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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > A Single European Sky -Improving the Efficiency of European Air Traffic
Graphic element A Single European Sky -
Improving the Efficiency of European Air Traffic

The rapid growth in air traffic will have a serious impact on efficiency and reliability if air traffic management is not harmonised across Europe. The European Commission actively supports research aimed at introducing a new generation of air traffic management in Europe. Recent findings are now available on the Commission's web site.

Air traffic across Europe is growing at a rate of 4-6% per year. The high growth rate puts increasing pressure on today's air traffic management systems (ATM) which are in many cases already operating at full capacity. The result is that in the year 2000 over 25% of all intra-European departures were delayed for more than 15 minutes. If air traffic continues to grow at this rate the capacity of the various national ATM systems in Europe will be exhausted sometime between 2002 and 2005. This could lead to the aeronautical equivalent of 'gridlock'.

The European ATM system today is a patchwork of various national technologies and operating procedures co-ordinated by EUROCONTROL. The 'piecemeal' nature of the system restricts the capacity of European airspace, aggravating the problems caused by the growth in traffic.

The European Union (EU) encourages and supports development work to introduce a new generation of ATM systems in Europe. Findings of this research can be found on the Commission's web site (

Gate-to-gate systems

The ultimate objective of ongoing research is to attain a coherent and integrated system crossing national boundaries. This means achieving a safe, efficient and cost-effective so-called "gate to gate" system for the management of air traffic. Such a system would be capable both of handling air traffic from origin to destination and providing sufficient capacity to meet forecast demand into the new century.

The focus of ATM research under the EU's 4th Framework Programme (1994-1998) was on system components, operational procedures, and concepts. The results will be integrated into a future European Air Traffic Management/Communication, Navigation and Surveillance (ATM/CNS) system or "System of Systems" to ensure both consistency and co-ordination. Other significant research areas were safety levels, airport efficiency, including design issues, and the Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control System (A-SMGCS).

Within its transport research programme, the Commission supported 46 projects and concerted actions on air traffic research with a total EU contribution of 51 million Euro.

Future research on ATM-systems

While research under the 4th Framework Programme is contributing substantially to the development of new ATM and airport systems, the emphasis of the new 5th Framework Programme is slightly different. It reflects the need to focus on demonstration and implementation issues. The 5th Framework Programme, which began two years ago and is scheduled to last for five years, puts emphasis on the identification of new operational procedures and methods, and validation of the most promising elements, prior to making specific recommendations for standardisation and actual implementation.

The European Commission expects to contribute 370 million Euro to a Key Action on "Sustainable mobility and intermodality", which will include research projects on air traffic management. An additional 700 million Euro is dedicated to projects on "New perspectives for aeronautics".

  Further information on research on ATM-systems

The European Commission's new web site: provides detailed information on transport research in the Fourth Framework programme. This site has been established to assist in the dissemination of the findings, thereby maximising the potential benefits of this research.


  Further Information and Notes to Editors


The transport research programme forms part of the Fourth Framework Programme, which set out the activities to be launched by the European Community in the field of Research and Technological Development (RTD) between 1994 and 1998.

The transport programme focused on helping to achieve the objectives of the Community's Common Transport Policy (CTP), namely efficient and cost-effective transport networks for goods and passengers while minimising both energy consumption and the social and environmental impacts of transport. The Commission has contributed ECU 270 million Euro to the programme, with further funding (often 50%) coming from project partners and their sponsors.

The transport programme has financed around 280 projects within seven main areas of research: strategic research; rail transport; air transport; waterborne transport; road transport; urban transport; and integrated transport chains. The programme was set up by the former DGVII (Transport), and is now managed by the Directorate-General for Energy and Transport. Altogether 37 projects and concerted actions were commissioned on urban transport research, with a total EU contribution of 27 million Euro.

Under the Fifth Framework Programme, which started up in 1999, transport policy research is based around themes rather than transport modes. The work is covered by the Key Action "Sustainable Mobility and Intermodality", and the European Commission expects to contribute 370 million Euro.

Other transport-related RTD is carried out elsewhere in the Fifth Framework programme - covering such topics as aeronautics, urban development, and new vehicle and information technologies.

The transport programme can only achieve its objectives if project results are effectively disseminated to people who can use them - notably policy-makers, planners, industry and the research community.

Therefore the Commission has funded a project specifically aimed at disseminating information on the transport programme as a whole, supplementing the more limited efforts of each project. The aim is to use cost-effective means of communication to specific audiences in the EU and in Central and Eastern Europe.

The project (called EXTRA, EXploitation of TRAnsport research) has developed an Internet site (, opened an Information Bureau and provides complementary activities (newsletters, events) to raise awareness of the programme.

The Information Bureau can be contacted by telephone:
+ 44 (0) 1235 46 42 46,
by fax: + 44 (0) 1235 43 65 51
or by e-mail to:

It provides printed copies of information on the web site, as well as helping with more general enquiries on transport research. A handy web site user guide is provided on request.

Users are encouraged to register with the Bureau to receive monthly e-mail bulletins announcing the latest information on the web.

The next few months should see a large increase in the volume of results. Analyses will be provided on the contribution of research in developing key policy areas.

See also
Website reveals research results on sustainable mobility
Gate-to-gate systems
Future research on ATM-systems
Further information on research on ATM-systems
Further Information and Notes to Editors

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