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EUROCONTROL and Türkiye successfully complete largest-ever European airspace simulation

Bretigny innovation hub

Free Route Airspace project aims to deliver significant operational and environmental benefits

Türkiye and their ANSP DHMI see the implementation of free route airspace (FRA) as a vital step forward that will bring a range of benefits to aviation stakeholders. Airlines will be able to fly more optimised trajectories in Turkish airspace – reducing route length, saving fuel, and cutting CO2 emissions. And for DHMI and the EUROCONTROL Network Manager, FRA brings increased flight predictability, reducing network uncertainty and supporting capacity increases.

To that end, EUROCONTROL worked intensively with our Turkish partners over a 9-month period to design and conduct an enormously complex airspace simulation at our Innovation Hub in Brétigny.

Back in October 2021, the team assessed the operational and technical aspects of the EUROCONTROL validation platform, leading to a prototyping real-time simulation in November 2021 to determine the best airspace design to suit free route operations. This led to the design developed by DHMI using EUROCONTROL's NEST tool being confirmed as the best model.

The simulation to validate a new airspace design capable of supporting free-route operations in Turkish en route airspace started in January 2022 in Brétigny and ended in June 2022, a total of 12 weeks of real-time simulation that involved more than 400 DHMI controllers plus simulator pilots. Each week, a different group of controllers performed 12 exercises that simulated 850 flights each time.

EUROCONTROL and DHMI are now analysing the massive volume of data gathered during the simulation to generate the final report; however, the interim report based on 4 weeks of simulations already shows that free route operations can be successfully implemented in Türkiye through the planned airspace redesign.

“This successful simulation is another hugely complex project that we have successfully delivered with our partners from DHMI. Free route operations will bring big benefits for airspace users within Turkish airspace and also for the network as a whole that EUROCONTROL manages, and builds on our highly fruitful project cooperation when we addressed triple parallel runway operations at the new Istanbul iGA Airport. I am particularly proud that the teams from EUROCONTROL and DHMI managed to continue working and successfully complete this massive project, the largest simulation of its kind ever in Europe, despite the at times extremely difficult conditions imposed by COVID. The first results are already encouraging, and have provided DHMI with evidence to support implementation.  We’re continuing our work with our partners from Türkiye on new projects at the EUROCONTROL Innovation Hub, with simulations for an additional runway and modified TMA at Ankara, and on new improvements for Istanbul’s airports: both projects have already kicked off.”

Laurent Renou Head of Innovation, EUROCONTROL