ALENIA AND AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL SERVICE LAUNCH NEW FLIGHT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
The second test for launching the new system of the United Centre for Air Traffic Management at the Air Traffic Control Service appeared successful. On March 1, Bulgaria's Vice Premier Nikolay Vassilev told the BANKER weekly that the system tests had been completed successfully and that it would be officially launched on March 8.The conclusion of the project totaling EUR29.6MN and entrusted to the Italian Alenia Marconi Systems company is planned for the end of the current year. In the ten months to come, the Italians will have to add to the system the extra services they promised in the agreement. From the very start of April the new equipment will be working in real time simultaneously with the old system which will keep running the air traffic above the country by year-end. In turn, the Bulgarian government will have to organize a regional centre for management of the air traffic on the Balkans which in fact is the purpose for modernization of the equipment. The previous attempt to launch the new equipment was carried out in the end of 2002. However, it appeared unsuccessful. In the following year until the new tests began, the Italians were unable to reach an agreement with the Ministry of Transport (at that time Plamen Petrov was transport minister). The problem came mainly from the fact that a great part of the system's capacity was too old and was not acknowledged by the international aeronautical organisations. As a matter of fact, they were in fashion in 2000, when the agreement with Alenia was signed. Of course, the experts in the Air Traffic Control Service wanted modern versions, but for them the Italians requested more money. So, two groups were formed within the state-owned company - one supporting the Italians and another one against them.Eventually, though, debates had to be solved on a governmental level and the newly-appointed Transport Minister Nikolay Vassilev took the task upon himself. For about one month since he took the ministry at the end of August, the Vice Premier reached an agreement with the Italians and tests were started as soon as early November.Half a month later, Vassilev surprisingly removed four of the key experts in the control service from the project. Those experts had been working along with Alenia on the introduction of the system. The Minister accused them of attempting sabotage. One of them was Alexander Krustev, Deputy General Manager of the state-owned company. Still, instead of being fired, the four were only moved to lower positions. Well-informed sources claim that as a result, Alexander Krustev went to the other side of the barricade and started to work with the Italians quite well.