All eyes on the future
In just a couple of years’ time, skeyes has been turned into a financially healthy company again. That is why it was able to invest in technological equipment and restart its hiring process. The 2018 annual report clearly illustrates that the policy of the past few years pays off.
June 5, 2019
Since 2014 skeyes has been setting things right financially, among other things thanks to the third management contract with the federal government. With the resulting financial margin the company was again able to invest in procedures and systems that guarantee the safety of air traffic and the continuity of service provision.
After the recruitment freeze that lasted a couple of years, the company started hiring the necessary new staff in various services. Especially the CANAC air traffic control centre lagged behind in that field. Air traffic controllers have a long training ahead of them and they first need to gain experience in one of the tower units, which is why the recruitment wave that started back then, was only noticeable since last year. That puts an end to some difficult years, in the towers as well as in CANAC.
The social agreements dating from 22 March and 10 May of this year, which are currently being elaborated between management and trade unions on the organisation of the operational activities, ensure the continuity of service provision on the one hand and a better work/life balance for all skeyes staff on the other hand. That way, the company will have gone through a modernisation and professionalization in all its activity domains in a couple of years’ time.
CEO Johan Decuyper: "Thanks to the dedication of everyone in this company we have been able to completely turn around the difficult situation in the beginning of the decennium. skeyes is a financially healthy company again, with an excellent service provision. We are among the top players in Europe. We will hold that position by continuing to innovate, to invest in technology and to create an interesting and workable environment for all our staff. That way we are ready to face the competition in an international environment."
2018: the year of growth
The 2018 figures are in line with the good results of the preceding years. Most indicators are set on growth.
skeyes managed a total of 1,101,145 flight movements during 2018 in all airports and for en-route traffic. That represents a 2.4% increase compared to 2017. CANAC even set a record and for the first time exceeded the 600,000 movement threshold (612.138).
98,3% of flights was not delayed at all. That is the second-best score in Europe; first place goes to LVNL (the Netherlands). The general average delay amounted to 6.6 seconds per en-route flight. At Brussels Airport the average delay per flight was 51 seconds, at Charleroi 4.8 seconds, at Antwerp 1.2 seconds, at Liège 6 seconds and at Ostend 0.6 seconds.
In the field of safety skeyes has again set a new record: a total of 4 incidents occurred for which skeyes was at least partially responsible. With 1 category A incident (serious) and 3 category B incidents (major) skeyes matches the 2017 figures. But if the growth of air traffic is brought into the equation, 2018 was a safer year than 2017 in relative terms. In total there are 3.63 category A and B incidents in one million movements.
Just like the total number of controlled flight movements the skeyes turnover increased by 2.4% to 240.4 million euro in 2018. This turnover growth is the result of both the en-route and the terminal service provision. The en-route turnover represents 72% of total turnover and it increased thanks to the higher traffic levels and in spite of the lower tariff rate agreed upon with the European Commission. The terminal service provision represents 26% of turnover. Profit (16.7 million euro) is lower than in 2017, especially as a result from the increase in costs for recruitments and investments. skeyes has invested a total amount of 20.6 million euro in 2018.
The number of skeyes staff grew to 872 in 2018 (compared to 845 in 2017): 76 new staff members joined the ranks. 27 air traffic controllers completed their training and entered into service, 28 other candidate air traffic controllers have commenced their training.
The past couple of years skeyes has already been investing close to 100 million euro in technological systems according to plan. In 2018 the lion’s share of the investments flowed to CANAC. The Eurocat system, which forms the main platform of the air traffic control centre, underwent a complete update. After a thorough preparation all working stations were replaced in one night’s time and transferred to the new system, without any impact on air traffic. A truly amazing feat that can be compared to open heart surgery.
Still in CANAC, the working stations that served as training modules and where from the end of this year the military air traffic controllers will become operational, have been transferred to a newly equipped room, called Phoenix. That has created more training stations and increased the training capacity significantly.
skeyes continues to focus on the airports’ navigation systems. By now 70% of the runways in Belgium has been equipped with satellite navigation (Performance Based Navigation). It is more accurate and improves the airports’ accessibility. However, that does not mean that the ‘traditional‘ navigation beacons are not being updated. In 2018 the BUB beacon at Brussels Airport was replaced.
Following a decision of the European Commission to reduce the channel spacing between two frequencies that are reserved for aviation from 25kHz to 8,33kHz, skeyes replaced its whole radio park. Nearly 400 posts at 18 different sites are involved.
Drone use is on the rise in our society, and they claim their place in the airspace. skeyes is preparing to take up its role as air traffic controller for unmanned air traffic, which is why the company is involved in various drone initiatives.
Before the end of this year an improved version of the droneguide app will be launched. It has been developed by skeyes and the FPS for Mobility and Transport and will allow professional drone users to manage their flights completely online.
SAFIR, a project that received support of the European Commission, researches how a broad range of drone operations can be integrated in the air traffic of a complex urban and industrial environment. To that end, skeyes collaborates with 12 other partners, among which Amazon Prime Air, Unifly and the Port of Antwerp.
In 2018 the ‘Helicus Aero Initiative’ was born. Under the header of Medrona this initiative wants to use drones for transporting medical supplies between hospitals, their laboratories and pharmacies.
skeyes also has its own spot at Droneport, a campus in Sint-Truiden that was inaugurated last year and that houses tech companies which specialize in manned and unmanned aviation.
Within a few years, the first digital control tower will be installed in our country to guide air traffic at the airports of Liège and Charleroi, initially for contingency reasons. skeyes and SOWAER cooperate to develop a project for that. It will meet the growing needs of the Walloon airports and support their development. With digital towers the air traffic can be managed from a distance thanks to new technologies and state-of-the-art cameras.
Both for its operations and its own functioning skeyes pays attention to its environmental footprint.
The green landings (Continuous Descent Operations) are applied as much as possible. In 2018 a total of 71.9% of all landings at the airports of Brussels, Liège and Charleroi was carried out using CDO.
skeyes, Brussels Airport, Brussels Airlines, TUI Fly and DHL Express have joined hands in a project of Collaborative Environmental Management in order to further limit the environmental impact of airport activities. They do that by sharing experiences, coming up with new operational concepts and for example optimizing green landings and de-icing operations.
skeyes closely collaborates with the renewable energy sector so as to install as many wind turbines as possible without jeopardizing the safety of air traffic. In 2018 skeyes received 351 requests for advice to install new wind turbines. 244 of them have already been given the green light.
The batc.be website that informs local residents and interested parties on the activities at Brussels Airport underwent a metamorphosis. From now on, visitors can find real-time data on runway use, weather conditions and forecasts, radar tracks, noise measurements and numerous statistics.
On 3 September Entry Point North Belgium, a joint venture between skeyes and Entry Point North, became operational. Entry Point North is a world leader in air navigation training courses. Thanks to the joint venture, all skeyes training courses can take place at the company’s own site in Steenokkerzeel again and it increases the capacity of training courses as well.
Preparations for the arrival of the military air traffic controllers at the site in Steenokkerzeel were in full swing in 2018. Late 2019 the colleagues of Defence shall be able to relocate definitively.
In 2018 an agreement was signed between skeyes, Defense and EUROCONTROL in order to work together on the Shared Air Traffic Management System SAS3. The common air traffic management system that the 3 organisations would want to use as from 2024, will meet the challenges in the field of capacity and cost efficiency of the Belgian airspace and it would serve as a fall-back system to further ensure air traffic control in case one of the sites providing technical services should malfunction.
The vision and strategy that are the driving force behind skeyes’ innovation are summarized in the phrase ‘We will bring the most safe, sustainable and unique experience to every single airspace user”. Last year, the renewal operation resulted in a new corporate identity. The icing on the cake was our new name skeyes, which is now already well established. That operation was accompanied by a video campaign on social media outlining the history of the past 20 years on the one hand, but also showing where the future of the company lies on the other hand.
Johan Decuyper: "We have different challenges coming our way. Not in the least new European regulation that is based on a liberalisation of air traffic control. Competition will only get tougher. The efforts we have been making the past years have all been focused on one goal: to be able to organise air traffic control in our own country in the future as well. The figures prove that we have the know-how, the experience and especially the people to do that. Now we also possess the technology and the systems of the future."