The new approach Belgocontrol has introduced since 2014 has increasingly improved the company’s financial and operational results over the previous years. Thanks to the new strategic vision, a financially-sound policy, a forward-looking personnel policy, targeted investments in infrastructure and structural changes in the company’s functioning, the national air navigation service provider has made the transition to a healthy company that plays a vital role in an international competitive environment. Belgocontrol proceeds along this path in order to continue to ensure its future.
Out of the red
In 2017 as well, Belgocontrol made a profit. Admittedly, it has decreased to 22.5 million euro compared to 2016 (26.4 million euro), but that number can amongst other reasons be explained by the many investments that have been made in the past year: of the 97 million euro that Belgocontrol is planning to invest between 2014 and 2019, 20.2 million was spent in 2017. The most important investment amounts went to a new radar in Florennes for monitoring air traffic around the airports of Charleroi and Florennes (common project with SOWAER and Defence), the A-SMGCS (Advanced-Surface Movement Guidance and Control System) in Liège and Charleroi that visualizes the traffic at the airport, the ILS (Instrument Landing System) in Liège allowing to increase runway availability and the upgrade of the Eurocat system that generates all data that is displayed on the air traffic controllers’ screens.
Furthermore, Belgocontrol further decreased the Determined Unit Cost (unit cost for en-route air navigation services) in accordance with the agreements made (from 60.95 euro in 2016 to 60.04 euro in 2017). That has had a major impact on revenues because the en-route traffic makes up the lion’s share of the total amount of movements.
Structurally 1 July 2017 was a milestone for Belgocontrol: the company managed to completely wipe out its historic losses once and for all. In 2014, nearly 60 million euro worth of loss carried forward still weighed heavily on the company. That amount has been systematically reduced over the past couple of years. Since 2016 the remaining 8.8 million euro loss has been eliminated.
Last year, staff recruitment continued its significant catching-up process. In 2017 there were 82 new colleagues who joined the company; 32 candidate air traffic controllers started their training; 10 of their predecessors finished training and actually started their job as air traffic controllers.
In total the air traffic controllers managed 1,075,535 movements last year, which includes overflying air traffic as well as traffic from and to the five airports. That means a 3.3% increase compared to 2016. The CANAC2 air traffic control centre managed the majority of those movements (593,191 or +4.9%). The airport figures can be broken down as follows: Brussels Airport 237,888 (+6.4%), Charleroi 92,241 (+1.5%), Antwerp 55,020 (-5.6%), Liège 54,962 (-2.8%) and Ostend 42,233 (-8.3%). The decrease at the regional airports was of course the result of the drop in the number of movements after it had increased substantially in 2016 after the attacks on Brussels Airport.
In the field of safety Belgocontrol achieved its second best result ever: last year 1 category A incident (severe) took place for which Belgocontrol was responsible and 3 category B incidents (major). The all-time record was set in 2016, the year in which not a single category A or B incident happened.
Belgocontrol performs very well in the field of punctuality. For the en-route traffic the national air navigation service provider even achieved the lowest average within FABEC. The average en-route delay in 2017 caused by factors over which air traffic control can have a direct influence (the so-called CRSTMP causes) hardly amounted to 0.09 minutes per flight (or 5.4 seconds). At Brussels Airport the average delay per flight was 0.14 minutes (or 8.4 seconds), in Charleroi 0.05 minutes (or 3 seconds), in Liège 0.02 minutes (or 1.2 seconds), and in Antwerp and Ostend there wasn’t even any delay for causes over which air traffic control can have a direct influence.
Ecology and economy
Belgocontrol is very conscious about its societal role in various domains.
At the airports of Brussels, Liège and Charleroi, procedures have already been introduced for environmentally friendly CDO landings (Continuous Descent Operations). That type of landings is applied in 73.2% of cases (77.6% at Brussels Airport, 70.9% at Liège and 58.1% at Charleroi). CDO can only be applied if the circumstances (capacity, weather,…) allow it.
The opinion procedures regarding requests to erect wind turbines have become much more customer-friendly. The principals can in advance verify on an online map whether it is possible to install wind turbines in the zone that they envisaged. Those zones are indicated by Belgocontrol based on the impact that wind turbines have there on air traffic control.
In 2017 Belgocontrol received 315 new opinion requests for the construction of wind turbines. That is an 81% increase compared to 2016. Among those 240 have already received a positive opinion. The rest of the cases are still being investigated (39), have been refused for safety reasons (26) or have been withdrawn by the applicant (10).
Belgocontrol is fully aware of the economic importance of the drone sector and wishes to support it as much as possible. The only condition is obviously that the safety of air traffic is not compromised in the least. In order to inform all drone users on the applicable regulation, Belgocontrol launched the website droneguide.be together with the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority of the Federal Public Service for Mobility and Transport. The website has been online since the beginning of 2018. In the near future a mobile app for private users will be launched and after that, an app for professional users will be developed, each boasting their own specific applications.
The new Belgocontrol corporate strategy consists of three axes and is aimed at further increasing the company’s customer-friendliness: partner with our customers, partner with our people and build a future-proof company. The axes are specifically applied in all aspects of its activities.
Partner with our people mainly translates into investing in infrastructure and systems and recruiting new staff, both of which have already been mentioned above.
Build a future-proof company is noticeable from the attention that Belgocontrol pays to developments in the ecological and economic framework (CDO, wind energy, drones,…).
Partner with our customers obviously refers to customer-friendliness which is our company’s banner. Belgocontrol continues to be firmly committed to co-operating with customers, stakeholders and other partners who can support Belgocontrol in achieving its targets.
One of the highlights in 2017 was the creation of Entry Point North Belgium. The world-renowned training institute for air traffic controllers entered into a joint venture with Belgocontrol and is creating a training centre at the site of Steenokkerzeel. Besides training courses for air traffic controllers, it will also provide technical and other training courses that will all be open to external companies as well.
At the airport of Courtrai-Wevelgem Belgocontrol delivered a real feat by fully implementing the action plan for providing air navigation services in only 9 months’ time. Since November AFISOs (Aerodrome Flight Information Service Officers) are managing IFR flights there, breathing new life into the airport.
As in the case of the agreement with DFS for Liège and with DSNA for Charleroi to guarantee business continuity, a similar agreement was concluded in 2017 with NATS for the airport of Ostend.
Last year the Minister for Mobility, François Bellot, and the Minister of Defence, Steven Vandeput, concluded a protocol of agreement on the co-localization of civil and military air traffic controllers on the Belgocontrol site in Steenokkerzeel. Thanks to that agreement, Defence and Belgocontrol can proceed to bringing their services together under the same roof. That process should be completed by the end of 2019.
The close collaboration with the Luxembourg air navigation service provider ANA-Lux will be intensified. That will imply exchanging information on e.g. green landings and satellite navigation procedures.
Belgocontrol is once again relevant on the international stage. That is clearly demonstrated by the presidency of the company’s CEO, Johan Decuyper, of FABEC, the functional airspace block in the framework of the Single European Sky that comprises Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France and Switzerland. For the first time, a Belgian is president of the FABEC-ANSP Strategic Board (meeting of CEOs). Belgocontrol plays an active role within the organisation and in the Single European Airspace, which will also have a positive influence on the whole aeronautical sector in Belgium.
According to CEO Johan Decuyper, Belgocontrol has every reason to feel proud:
“The efforts we made over the last few years have clearly begun to bear fruit, as our annual reports neatly demonstrate. All that we have accomplished is the result of teamwork: every single Belgocontrol staff member contributed to that success. That is why we can be very proud of the results we have achieved, but also of our company, which has made its comeback after some difficult years. And that in the year in which we celebrate our twentieth birthday!”
Johan Decuyper, Belgocontrol CEO
Renaud Lorand, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Belgocontrol