MUAC’s story begins back in the 1960s, when air travel started to become very popular as a result of mass tourism and business travel. MUAC was established as part of a broader pan-European vision to create a number of similar facilities across the continent to ensure a common, consolidated and more efficient approach to the provision of air traffic control services, in order to meet the needs of the newly thriving aviation industry. What was required was an interoperable control system which transcended national borders. These were the very first steps towards the objectives of the Single European Sky.
On 28 February 1964, the Permanent Commission of EUROCONTROL took the official decision to set up the first international control facility, on Dutch territory. On 3 March of the same year, the upper airspace (above DFL195) over the Brussels Upper Information Region (UIR), covering Belgium and Luxembourg, was placed under the responsibility of EUROCONTROL, operating from a temporary facility located at Brussels Airport. MUAC became operational on 29 February 1972, but was still responsible only for the Brussels UIR. In 1974, EUROCONTROL was entrusted with the provision of air traffic services over the Hannover Upper Information Region. In 1975 military flights in north-west Germany also began to be controlled from Maastricht, by the German Air Force. This initiative marked the start of exemplary cooperation between civil and military air traffic services.
The next few years saw the development and implementation of MUAC’s suite of advanced ATM tools, paving the way for new concepts and technologies to be adopted throughout the continent.
In 1980 The Short-Term Conflict Alert (STCA) tool became available. Developed entirely by local engineers, the system gave controllers a 128-second advance warning of possible infringements of minimum separation standards.
In 1992 Flight progress strips were discarded as air traffic levels began to soar. They were replaced by more efficient electronic data display screens.
In 1995 the Preliminary EUROCONTROL Test of Air/Ground Data Link (PETAL) trials were launched, heralding one of the most promising technologies of the following decade. In July 2001 MUAC became the first ATC facility in the world to implement Controller-Pilot Data-Link communications via the Aeronautical Telecommunications Network (ATN) over VHF Data Link (VDL-2) and to use the technology operationally
Between 1996 and 1999 five new sectors were implemented, considerably boosting capacity.
In May 2007 Mode-S Elementary Surveillance became operational – In July 2009 MUAC moved forward with the implementation of Mode-S Enhanced Surveillance. Controllers could now display the down-linked altitude and magnetic heading from a flight on their air traffic control screen. A tool alerting controllers of any mismatch between the down-linked selected altitude and the cleared flight level was implemented in December 2009.
In December 2008 MUAC implemented a next-generation interoperable, trajectory-based flight data processing system. Owing to its cutting-edge components, the new system was able to support complex validation projects in a cross-border, dense and complex operational environment. This was further upgraded in 2015.
In 2013 MUAC’s Shared ATS System (SAS) became fully operational at the Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Air Operations Control Centre at Nieuw Milligen, and at seven air bases. This was a pioneering project of shared ATM data services and paved the way for further harmonisation in ATM, helping alleviate the de-fragmentation of the European network, as required by the Single European Sky.
In 2014 Europe’s first initial 4D (i4D) trajectory management flight – connecting aircraft and ground systems to optimise the aircraft trajectory in three dimensions plus time – crossed MUAC airspace.
Since 2017, MUAC has controlled military air traffic in the upper airspace of Germany and the Netherlands. With this development MUAC has become the first cross-border civil-military air navigation service provider in Europe.