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Graham Lake, Director General - CANSO

Graham Lake, Director General - CANSO

CANSO is a global organization and we certainly have representative members from every part of the world, with a complete geographical spread.

» Interview | Sunday, April 10, 2011 • Air News Times

GQ: What are the main aims and daily activities of your organization?

GL: CANSO is the trade association for Air Navigation Service Providers around the world, CANSO like all trade bodies exists for several key reasons: to provide networking opportunities for a particular business area, in our case   Air Traffic Services, we do this for example by organizing events where members of CANSO can get together and share experiences – we do this on regular basis. Our members talk about the challenges and successes that have been achieved, strategies employed, learning from each other’s activities. This in turn encourages the development of  a number of best practice vehicles, where CANSO provides through networking the process for interest groups to develop. In our case these include areas like safety, environment, operations and institutional issues through specific workshops such as flexible use of airspace, and through conferences.

There is another example, where we have common industry objectives, in this case with the regulators (like ICAO, EASA, EU) or customers (usually the aircraft operators). So we use the CANSO trade association to coordinate joint positions and develop collective views to lobby for our industry.  A good example is the new ANSP performance scheme in Europe, another is the development of metrics in collaboration with ICAO for environmental reporting.

Summarizing, CANSO supports the industry with best practices, networking opportunities for both ANS experts and associate members, to facilitate information exchange and advocacy - lobbying with the policy makers.

The final and highly important segment of our activity is to through our Membership, to set vision for the industry, to answer the question where “do we want the industry to be in the future?”perhaps ten years’ time, or even further out. In order to achieve this, a group of experts met together, to develop a plan and a rationale, what is the vision the industry should pursue, where we are supposed to be, this work has established  the direction for the transformation of our industry.


GQ: What is the world coverage of CANSO members?

GL: CANSO is a global organization and we certainly have representative members from every part of the world, with a complete geographical spread. CANSO Members are collectively responsible for over 85% of the world's airspace but in the same time while we are proud to include many of the world’s largest ANSPs, CANSO Membership accounts for less than half the total number  of ANSP, there are 190 countries that are Members of ICAO for example. CANSO is  very strong, but still needs to get stronger to ensure relevance and true global representation. There are many countries in Africa, South America and Caribbean where we need to be more present and influential, and from which we can learn. For CANSO  we are most focused on  what we can give back to the members. We also have an Associate Member network, which includes technology suppliers, aircraft operators and ATM systems manufacturers, some of the training organizations and consultants. Vital to the success of our industry.


GQ:  What are the changes and challenges CANSO needs to go through?

GL: Let’s talk about the association first. The challenges for the association are making sure that we remain relevant and in order to be relevant we need to deliver visible benefit. Delivering visible benefit takes money and we cannot really ask our members for increased fees. So the first challenge is to generate enough income to make sure we have enough resources to make the changes that the industry and the membership asking us to do.

That is the first challenge, second is to develop a methodology wherein we can properly represent what the industry truly wants, and in order to do that we need to put people together, identify topic, agree on strategy and policy then deliver on that. So we facilitate this development, however it is our members who actually do the work. We work with them  to agree what the direction is and then get them to agree to put resources in making the change. In some ways it is much easier  if a political driver exists in a region, like European Union in Europe for example , which is driving the change with a legal remit. But when we look at  South America or Middle East for example, there is no overarching regulatory body saying ‘you need to do this’, it is therefore a voluntarily process. The changes we have to face now at CANSO are mainly related to new organization development, we are 15 years old and 15 years, CANSO has reached a size and level of maturity that requires a revalidation of our role and objectives.. We are managing the challenges that any quickly growing organization faces, whether structural, organizational or strategic. We always try to think two steps ahead to make sure that we have got ourselves efficiently organized to deliver what is necessary. CANSO Members have set themselves a goal of  transforming ATM performance. Our role is to help that by setting a number of key objectives, which we break down into functional blocks (safety, environment, operations, institutional changes, policy and performance) from which we are able to build work plans.


GQ:  What are the actual key topics that CANSO is working on?

GL:There are many topics on which  we work on in parallel. A good example is best practice guidance. To achieve this we  organize conferences around the world to put the industry experts together and discuss and agree  issues that are relevant to them so e.g. in Europe the debate is currently almost always about the implementing rules of the EU and the reorganization of the role and functions of Eurocontrol.

In the Middle East, we see different priorities of course. What is very relevant to our members is the high traffic growth, about 10-20% per year, far higher than seen in Europe or north America for example. One of our Associate Members is Etihad Airways which was established only eight years ago, yet is rapidly becoming a global player. Emirates too is only 25 years old, and with a fleet of 150 airplanes has  largest wide body fleet in the world. It would have been hard to imagine even ten years ago the reality of traffic growth in this region.

In North America the challenges are quite different, The US and Canada in particular have  a vast airspace system,  the challenges that are faced here are more related to building capacity growth while sustaining the support of a large proportion of global air transport. CANSO’s role here is to support international coordination and understanding. Whether with Asia, Europe, South America, Africa or the Middle East. So CANSO for North America is another bridge to permit coordination with other parts of the world. So the issues that we work on at CANSO are by definition very regionally focused. And yet many have global consequences for a seamless and harmonized system. Environmental metric is a good example as I mentioned earlier. But so too are Safety Management Systems guidelines, and operations guidelines for safety related issues like the ATAM role in stabilized approaches, which if not properly managed can lead tot runway excursions. There are many other examples of our work that has global context; phraseology for specific phases of flight, new flight plan formats, AIS to AIM. The industry has rule makes that define what we should be doing, CANSO’s role is to help build an understanding, through use of member expertise and best practice, how to achieve successful implementation. So you see that CANSO helps to  develop the guidelines to the rule makers to show them what to do.


GQ:  What is the role of CANSO at Single European Sky implementation? Are you actively involved in the topic or is that mainly Eurocontrol’s responsibility?

GL: CANSO is very heavily involved in the SES of course. We have Air Navigation Services Board for example that meets under umbrella of CANSO. In fact there are a whole range of activities. CANSO has a Brussels office staffed specifically to assist in developing formal opinions on implementing rules and on proposals from the EU such as performance scheme, the restructure of Eurocontrol, and some aspects of the EASA regulation work. The aim of doing that is to provide our members with information, we might suggest the position to take and then we try to gather opinion on that position and moderate it based on what we learn. Then normally after only a  week or two, , we develop the CANSO view CANSO relies on its members to manage within their organizations how implementation t happens. If you like what we see here is a  top-down approach to the direction that our industry is taking in Europe, but it also affects the bottom-up of course,  because through this same process we are able to provide guidelines and common positions on implementation. So summarizing, yes! CANSO is very deeply involved.


GQ:  What is your vision of the aviation future? How the industry will look like?

GL: The CANSO vision for the future of ATM is for a seamless air navigation system that is operating efficiently, safely and transparently. This translates into a global service that is provided consistently, safely and efficiently.. To understand what I mean, let’s take a look again at Emirates Airlines: their aircraft flies from Dubai to Sao Paulo in Brazil and return. The route takes the aircraft across Africa, South America and South Atlantic. The next day, the same aircraft is back in Dubai, the following day, it might travel to Japan, crossing India and China. The next trip could just as easily be to Johannesburg, London or Los Angeles. The aircraft and crews are employees of one company and required to operate all over the world. Yet procedures and operating requirements, not to mention charging regimes, in different countries often vary widely.

We need to harmonize the systems globally, to improve efficiency, safety and reliability. Our world has advanced and it needs to be seamless, consistent, efficient and of course safe.


GQ:  What is the main reason of air traffic congestion that is being discussed nervously again before summer?

GL: There are many reasons for congestion, not enough runways at busy airports, noise curfews, fragmented airspace, inefficient or outdated technology, weak and inefficient regulation and so on. One key problem though is that airspace is often divided between civilian and military users, with each having exclusive use of its piece.

We need to find ways to ensure that airspace is shared between users based on demand and other needs more efficiently and effectively than today. This is not as simple as it may seem. Often such sharing requires collaboration between differing government ministries (Transport and Defense). Sharing needs understanding, which of course takes time to develop. CANSO is working hard to address these and many other congestion related matters.


GQ:  What is the solution to solve or minimize the congestion problem?

GL: Quantifying the issues into understandable points.

A good example is London’s Heathrow Airport, which as we all know is one of the most seriously congested airports in the world. But what do we mean by congestion? Car Parks, access roads, terminals, runways, airspace…?

The reality is that Heathrow has only two runways, which in turn are limited by safety, physical and noise curfew aspects to handling a maximum number of aircraft in a day. Yet London also has two runways at Gatwick (only one of which can be used at any one time), plus a single runway each at Stansted, Luton and London City.

Amsterdam has the same number of runways at one airport as London has in five airports!

Imagine how much simpler London Airspace would be if four more runways were added to Heathrow and the other London Airports closed!!

So you see perhaps now that the issue is a political one first and foremost, and that congestion is often a consequence of political decisions.

But key is education, helping politicians and the public understand why things are the way they are, and finding solutions that help to mitigate the negative consequences.

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