Arndt Schoenemann
It’s always great to catch up with Arndt Schoenemann, CEO, DFS to understand some of the latest priorities within his organisation. During Airspace World we addressed three topics – civil/military integration, resilience and the MAKAN programme. These topics all showcase new ways of working together with the possibilities to promote a more nimble or agile way of working going forward.

Civil/military integration

Starting with civil/military integration, this isn’t a new topic. In Germany, air traffic control has been provided from a single source, for civil and military air traffic since 1993 enabling flexible and dynamic use of airspace. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, the civil/military cooperation in Germany, has been heightened, strengthening this relationship to allow for a very fast response time for military airspace requirements. Previously, we highlighted this expedited response time for NATO partners when they needed to conduct extensive military flight operations through German airspace. This support is always addressed with the goal of maintaining the minimal impact to civilian aircraft routes. If fact, today there are non-uniformed military ATCOs working alongside civilian ATCOs in the DFS facilities in Langen, Germany. This example highlights the close collaboration across these constituencies.

This coming summer, Germany will host the Air Defender 2023 NATO exercise. From the 12th to the 23rd of June, a huge NATO maneuver will take place mainly over Germany in the airspace controlled by DFS and MUAC. There will be three designated airspaces over Schleswig/Hohn, Wunstorf and Lechfeld which will be supported with dedicated corridors for military air traffic. This exercise has been in planning since before the start of the Ukraine war, so it is not a direct result of that situation. It will be the largest exercise with NATO of its kind requiring airspace to be closed with only 30 minutes notice as military flights need to traverse specific corridors.

The German Ministry of Defense has released information on Air Defender 2023 stating that about 200 aircraft will be involved. One hundred of these will come from the US. The exercise is expected to bring together 18 nations who will collectively deploy up to 10,000 personnel. This international air defense exercise will practice the relocation of aircraft and air warfare operations. The training will be purely defensive for allied forces and is being led by a General from Germany.


ANSPs continue to struggle with financing following the pandemic and there are some questions to consider about how ANSPs are funded/earn revenue. The model in Europe is very different than that in the US. In the US, the FAA is a federally funded organisation, whereas in Europe ANSPs need to earn their funding like any other private enterprise. The question is whether or not there’s a middle ground?

Should we consider ANSPs critical infrastructure? There’s a certain level of functionality that must be maintained to ensure that adequate infrastructure is working, the same as the power grid for example. Might we consider in the future that a portion of ANSP costs, the maintenance of their systems, for example, be funded in the same fashion as critical infrastructure? This would account for about 25% of total ANSP costs and would ensure that emergency airspace would always be open.

This is an interesting discussion point and I’m intrigued to hear where this might go in the future.


In November, 2022 DFS and MUAC signed an agreement to further harmonise air navigation services for upper airspace. This agreement begins with these two organisations, but other ANSPs in the region could also join in the future if they are interested in doing so. The project brings together processes, procedures, and technology to promote an improvements in safety, airspace capacity and to reduce environmental impact.

The Cooperative Optimization of Boundaries, Routes and Airspace (COBRA) project, which implemented the use of free route airspace in control centres in Kalrsruhe and Langen, Germany and Maastricht, the Netherlands. First results have already been realised with a reduction of delay and CO2 emissions, while increasing capacity.

Schoenemann shared his view of how we continue move in a more agile way in our industry, “Safety is without compromise in our industry, but ANSPs like to talk, more than do. This needs to change for our industry to move more quickly to implement new technologies.”