A major simulation of Paris airspace

In 2005, the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre (EEC) carried out the biggest real-time simulation in its history. This covered a huge airspace of 130 miles around Paris and was carried out on behalf of the French General Directorate of Civil Aviation (the DGAC).

The simulation by the DGAC, which (at the time) was the biggest ever conducted, was a real challenge for the EEC’s teams, despite their expertise in this field. As Jean-Paul Zabka, who headed up this project in Brétigny, recalls, “For 5 weeks, this experiment mobilised 49 air traffic controller working positions – 2 of them military – and 32 ​​pilot working positions in 4 operations rooms.”

Three simulation sessions were conducted between March and April 2005. In these, 120 controllers at Orly approach control, Roissy approach control and the Athis-Mons area control centre tested 3 scenarios for the future control of air traffic in the Paris region.


Complex simulation and high stakes

The two main airports in the Île-de- France region, which currently handle some 100 million passengers a year, were already in 2005 among the most important in Europe. They thus constituted essential links in the development of the French air transport system and in European air traffic regulation. “The total volume of traffic handled by these two airports combined with the EEC’s expertise prompted the French civil aviation authorities to ask us to carry out this technically very complex simulation.”

The EEC responded by adapting its work programme in order to provide the French authorities with quick and reliable results in keeping with the key challenges for the future which they represented. As Jean-Paul Zabka points out, “The objective was to answer two questions: was the ATC system at that time capable of absorbing the traffic demand forecast for 2014? and should we merge certain air traffic control centres in the Paris region?”

The simulation revealed that the air traffic control (ATC) system was globally capable of meeting the traffic demand forecast for 2014, and in a completely safe manner. The exercise ultimately demonstrated that efficiency gains were possible between the Roissy, Orly and Athis-Mons centres, in particular in terms of the handling of arrivals.