European Skies "Safer," Report Says

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Air traffic safety has improved dramatically since ATC-related accidents in Milan and Uberlingen, Germany, according a report issued by the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation (Eurocontrol). The group says the average "level of air traffic safety mechanisms" among the 42 countries whose airspace management systems it represents is now 70 percent, up from 55 percent in 2002, while regulators have lagged behind at 65 percent. It seems like an average of extremes, however, since more than 25 percent of European countries achieved scores above 90 percent. It would then follow that the bottom quarter is somewhere below the 50-percent mark. The Eurocontrol release did not give a country-by-country breakdown of the safety levels. After the runway collision in Milan between a business jet and an airliner and the midair collision that resulted in the Uberlingen crash, Eurocontrol embarked on what it said was an ambitious effort to ramp up safety programs among its members. It set 70 percent as the target minimum and says it's now working to make it the minimum level, rather than the average. “While we are very happy with the progress that has been made over the past four years, we can’t stop there. The 70-percent average score is encouraging, but we would like to see all states grow rapidly to this level," said Dr. Erik Merckx, Deputy Director Air Traffic Management Programmes at Eurocontrol. "The predicted traffic increase in Europe, as well as the accidents occurred this year, clearly shows us that further improvement is still necessary."