A Functional Airspace Block is "an airspace block based on operational requirements (such as safety, capacity, cost), reflecting the need to ensure more integrated management of the airspace regardless of existing national boundaries" (Source: Regulation (EC) No. 549/2004).
A FAB is the means of providing a more rational organisation of airspace, by integration of airspace portions irrespective of territorial boundaries. FABs reduce environmental impact, improve capacity, and lower air traffic services costs, while enhancing safety.
BLUE MED is a regional project for the implementation of the Single European Sky (SES). It is a joint feasibility study for the establishment of Functional Airspace Blocks over the Mediterranean Area, conducted by a consortium of Air Navigation Service Providers (ENAV, Italy; DCAC, Cyprus; HCAA, Greece; MATS, Malta) with the support of EUROCONTROL and the contribution of the Italian Research Centre Advanced Systems for Air Traffic Control (SICTA) and regional universities. The Air Navigation Service Providers of Egypt (NANSC), Tunisia (OACA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Albania also participate as associated partners; the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan takes part as observer.
The BLUE MED approach is based on the "Virtual Centre" concept, i.e. a group of Area Control Centres remotely located, but interconnected and interoperating as a single centre, operated by several ANSPs. Common procedures and standardised training will provide seamless uniform service to the user, improving the overall performances. This model limits the social and political impact compared with the creation of a single Area Control Centre for a wide, over-national area. It has been chosen in order to ensure swift success of the SES implementation over the area.
A TEN-T (Trans-European Network-Transport) grant of 1 Million Euros from the European Commission was allocated for the feasibility study phase of BLUE MED covering 50% of the project costs. The remaining part was provided by the BLUE MED participating ANSPs.
Higher efficiency, increased capacity, cost reduction for both air navigation service providers and airspace users, increased levels of safety and environmental benefits resulting from the more direct routes. The BLUE MED project will define its own Key Performance Indicators mapping the SESAR Key Performance Areas that will be assessed in the Cost Benefit Analysis.
One of the major activities for FAB creation is the redesign of airspace, allowing for more efficient aircraft trajectories, in order to reach the expected benefits. Military air forces in Europe have their own requirements on airspace use so as to conduct training and other activities which shall be met in accordance with the SES legislation. FAB implementation requires strict cooperation between civil and military airspace users to ensure that military requirements are satisfied in a re-designed route network. It is believed that this will be greatly facilitated by the implementation of the relevant EU regulation on the Flexible Use of Airspace. The BLUE MED project has a specific Work Package dedicated to Civil Military cooperation, while national military representatives from participating countries are represented both at project management and working level.
The Single European Sky implementation represents a substantial revolution in the way the European ATM will be performed in the near future. As with any major change, it is likely that FAB creation will have an impact on staff, with regards to training, working conditions and procedures. The BLUE MED model, based on the concept of a Virtual Centre, aims to reach the SES efficiency targets while minimising the social impact by maintaining the ACC location and fostering interoperability and seamless operations.