Director General EUROCONTROL
My Lord Mayors, Directors General, CEO and Directors, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends of EUROCONTROL’s Brétigny facility: a warm welcome to EUROCONTROL’s Experimental Centre on this special occasion.
Today, you help us celebrate fifty years of the Experimental Centre’s existence: fifty years in which it has played a pivotal role in leading research, development and validation in European air traffic management. We have received excellent presentations on the current research in the past hours and I would like to start by thanking the staff for their dedicated work in presenting the results.
It was over fifty years ago that the far-sighted founders saw the necessity of building a centre for developing and perfecting harmonised European solutions to solve the challenges that a rapidly expanding air transport industry was causing.
The founders’ creation, the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre, was housed – appropriately enough – on a military airfield. Its purpose was always to deliver workable, practical solutions for both civil and military airspace users.
The emphasis has always been on the pragmatic, the affordable and the possible – even with the blue sky research that was carried out. The constant aim has always been to deliver ideas, research and work that could be used.
Since the beginning, the EEC’s main strength has been in its simulations. Over the last fifty years, we have accumulated considerable expertise in this area.
We have carried out many large-scale, real-time simulations that have facilitated countless air traffic management projects and programmes. We combine this expertise with our abilities in research and leading-edge innovation.
Not only did we come up with short-term solutions to time-based issues but we also undertook conceptual research – many elements of which are being applied today.
Another key element in our success over these last fifty years has been our insistence on partnership.
EUROCONTROL not only works for our 41 Member States but also with them. The Experimental Centre does the same.
Maurice Georges, the Director of DSNA in France, will speak to you just now and I feel sure that he will confirm this position.
The EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre did Research and Development and also experimented with new technologies for the Air Traffic Management. But EUROCONTROL was not the only one doing this, each Air Navigation Service Provider did its own Research which led to overlap in Research, as not all innovative ideas had yet been researched by everybody. There is benefit in competition in finding the best solution for the future. There is waste when duplication is done if results are only acceptable when done within the own perimeter’s fence. Coordination in R&D through the SESAR programme is a very successful means of avoiding such duplication and waste. We contribute by building significantly in the Single European Sky Research Programme.
These achievements made have created our reputation. Indeed, on reviewing EUROCONTROL’s strategy at a meeting of our Provisional Council last December, our Member States agreed that EUROCONTROL should continue to play a pivotal role in the research field.
The States also upheld our position as a founding member and influential player in the SESAR Joint Undertaking.
Florian Guillermet, the SESAR Joint Undertaking’s Executive Director, will soon tell you more about the role that we have played as a founder and the largest contributor to the SESAR programme.
With a broad outlook and even balance, the Centre also works in very close cooperation with a variety of other partners, drawn from industry, academia, aviation authorities and air navigation service providers.
Naturally, we also rely on good cooperation with our neighbours – and we are glad to be on excellent terms with our neighbours here in Brétigny-sur-Orge. You will hear more about this from Olivier Leonhardt, Président Coeur d’Essone Agglomération, at first hand just now.
Together with our partners, we have notched up many successes. Pierre Andribet, the Centre’s Head, will tell you about these, but I should like to highlight three of the most important ones.
To start with: simulations, as I said just now, were the raison d’être of the Centre. Over the years, they have become more sophisticated, more complex, more wide-ranging. History was written in this centre when German Civil and Military Air Traffic controllers battled over months on the best concept to choose: co-location or integration. In the end, the integrated model won. For instance, multi-state simulations have been run in the build-up for improving the workings of various FABs or Functional Airspace Blocks.
Secondly, the Centre was deeply involved in the preparation and setting up of the Central Flow Management Unit, which became the Network Manager. As part of this work, it played an important role in establishing the IFPS – one section of which is situated here in Brétigny-sur-Orge.
Finally, working closely with the Network Manager and EUROCONTROL’s operational air traffic control centre in Maastricht has given sharp focus to our work, ensuring that it is rooted in reality.
Our research aims at delivering real value, real results for real world air traffic and flow controllers – across the entire continent of Europe.
Fifty years is as I know out of own experience, a good age to be: it also should show that a degree of maturity has been reached.
But all of us at EUROCONTROL know that the road to success is always under construction.
We are well aware that nothing stops an organisation faster than people who believe that the way they worked yesterday is still the best way to work tomorrow.
Although we are proud of what we have achieved over the last fifty years at the Experimental Centre, new challenges are upon us. For instance, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems will add huge amounts of air traffic to the system: they will have to be dealt with intelligently. And with the increased data exchange and digitalisation cybersecurity just has to become our industry’s watchword.
Their youthful spirit and can-do attitude that have always characterised the Staff of the Experimental Centre I am sure it will serve well over the next fifty years.
I have every confidence that the Centre will continue to handle all the challenges that confront it with the high degree of excellence and expertise that we have come to expect. Thank you to you all joining us here together.
Now, it is my pleasure to hand the floor to Maurice Georges, Director of DSNA, the Direction des services de la navigation aérienne, in France.