The CANSO AGM – Once more unto the beach, dear friends

Last week the great and the good of the ANSPs gathered in San Diego for CANSO’s AGM.  Social events included a beach party at an artificial beach area, complete with a huge pool with a wave machine.  The wave machine was pumping, the analogy machine nearly went into melt down: riding the waves of change; wipe-out; you can imagine the rest.

Boeing’s chief economist made a very interesting presentation that did not fit with the wave line at all.  Flat is the new up, she said.  No surfing analogies there.

On cue, sure enough, the IATA crie du couer also resonated around San Diego.  One of the curious things about CANSO is its fascination with IATA.  Jeff Poole gave his usual speech, ending with a quote from a book on the battle of Agincourt.  True to the keeping of Chairman Mao, one of IATA’s strategies is clear – close to friends and closer still to enemies.  What does the battle of Agincourt teach us about which is which?  You be the judge.

Even as CANSO itself is starting to realise the importance of the regions, and to establish regional offices, including a new Middle Eastern office, agreed at the AGM, IATA still sits at the head table.  IATA’s members’ share of the traffic falls year on year, regional groupings become more important, but somehow, IATA is always welcome at a CANSO meeting.

It is not like the affair is reciprocated.  Every year at the IATA AGM, the Eagle Awards are handed out to the best behaved monopolistic service providers.  One of the ATM IATA Eagle Awards, the one for the ANSP with the neatest handwriting (or something like that), went to the ANSP from Vietnam.  Not a CANSO member; as was obvious from the sniffy CANSO press release.  It praised the other winners, Singapore (best and fairest) and Bulgaria (best homework); members to a fault, but ignored Vietnam completely.

CANSO inaugurated an operations standing committee, to give ANSPs a united voice in operational matters.  This is a positive step for CANSO and, assuming they can find consensus on the various issues, will give ANSPs a much better voice at the table.

There was also a very strong stress on the growing need for performance measurement and performance based management.  This rather begs the question of what alternatives there might be to managing by performance.  Whatever they are, apparently they are currently in action.

The more important point is not management but charging on the basis of performance.  The new approach is performance based remuneration.  The alternative to that is clear: cost recovery regardless of performance.  Its supporters argue that with cost recovery long term planning is more secure, safety never compromised, stability guaranteed.  This was debated, literally, in San Diego.  As with all good debates, there are arguments on both sides.  This is an area that needs considerable further thought.

But, the big news at the CANSO AGM was the announcement of the resignation of Alexander ter Kuile, the Secretary General.  He will not seek a renewal of his third three year contract at the end of the year.  Given the development and growth of the organisation in the 9 years he has lead it, finding a replacement to walk in those shoes will be an interesting task.

Perhaps the best solution is to find someone keen on a pre-emptive reform programme.  With the challenges around, now is not the time for a safe pair of hands.  For CANSO to continue to grow, it will need to take some bold decisions.

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