NATO/KFOR Re-Opens the Upper Airspace Over Kosovo to Civilian Air Traffic Overflights

22 April 2014

On 3 April 2014, the upper airspace1 over Kosovo was re-opened for civilian traffic overflights. 15 years after the Kosovo crisis, this is a significant step towards aviation normalisation in the Western Balkans. 

The re-opening of the airspace is based on a decision by the North Atlantic Council to accept an offer by the Government of Hungary to act as a technical enabler through its air navigation service provider, HungaroControl Pte. Ltd. In line with UNSCR 1244 and the 1999 Military Technical Agreement, the airspace will remain under NATO/KFOR authority and HungaroControl will act as technical enabler for the provision of air navigation services to the overflying civilian air traffic. 

The reopening of the airspace will lead to shorter flight routes in the region and thus generate significant economies for airspace users in terms of flight efficiency. It is estimated that some 180,000 flights annually will fly 370,000 less nautical miles, resulting in reduced operating costs of € 18 million, approximately 24,000 tons less fuel burned and CO2 emissions reduced by 75,000 tons. 

The reopening would not have been possible without the multinational cooperation taking place within the framework of the NATO-led Balkans Aviation Normalisation Meeting (BANM), and the support of the Government of Hungary, EUROCONTROL and HungaroControl. Several other partners, including the neighbouring states and their air navigation service providers are also essential to the success of this initiative. 

“This has been a key example of regional cooperation”, according to the BANM Chairman, Ludwig Decamps. “I was quite impressed with the constructive approach taken by HungaroControl, all the neighbouring nations and air navigation service providers who have contributed toward the successful re-opening of the airspace over Kosovo. And it is another sign of the excellent relation that we enjoy with EUROCONTROL, promoted by the very close proximity of our headquarters in Brussels.” 

HungaroControl has been highly active in developing all the necessary operational and technical components to assure the safe provision of air navigation services from the company’s Budapest Area Control Centre, with the introduction of unique and innovative solutions for non-adjacent multiple cross-border operations. HungaroControl’s Centre of Research Development and Simulation conducted a number of sophisticated simulations to ensure a smooth and expeditious air traffic flow. “Multiple-cross border operations require high skills and state-of-the-art technology”, says CEO HungaroControl Kornel Szepessy “But besides technology, it is equally important for Hungary and HungaroControl to act as an enabler of the normalisation of the regional air traffic, for the benefit of the whole European Network. The excellent cooperation with regional stakeholders, coordinated by NATO and supported by EUROCONTROL, has allowed overcoming all legal, operational and technical challenges.” 

EUROCONTROL’s engagement has been instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition of air traffic flows and coordinating the establishment of an appropriate cost-base, working closely with all parties and in compliance with EUROCONTROL’s principles for recovering route charges. The EUROCONTROL Network Manager focused on ensuring that disruptions to the air traffic management network would be kept to a minimum. “This south-east axis is a major traffic flow in Europe and it needs to run smoothly. Opening up these five direct routes at the centre of this axis has not only been good for airspace users but the air traffic management network as a whole benefits. For us, this is a significant improvement to the European network,” declared Joe Sultana, Director Network Management in EUROCONTROL. 

 

1 From Flight Level 205 to 660

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