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Brussels, 29 September 2005

Air Safety: Commission and Eurocontrol to discuss future air traffic system

European Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik and senior Eurocontrol officials are meeting in Brussels today to discuss the needs for future air traffic management research in the next European research framework programme (2007-2013). The Commission is proposing the allocation of significant resources from the Seventh Framework Programme for the research component of a full scale Europe-wide Air Traffic Management system that will support the Commission’s Single European Sky Initiative. Sound air traffic management is a major element in ensuring the continued safety of Europe’s air travellers.

“It is clear that for the rapid growth in air travel to be safe, a drastic change in the way traffic is managed in the skies above Europe must take place”, said European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potočnik. “So we need to invest in the technologies that will make this happen. More research investment in the future will give us the opportunity to leap forward in this critical area.”

The European Commission, in cooperation with Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, is already making strides in improving air traffic safety in Europe. In fact 80% of current European Air Traffic management (ATM) research is funded by collaborative Eurocontrol - European Commission activities. However, despite exponential increases in air traffic over the past decade, annual European technology investment in this area has been relatively stable since 1996. In the current Commission research framework programme (2002-2006), €150m has been set aside to fund ATM research. The Commission and Eurocontrol are currently working together in a number of areas to help increase air safety. Examples are:

  • The OPTIMAL project, developing innovative procedures for safer approach and landing of aircraft at airports that are increasingly capacity constrained and in low visibility conditions.
  • The MA-AFAS project, developing ways to help planes to, in effect, talk to each other so that pressure can be taken off the already overwhelmed air traffic control systems, thus increasing the autonomy of individual aircraft.

While current research is finding ways to cope safely in the today’s fragmented air traffic system, it is not enough, especially in view of the Single European Sky initiative which will lead to a fundamental change in ATM in Europe. A future single European Air Traffic Management infrastructure, called SESAME, has been proposed by Vice-President Barrot, Commissioner for Transport. SeESAME would fully coordinate airspace users, operators and the supply industry and bring together the regulatory framework, funding sources, and implementing actors across Europe.

ACARE, the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe, has proposed in its “Strategic Research Agenda” that SESAME’s research component be supported in the Commission’s next research framework programme (FP7).


The European Commission became a member of Eurocontrol in 2002. The signature of a Memorandum of Co-operation between the EC and Eurocontrol took place in 2003. It aims at enhancing co-operation in five areas, including the implementation of the Single European Sky and R&D. The European Commission has also mandated Eurocontrol to implement functions and define operational concepts on its behalf.

The Single European Sky will fundamentally change Air Traffic Management in Europe. There will be a clearer definition of the roles of the different actors, including regulators, providers and the supply industry in implementing an “overall quality process” leading to “certification”, where the new European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will take the lead in developing a European infrastructure (along the lines of Galileo) or a single ATM system. This Single European Sky Implementation Programme (SESAME) is a dedicated, large-scale industrial programme bringing together airspace users, operators and supply industry, and covering the regulatory framework, funding sources, and implementation forces. In its first phase, it will deliver a European ATM Master Plan. This ATM Master Plan will also cover the ATM Research plan for the short and mid term.

For more information on the European Single Sky Initiative: IP/05/729

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