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AirTN launch signals heightened co-operation

On 15 March 2006, a new EU-funded network aimed at coordinating Europe-wide aeronautics research was launched at the Airbus facility in Hamburg. The Air Transport Net (AirTN) will place particular emphasis on bringing new EU Member States into the aerospace fold, offering important opportunities for industrial development in this sector in Eastern Europe.

View from airplane
© Peter Gutierrez

Europe has a long record of co-operation in civil aeronautical research, a veritable tradition that has borne fruit most visibly in the highly successful Airbus consortium, but which, until now, has been largely confined to the seven countries with the strongest aeronautics sectors.

Under a new ERA-NET Coordination Action, Air Transport Net (AirTN), for the first time, almost all European nations have been brought together under a single roof, to co-operation and coordinate research activities in aeronautics and air transport.

Building on a strong European tradition

Since 1973, the leading aeronautical nations in the EU have collaborated within the intergovernmental Group for Aeronautical Research and Technology in Europe (GARTEUR), which currently includes France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Past and present research topics have included safety, avionics, certification, multidisciplinary design aspects, performance, stability and control, helicopters, structures and materials.

The GARTEUR countries make up the core partners of AirTN, joined by government departments and public bodies from eight other EU Member States plus Romania and Switzerland.

The specific aims of the network are twofold. First, it will step up co-operation and coordination between civil aeronautics research programmes building on the GARTEUR structure already in place. Second, it will extend that co-operation to a wider circle of countries, helping to establish an aeronautics presence in the European Research Area.

By coordinating national research efforts and launching joint activities, say partners, AirTN will enable Europe’s aeronautics industry to respond rapidly and in a rational and efficient way to the technological and environmental challenges of the future.

Step by step

The first task for AirTN will be a systematic exchange of information on national priorities and research programmes. Next, partners will look at common strategic issues, including a comprehensive review of the state of global aeronautics research. The noted Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) of the Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe (ACARE), which sets out priorities for the next 20 years, will represent an important source of guidance in this process.

Experts will be invited to report on seven research areas:

  • Aerodynamics;
  • Flight mechanics, systems and integration;
  • Materials and structures;
  • Helicopters; propulsion;
  • Air traffic management;
  • Safety and environmental issues.

At the same time, three dedicated forums will be held aimed at disseminating information throughout Europe on key and emerging research areas. Finally, a group will examine best practice in aeronautical research and propose a number of possible joint activities. One expected outcome will be a major transnational pilot research project.