Aviation is a relatively young industry that has booming continuously since the 1950s. At the end of the last decade, the aviation sector reached its peak and at the beginning of 2020 accounted for 3.6% of the world GDP ($2.7 trillion), supporting 65.5 million jobs around the world. (source: Forbes, April 6, 2020)
Part of the value that aviation provides to the global economy comes from the direct or indirect employment of competent personnel.
The Economic crisis (2007-2009) in Europe changed the industry landscape, focusing on investments and the development of modern technologies. The official policy advocated that ANSPs employ less as the air traffic controllers were seen as high costs and a resource that was not reliable enough to accept the projected high traffic growth. Yet, the need for employing and training the ATSEP (Air Traffic Safety Electronics Personnel) has emerged.
Between 2010 and 2019, world passenger traffic grew by 68.6%, reaching 4 543 million daily flights. The EU traffic increased by 48%, while the number of air traffic controllers remained approximately the same. (source: Statista). ATM delays in the EU have been predominantly caused by ATC capacity and ATC staffing issues, becoming a financial burden for airlines. A decline in air traffic controllers’ working conditions, the cutting down of rights, and requests for increasing the retirement age in the Member states caused ATC industrial actions additionally penalising airlines during the years.
According to Eurocontrol, the total ATM delays and cancellations cost the EU economy €17.6bn in 2017, up by 28% in the next year (2019 delays alone cost the EU €6 bn).
The crisis caused by the 2020 pandemic has shown that some of the basic assumptions do not seem viable in the vision of the future. The expected revenue losses since March 2020 for the years 2020 and 2021 should total close to €8.6 billion, now questioning even the model of financing air navigation services. (source: Eurocontrol, October 2021). Performance Review Body Monitoring Report 2020 presents the data submitted by the Member States for 2020, showing that they reduced their costs by only 4% compared to 2019 actual costs (with 58% traffic decrease in service units).
ANSPs reacted to the crises, reprising the past approach and not managing a social dialogue well enough. As a result, the total number of air traffic controllers has decreased. Even in the year of unprecedently low traffic (European flights in average daily decreased by 55.1% in 2020 compared with 2019), ATC capacity and ATC staffing issues haven’t disappeared and remain one of the main generators of the total ATM delays.
Such a model of managing competencies and the attention given to highly needed and specialised personnel is insufficient to cope with the challenges of the pandemic-caused crises and the recovery period ahead.
Now, more than ever is clear that aviation must re-invent itself. We must be wiser and create a safe platform for sustainable growth and development and ALWAYS have PEOPLE & TECHNOLOGY in view.
“Across the industry, there is consensus that Human Performance will continue to be amongst the most significant critical success factor in the future within the ATM industry.”— CANSO Human Performance Management Working Group, September 2021
ATM TRAINING MARKET
The training and licencing in ATC are to follow a regulatory framework.
On the world level, ICAO plays a central role in laying down recommendations and standard practices. The EU organisations have heavily regulated the EU airspace and licencing for 16800 air traffic controllers.
In 2015 the European Commission enacted the Regulation (EU) 2015/340 toughening requirements for ATCO training. The need for training new and more ATSEP became especially in focus since the European Commission adopted the Regulation (EU) 2017/373 in 2017 derogated until June 2022.
Additionally, emerging new technologies require new knowledge and training for ATCOs, ATSEP and recruits.
In April 2018, ICAO predicted the demand for new ATCOs in the coming years. According to the Forecast, Europe would grow by 2.2%; the Asia-Pacific market was expected to be the highest with 4.5%, while the Middle East region was projected to grow by 3.6%. (Source: ICAO Long Term Forecast 2018, April 2018). We should take these predictions cautiously due to many uncertainties and varying factors.
The main drivers for training market growth in the future are traffic demands, the need for new competencies due to changes in the operational environment, ATCO retirements, and the ever-growing demand for training the ATSEP.
According to the forecast issued by Eurocontrol, recovery to the 2019 traffic levels in Europe could occur as early as 2023 expecting traffic to grow gradually.
In August 2021, flights were back to 71% of 2019 levels across Europe. However, this average conceals a wide variation between countries and between different traffic flows for each country (e.g., Croatia 86%, Slovenia 81%, Spain-Canaries 80%, Netherlands 71%, Ireland 53%, Sweden 54%, Denmark 55%).
Parallelly with the rapid traffic growth in the past five years (>25%), the EU regulators imposed more stringent requirements to harmonise the ATCO training and licensing. Growing traffic needs had required more ATCO resources involved in day-to-day business, making it difficult for ANSPs to meet regulatory training requirements. And the path for a more dynamic and competitive ATCO training market was paved.
In 2019, the global ATC simulation and training market was $472.4 million. Investors are ready to elevate it to $1235.7 million by 2027, expecting a high demand for training globally. And this is just a share of the total global training market revenue. The EU regulators are also preparing a new licencing and training regulation to be implemented in the coming years, already announcing an increase in demand for training of ATCOs, instructors and assessors as a crucial measure for safe and efficient post-pandemic recovery. It is expected that the new regulation will be open to modern digital training technologies.
Rapid growth and investments in the development of modern technologies and system integrations make it hard to anticipate the extent of the need for ATSEP training now and in the future. The global ATM/CNS market (point of sale: Hardware, Software and Services) size is projected to reach $9.45 billion by 2027, exhibiting a CAGR of 6.96% during the forecast period, 2020–2027. In March 2019, it was reported that global airport revenues grew 6.2% to $172.2 billion.
The future looks promising!
If we want to reach levels where we want to be, we must have a clear vision and a mission with a purpose! We must use our Wisdom and act with Integrity. Behind every achievement and success is Learning from past mistakes and Courage. If we want to reach far, we must accept that only Openness to challenges and responding to them is the course to be followed.
Take Off to a better future! It is the right thing to do.
 European Parliament, The impact of the Economic crisis on the EU air transport sector, October 2009 ;  E.g., France – industrial actions causing en-route ATFM delays