Brétigny, at the centre of research

At the end of the 1980s, European airspace was reaching the limits of its capacity in terms of traffic. EUROCONTROL, more specifically its Experimental Centre (the EEC), launched a collaborative research initiative to resolve this problem. Marc Bourgois, researcher manager at the EEC, tells us all about it.

For more than 25 years, the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre (EEC) has been bringing together a community of experts seeking innovations in Air Traffic Management (ATM). In 1989, an initial major collaborative project (Phare) was launched to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of a harmonised air traffic management system. For 10 years, the EEC coordinated research establishments and air traffic control providers in this work.

At the turn of the 21st century, the collaborative process accelerated in Brétigny. The Centre established an innovative research department with a laboratory. Its doctoral and post-doctoral students together with its grants, which finance scientific work, have been forging important ties with partner universities, but in particular they instil a genuine research atmosphere in the Centre.

In parallel, the EEC organises an annual workshop dedicated to scientific innovation, at which researchers and engineers – mainly European – meet to exchange information on ATM. The workshop is a success story and has been absorbed by the SESAR* programme, in 2010 becoming the SESAR Innovation Days.

The SESAR programme, which is contributing to the creation of a harmonised European airspace by 2020, has created a group of partners capable of catalysing long-term innovative research on ATM. The work package for exploratory research, led by a Brétigny team, brings together 75 members from universities, research centres and industries based all over Europe.

The United States are also involved. In conjunction with the Federal Aviation Administration, the EEC has launched a biennial ATM research event (ATM Seminars) in order to promote collaboration between scientists. This practice has filtered through to young researchers because the two partners organise the international conference on research in air transportation (ICRAT)** for them between each biennial event.

* SESAR:  Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research

** ICRAT : International Conferences on Research in Air Transportation