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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Mobility and intermodality projects > Safety in the sky
Graphic element Safety in the sky

As a transport mode, air transport is one of the safest. However, the rapid growth in air traffic, makes a constant focus on retaining and even improving air safety essential.

Air traffic management systems are being improved to increase capacity and meet the increase in demand. It is imperative that operational procedures are changed without endangering safety standards. The EU has financed a number of research projects on air safety, the results of which are now available on the Commission's web site. The research has developed and evaluated airborne and ground-based systems and procedures, in order to improve air traffic control and pilot situational awareness.

The human factor plays a major role in air safety. Meeting the requirements of human factors is, however, an extremely difficult issue. For example, the number of automated tasks in an airline cockpit has increased rapidly in recent years, changing the role of the crew. Instead of actively flying the plane, the crew's role is far more passive today, i.e. the supervision and management of widely automated systems. This implies that there is an inherent risk of the crew not being fully attentive.

In order to reduce incidents, the crews' tasks, skills, knowledge and existing training practices have been analysed, as have difficult situations, incidents and accidents. The resulting knowledge will help to establish more effective pilot training and performance programmes as well as recommendations for crew procedures, including emergency procedures.

Research has also recommended changes in the design of cockpits, e.g. steering, navigation, system management, communication and cockpit view, i.e. areas in which more effective procedures or training are not expected adequately to tackle the problem.
Research in supporting systems has included the development of advanced ground collision avoidance systems, as well as guidelines for their certification. Such systems will help to relieve cockpit crews from dealing with complex information about obstacles, terrain elevation or runway specifications, thus promoting in-flight safety.

Thus, in co-operation with major aviation authorities, the European Commission's RTD initiatives will contribute to increased flight safety, while coping with the rapidly growing air traffic in Europe.

  More information

More information on EU research on air safety can be found on the European Commission's web site:


  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
More information
Further Information and Notes to Editors

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