Pierre Andribet

Pierre Andribet

Head of EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre

Messieurs les Maires, Messieurs les Directeurs généraux et Directeurs, chers invités, chers collègues, je vous remercie pour votre présence à cet évènement si important dans la vie du Centre Expérimental.

I hope you were able to visit the various demonstrations that we organised today – that you could see for yourselves what the Experimental Centre delivers.

You will have seen that we do is pragmatic; that we bring genuine solutions to the very real problems faced by aviation in Europe.

For over fifty years now, this kind of work has characterised the EEC. We bring expertise, enthusiasm and determination to everything we do – and we have always done so.

At the beginning in the early 60s, the advent of the first jet aircraft brought serious challenges to air transport.

These aircraft flew much faster than the old propeller aircraft did. And they flew at an altitude of over 8,000m – airspace that until then had only been used by the military.

To address this challenge, a modern air traffic control system needed to be invented, and the founders of EUROCONTROL, led by René Bulin, saw that it was imperative to define a common solution for Europe.

They also realised that a shared centre of expertise was needed to develop and validate this solution.

So, our Experimental Centre was formed.

It was inaugurated in January 1967, just four years after the creation of EUROCONTROL.

The choice of the site at Brétigny-sur-Orge was deliberate. We were installed close to the Flight Test Centre, a landmark of aviation pioneers that was established in 1921.

Over the first 25 years, we focussed on building an ATM system for the upper airspace.

  • We developed the first Radar Data Processing Systems used by air traffic control centres in Karlsruhe, Maastricht and Shannon.
  • We designed the radar monitoring and evaluation toolsets that contributed significantly to Radar data processing improvement. Successors of these tools are still used today, right across the continent.
  • We provided key elements of the French Initial Flight Plan System.
  • We developed substantial expertise in simulations, helping airspace designers come up with an efficient route network for Europe.

At the end of the 1980s, European airspace capacity began to reach its limits: delays grew; travellers were blocked for hours at airports and there was widespread political pressure for action to be taken.

With a mandate from the European ministers of transport, EUROCONTROL constructed the Central Flow Management Unit, later to become the Network Manager, and launched EATCHIP, a programme for the modernisation, harmonisation and integration of the ATM system.

So, from the beginning of the 90s, we at the Experimental Centre changed our focus and concentrated on large-scale collaborative research.

We combined our expertise in large-scale real-time simulations and in conceptual research to address the twin safety and capacity challenges.

Of the many concrete solutions that we came up with, I would like to highlight the most significant ones.

For en route air traffic control, the main challenge was to cope with the steep growth of air traffic that was pushing the ATM system to its limits.

  • We identified hotspots in the European Network and ran large-scale multinational simulations to develop solutions to counteract them.
  • We ran simulations for the Reduced Vertical Separation Minima programme which opened Safely six extra flight levels in the European upper airspace – and so significantly increasing capacity.
  • In the ODID project, we moved from old-fashioned radar screens to modern Human Machine Interfaces, taking full advantage of the new windowing techniques that were appearing at the beginning of the 90s.
  • We promoted the use of Satellite Navigation (that is, GPS) in aviation, supporting the development of EGNOS and paving the way towards Galileo.
  • We were instrumental in implementing TCAS in Europe, the traffic collision avoidance system. TCAS is the ultimate safety net and has greatly improved safety.

At the end of the 90s, the EEC invested in the airport domain. The main focus was on big hub airports, operating at their capacity limits.

  • We helped increase runway capacity by reviewing standards on Wake Separation and validating new tools such as Time Based Separation.
  • We introduced an environmental dimension by taking noise and emissions into account when designing airspace around airports.
  • We brought all the actors of the airport platform together in Collaborative Decision-making processes. This improved ground operations, and helps manage disruption – disruption being most frequently caused by bad weather.

The Experimental Centre also played a pivotal role in developing the Central Flow Management Unit and supporting its constant improvements, too.

Of course, we could not work in isolation. Since the late 1980s, we have been working in close partnership with other research establishments and the air transport industry.

We began with PHARE, the Programme for Harmonised ATM Research in EUROCONTROL.

With PHARE we collectively built a European network of R&D centres, one in which the EEC played a recognised role.

Our work continued in the context of the European Commission’s R&D Framework Programmes.

This naturally led to EUROCONTROL’s becoming a co-founder of the Single European Sky ATM Research – SESAR – Joint Undertaking in 2007 – just 10 years ago.

The Experimental Centre was deeply involved in the first phase of the SESAR programme which was completed end of 2016.

We made a significant contribution to 50 of the 63 solutions that were delivered in this first phase.

And we recently renewed our commitment to continuing in the SESAR JU, up to 2024.

To wrap up these highlights of half a century of the Experimental Centre’s existence, I would like to pay a tribute to those who built it up and made it what it is today.

I would like to make special mention of the four directors that steered the Centre on its path of innovation.

The first director was Mr Lipman, who was there from the beginning until 1981. He led the Centre in a period when everything had to be invented to cope with steep growth.

Georges Maignan arrived in 1982. He had been involved in the creation of EUROCONTROL at the end of the 50s when he was a young engineer in the high level group that defined the shape of EUROCONTROL.

After several years as a researcher, it was natural for him to become the Director of the Centre. His leadership put the EEC firmly on the R&D map.

His successor, Jean-Marc Garot, was well known in the ATM research community, a challenging partner of the Experimental Centre for 20 years before becoming its Director in 1995.

Over the next ten years, he gave remarkable impetus to the Centre, pushing us out of our comfort zone which is mandatory for R&D.

Jan Van Doorn was our next Director; he is attending this event today. He had also been a long-standing partner of the Experimental Centre, as a leader of the Dutch R&D centre, the NLR.

Jan came to us with enormous experience in airborne systems. The timing of his arrival could not have been better because he came to us exactly when aviation needed a tighter integration of aircraft with ground systems.

We have been most fortunate in our Directors: each one of them, a man of vision.

I extend my grateful thanks to the staff: without their permanent efforts over all these years, the Centre would never have achieved fifty years of success. Each staff member is responsible for the uniqueness, the richness of this Centre.

They represent all cultures of Europe, coming from 19 states. They offer a wide palette of scientific knowledge from human factors and psychology to mathematics and economics.

Their blend of cultures and in-depth expertise forms the richness of the Centre.

Je voudrais maintenant parler d’un des défis que le contrôle du trafic aérien va devoir appréhender : les drones

Ce défi est double :

  • Au niveau opérationnel, le nombre de drones, la variété de leur type ainsi que la nature de leurs missions en évolution permanente est un défi difficile à appréhender pour notre domaine habitué à avancer avec prudence.
  • Le défi est encore plus grand au niveau technique. Les acteurs de ce domaine sont par essence innovateurs, capables d’inventer, de développer et déployer des solutions techniques à un rythme que l’aviation n’a jamais connu.

On a toujours l’habitude de dire que dans notre domaine, il faut 20 ans pour le déploiement d’une invention. Les entreprises dans le domaine des drones parlent quant à elles en mois.

Notre devoir est de nous adapter à ces nouveaux cycles et de permettre le développement de ce domaine tout en s’assurant que la sécurité ne sera pas mise en cause.

La solution passe obligatoirement par la construction d’un partenariat solide avec ces nouveaux acteurs.

C’est la raison pour laquelle, cela aurait été une erreur de ne pas saisir l’opportunité de la création d’un cluster des drones civils sur l’ancien centre d’essai en vol de Brétigny.

En effet et ce n’est surement pas un hasard, lors de la fermeture de la base aérienne voisine, que l’agglomération « Cœur d’’Essonne » ait décidé de créer dans cet historique lieu de l’aviation un cluster de drones civils.

Ce cluster aura la mission d’offrir aux start-ups de ce domaine l’environnement idéal pour se développer.

En particulier, il offrira des facilités pour permettre les expérimentations et la validation des nouveaux drones et surtout de nouveaux usages de ces drones.

La synergie entre nos domaines de compétences est évidente, et nous allons tisser les liens pour que chacun puisse bénéficier des compétences de l’autre. Et ce partenariat va se concrétiser très prochainement dans le cadre d’un projet Européen d’expérimentation en grandeur réelle de drones.

Au-delà du problème de la prise en compte des drones, je fais confiance au centre pour avoir l’agilité de s’adapter à nos futurs défis. Je sais qu’il saura s’associer à tous ceux qui par leur inventivité sauront trouver les solutions innovantes à ces défis futurs.

Une de mes collègues m’a rappelé les mots de Pierre-Georges Latécoère, un des pionniers de l’aviation française:

“J’ai refait tous les calculs – notre idée est irréalisable. Il ne nous reste qu’une chose à faire: la réaliser”.

À nous de faire notre, cette maxime !

Je vous remercie de votre attention.

Je passe la parole à Monsieur Olivier Leonhardt Président de l’agglomération « Cœur d’Essonne » que je remercie de nous honorer de sa présence.