EESC vice-president Jacek Krawczyk has warned that European airlines may go bust if innovation in aviation technology does not speed up, adding his voice to the chorus of industry stakeholders calling for implementation and adequate funding of SESAR, a technological pillar of the EU's Single European Sky initiative aimed at modernising air traffic management.
The warning came at a conference on flying test beds for novel aircraft configurations which was held today by the European Commission.
"SESAR must provide concrete solutions as soon as possible, as the sector's economic situation is difficult and stakeholders are becoming impatient. Only a handful of European airlines might actually survive the current consolidation process", said Mr Krawczyk.
The SESAR Joint Undertaking's aim is to modernise European air traffic management by coordinating all R&D efforts in the area. This in turn would help to increase capacity, improve safety, make aviation greener and reduce costs.
The current year is widely seen as critical for civil aviation in Europe, with business models under pressure, dwindling profit margins and discussions on the Emission Trading Scheme adding to uncertainty regarding the global competitiveness of European aviation.
"Financing is the crucial question", said Mr Krawczyk, referring to ongoing negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council over an EUR 3 billion budget proposed for the 2014-2024 period.
Conscious of the intense jostling for EU funding, Mr Krawczyk called for better communication on the tangible benefits that SESAR would bring to every citizen. "Aviation R&D is in competition with other EU flagship programmes. Large sections of the public are unaware of the importance of SESAR, which may hinder its cause in budgetary negotiations", he said.