PARIS: Thales delivers SESAR progress report and calls for funding

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Thales is pressing the EU to release funds for the deployment phase of the SESAR programme, aimed at boosting efficiency and capacity in the continent's air traffic management system.

Luc Lallouette, SESAR programme head for Thales, said at the show that discussions with the European Commission and European Parliament are taking place. He expects transport commissioner Siim Kallas to reveal in the coming days - perhaps even during the show - decisions on how SESAR will be governed. And a multi-annual financial framework to emerge from the EU in late June should contain "some information" on funding of the programme's next stage, added Lallouette.

Structured as a joint undertaking funded by industry and the EU, the SESAR programme is dedicated to "single European sky ATM research". Lallouette spelled out its objectives - to boost aircraft capacity in European skies to three times its current level, attain a tenfold increase in safety, soften environmental impact by 10% and cut ATM costs by 50%.

Central to Thales' efforts as the programme's resident avionics specialist is 4D trajectory management. In a validation exercise to be conducted in December, an Airbus A320 narrowbody jet will fly 4D trajectories from Toulouse to Maastricht and into Nordic upper airspace. A simulation can be viewed at Thales booth (hall 2A, stand ST N84).

The programme's definition phase is complete, yielding an agreed "ATM masterplan", and the research and development phase is now under way. The product of this will be prototypes, concepts and procedures that can be tested in the 2013-15 timeframe prior to industrialisation and, where necessary, certification.

The SESAR programme's 15-strong industrial membership - including Airbus and various air navigation service providers alongside Thales - have together committed €700 million ($995 million) to SESAR research. This figure is matched both by Eurocontrol and by the EU - 80% of this latter contribution already "totally secured", in Lallouette's estimation - and so the research programme's budget exceeds €2 billion.

Thales is the biggest partner, having invested €130 million and dedicated 250 of its staff to the project, on which in total some 2,300 experts work.

Alongside its SESAR campaign, the electronics giant is also engaged in the USA's analogous NextGen programme, intended to upgrade that nation's more rustic air traffic management system.