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Industry and research take wing at ‘Aeronautics Days 2006’

From 19-21 June, almost 900 participants from 41 countries converged on Vienna for Aeronautics Days 2006. Attendees included representatives of all major aeronautics companies, the research community and public authorities, and a large contingent of Europe’s best and brightest aerospace students. The theme of the event was ‘Sustainable solutions for new horizons’.

“This fifth edition of Aeronautics Days provides an opportunity for this important community to review achievements, measure progress and discuss the ongoing challenges we face in research and technological development,” said EU Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik. “The aviation sector has shown great dynamism and creativity over its 100-year history. It must retain this dynamism for the future.”

Potočnik said political support for the aeronautics sector is now higher than ever, with EU Member States having committed 2.6% of European GNP to research funding. “What we need now,” he said, “are rapid and concrete actions and effective implementation.”

Speaking on behalf of the Austrian EU Presidency, State Secretary for Transport, Innovation and Technology, Eduard Mainoni, said, “Research is important for jobs, competitiveness and prosperity, and Europe’s future depends to a large extent on meeting our R&D goals. The aeronautics industry is booming and it holds even greater promise for the future, but we need to support it fully to see this potential realised. As one of the fastest growing industries in the world, I think we can truly say that European aeronautics has the wind beneath its wings.”

Industry was well represented at the event, with all of the major aerospace companies and associations represented. Charles Edelstenne, Chairman Elect of the Aerospace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, said, “The European aerospace industry is a world leader in many markets, including in North America, traditionally the most competitive region in the world. This success is due to the major investment we’ve made in research and development, the ongoing support of the European Union and the important work of our great academic institutions.”

Focus on research and FP7

Janez Potočnik, Eduard Mainoni and Dietrich Knoerzer
Janez Potočnik, Eduard Mainoni and Dietrich Knoerzer

Much of the conference was devoted to presentations of ongoing and completed EU-funded research initiatives, with eight parallel thematic sessions covering a cross-section of topics, including:

  • The greening of air transport;
  • Improving cost efficiency;
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction, safety and security;
  • Increasing time efficiency;
  • Pioneering the air transport of the future;
  • The European Research Area.

Conference themes corresponded to areas to be covered under the Union’s upcoming Seventh Framework Programme for R&D (2007-2013). At a special session, EU Aeronautics Research Head Liam Breslin outlined the programme in detail, saying, “We are on course; we know what the priorities are and the first calls for proposals will be issued very soon, possibly even this fall. Some of the things we are now very keen to promote are our co-operative efforts with a wider group of international partners and more training initiatives for young people.”

Dietrich ‘Mr. Aeronautics Days’ Knoerzer of the Commission’s Research Directorate-General said, “Aeronautics is a high-tech industry that must be supported, and EU funding rises over succeeding Framework Programmes bear this out.” The FP7 proposal, as it stands, earmarks about €4 billion for transport research (including aeronautics) over seven years. “Any way you slice it,” he said, “this is a real and substantial increase.”

Two major new initiatives under FP7 will be the SESAR programme and the CLEAN SKY Joint Technology Initiative (JTI).

SESAR – the Single European Sky implementation programme

SESAR is central to the modernisation of European air traffic control infrastructure. It will encompass all technological, economic and regulatory elements, using ‘Single Sky’ legislation to synchronise the installation of new equipment in all European Union Member States while ensuring that air and ground elements remain compatible.

SESAR was first suggested by European ATM equipment manufacturers but now has the support of the entire air transport community. Led by EUROCONTROL, the programme is currently working on an ATM ‘master plan’, which will define a common goal and vision for European air traffic control.

Speaking at Aeronautics Days 2006, EUROCONTROL Director General Victor Aguado said, “Europe needs an all-encompassing air transport system, including not only airplanes but also airports, ground-based equipment and satellite systems. SESAR, with its master plan for ATM in Europe, will accomplish this.”

ACARE provides solid structure

Liam Breslin (left) with Russian delegates
Liam Breslin (left) with Russian delegates

Standing side by side with the Commission throughout the conference was ACARE, the industry-led Advisory Council for Aeronautics Research in Europe. Launched in 2001, as recommended by the seminal ‘Vision 2020’ report, ACARE’s members include representatives of the European aeronautics industry, air transport operators, EU Member States, EUROCONTROL and the European Commission. One of the first of the EU’s new ‘Technology Platforms’, ACARE’s primary mission has been to define a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA).

ACARE formally unveiled its comprehensive SRA in November 2002, addressing challenges facing the aeronautics industry. They include ever-increasing air traffic, with associated increases in noise, emissions, congestion, and delays, as well as heightened security concerns. ACARE’s second SRA looks 20 years into the future and presents expected or potential technology requirements in the air transport sector, based on a series of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

In his keynote address to the Aeronautics Days 2006 conference, ACARE Co-Chairman Joachim Szodruch outlined ACARE’s priorities as detailed in the SRA, and said, “A future European air transport system that is globally competitive and that serves the needs of society requires many partners. Going the ‘European way’ means utilising to the fullest our different cultures, our different mentalities, our different approaches to science and business. This diversity is not a weakness but a strength.”

ACARE has been and remains a key guiding force in the planning of research under public, private, national and EU programmes. Its SRA has also served as a major source of input in the formulation of the aeronautics work programme for the next Research Framework Programme (FP7).

Exhibition, awards and more

Among Aeronautics Days 2006 highlights was a brilliant exhibition. Spread over a large area within the Vienna Conference Centre, it encompassed all the conference themes and included over 80 stands, with displays presenting European research projects, research institutions and industrial organisations, specialised European Aeronautics research multipliers, new Member States, and student projects.

Another highlight was the student project competition, bringing together about 80 students presenting more than 40 projects from 14 European countries. Special sessions allowed students to present their work, and prizes in three categories were presented at the closing ceremony. “These excellent young scientists represent our future,” said Ingolf Schädler of Austria’s Ministry of Transport, Innovation and Technology. “They have worked hard and put together a great selection of projects and we are very glad to have them with us today.”

Conference participants also had the opportunity to see aeronautics industrial and research activities up close, through fascinating technical visits and excursions to Diamond Aircraft Industries, the Austrian Airlines Aircraft Maintenance Centre, TTTech and the Austrian Research Centers.

Aeronautics Days takes off

Zoran Stančič
Zoran Stančič

“We have gained many new insights over these three days,” said Mainoni, speaking at the closing session. “We have seen some exciting presentations and have welcomed participants from Russia, the United States and China. I have been especially impressed with the contributions of the new Member States and, of course, these great European students. The message for me is that, in spite of our diverse interests, we have managed to come together around a common strategic approach.”

Krzysztof Jan Kurzydlowski, Under-Secretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Education and Science, confirmed the strong interest of the new Member States, saying, “Although our industrial base is not as solid as in the established aerospace nations, there is great untapped potential in our academic and research institutions. We urge all of you to take advantage of the pool of young, well-educated and mobile-minded students.”

Closing the conference for the European Commission was its Deputy Director for Research Zoran Stančič, who stressed the exploitation of Europe’s untapped potential, pushing the boundaries of inclusiveness to encompass greater participation by women. “We need to include both genders in this process,” he said, “not because it is politically correct and not even because it’s what’s best for women, but because it is best for all of us, for the competitiveness of our industry, because to win we are going to need the talents of all of our people, not just half of them.”