Airspace Simulations

The Airspace Simulations section carries out real-time airspace simulations in support of new airspace design projects and network operational concepts and procedures.Real-time simulations aim at simulating future air traffic control systems (comprised of equipment, procedures and people) with the highest possible fidelity in order to collect pertinent data on the expected benefits in the targeted relevant key performance areas.

Concept validation method

To fully understand and grasp the added value of real-time simulations, these must be considered in the wider perspective of implementing changes in the provision of air traffic management services.

Real-time simulations are prepared, organised and conducted in line with the guide lines formulated in the European Operational Concept Validation Method (E-OCVM) and the Airspace Simulation experts, together with the participating ANSP:

  1. Identify the relevant key performance areas and their target values, and the benefits expected from the changes to the ATM system (equipment, procedures, airspace …)
  2. Describe in detail the various candidate solution(s) that will address the present shortcomings or meet the future targets.
  3. Construct, for each individual change element, the benefit mechanism (i.e. how does the change deliver the expected improved performance) and identify the required arguments (rationale) and evidence (data). This serves to set up an experimental plan describing the complete set-up of the simulation exercises (number, seating plan of the ATCOs, debriefings, questionnaires, metrics…).
  4. Build a simulation platform, matching as close as possible the targeted future operational environment in terms of equipment (human-machine interface, ATCO decision aids …), procedures and airspace structure (route network and working methods adapted to the future environment) and staffing (ATCOs adequately working with the future tools and in the future environment).
  5. Conduct the real-time simulation exercises (one exercise typically lasts 60 min) and collect all pertinent data: quantitative (e.g. # a/c in the sector) and qualitative (opinion of ATCOs or observers); subjective (self-assessed workload) and objective (safety relevant events, R/T or phone occupancy).
  6. Analyse the collected data and construct a body of information to feed the required cases supporting the implementation of the change elements.

By their very nature (participation of ATCOs, high fidelity but relative short duration and limited geographical airspace) real-time simulations are well suited to assess the performance areas such as capacity and safety, and, to a lesser extent, efficiency, cost effectiveness and environmental sustainability, which more suitable for a fast-time simulation (running over longer periods and potentially covering a larger airspace).

Work areas

The principal work areas of the Airspace Simulations section are:

  • Validation of airspace and route network structures (e.g. PBN routes, cross-border sectorisation)
  • Validation of new procedures, working methods or letters of agreement (e.g. multi-sector planner or single person operations ).
  • Validation of new ATC/ATM concepts such as Data Link, Point Merge, Free Route

The simulations are conducted in support of individual Air Navigation Service Providers, Functional Airspace Blocks, and European projects.

A short description of the ongoing projects can be found here.

Simulation platform

The real-time simulator is build around the EUROCONTROL in-house software ACE / ESCAPE. Its main components are:

  • The simulator blocks: Air, Ground, IPAS, Supervision, 
  • A flexible human machine interface (HMI)
  • An voice communication system (AudioLan)

The technical capacity of the simulator is:

  • up to 600 aircraft and 1000 flight plans
  • up to 64 controller working position (CWP)
  • up to 70 pilot positions (PWP)

Two simulator platforms are currently available at the EUROCONTROL Experimental Centre in Brétigny-sur-Orge, with each offering up to 37 CWP.

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Razvan Bucuroiu

Network Strategy & Development Division

Razvan Bucuroiu works in EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager Directorate as Head of Network Strategy and Development Division and Acting Head of the Operations Planning Unit, dealing with airspace design, capacity planning, ASM/ATFCM/ATS procedures, ATC simulations and planning tools.

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Philippe Debels

Airspace Simulation