

A joint centre would operate under a single management in two cities; the service would cut costs and emissions

Finland and Estonia plan to launch joint air traffic control service as early as next year, Raine Luojus, CEO of the Finnish air traffic control company Fintraffic announced. Luojus told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that the new model of cooperation would improve aviation safety over the shared airspace, reduce operational costs and cut CO2 emissions by guiding airplanes along more efficient routes, lowering fuel consumption.

Joint regional air traffic control centre

For this purpose, Finland and Estonia will set up a joint regional air traffic control centre which would operate under one management, but in two cities across the border. So, in the near future, Finnish air traffic controllers in Vantaa may monitor the airspace in both countries, and then take a break, allowing their Estonian counterparts from Lennuliiklusteeninduse AS (Estonian Air Navigation Services company) in Tallinn to take over. And naturally, each country would be able to restore full control over its airspace in case of emergency.

Luojus pointed to the shortcomings of the fragmented European model where, in spite of the small common airspace, each country has its own air traffic control service which increases costs. He suggested that the Finnish-Estonian endeavour can be used by the European Commission as a model for a future Pan-European air traffic control system.

Security concerns

The project has a security dimension, too, as it allows both countries to use the same meteorological data, facilitating the  tracing of aircraft flying over the Gulf of Finland without a transponder. A transponder is a device that indicates the location of a machine. Military aircraft may fly “dark,” meaning the device is switched off, which raises safety concerns. It is not incidental for Russian military planes to fly over the Gulf of Finland without communicating.

Luojus downplayed fears that the planned merger would create redundancies and lead to layoffs. There would be no communication problems, either, he added, because Europe has uniform air traffic control rules and licensing regulations and air traffic control is carried out in English.

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