EUROCONTROL centralises all flight plan processing in Brussels

The IFPU2 operator on the last day of operations.

Yesterday marked the end of an era as the EUROCONTROL Network Manager (NM) integrated initial flight plan processing unit (IFPU2) performed its final shift at our site in Brétigny-sur-Orge, France.

The team had already shared the workload for many years with its Brussels-based counterpart (IFPU1), which will now centrally manage all manual processing of invalid flight plan messages. This consolidation is part of the wider collocation of operational services envisaged as part of NM’s ambitious digital modernisation of its operational systems, the integrated Network Management (iNM) programme.

From now on flight plan messages will centrally be managed from Brussels. The move will allow the collocation of operational services at a time when we are starting to build the new digital architecture in Brussels, which will harness the power of innovation and enable the EUROCONTROL NM to deliver ever more integrated business services and products to our stakeholders.

Yesterday at 18:58 local time the last message was processed by Network Operations Officer Francis VARLET, the member of the team who processed the first message 25 years ago when the unit commenced initial operations.

Up to 100,000 flight plan electronic messages are treated by EUROCONTROL on a normal day. Over 99% of these are covered by automatic processing, but about 1,000 flight plan messages per day still require manual intervention. Such interventions range from minor error corrections to extensive assistance in finding compliant routes in Europe’s complex route infrastructure.

Processing flight plans is a demanding activity, requiring concentration and speed on a day-to-day basis and especially during network crises or when Europe hosts special events. Major sporting events like the Euros, Olympics, FIFA World Cups or Champions League finals trigger significant numbers of additional flights, requiring EUROCONTROL’s operational staff to process additional invalid flight plan messages.

While just under half of the IFPU2 team will join the central flight plan unit in Brussels, the remaining team members will stay in Brétigny, applying their valuable experience to the system acceptance testing of current and future ops systems. The IFPU2 facilities at Brétigny will initially retain a role as a full data backup for NM’s main operational systems, until integrated into the future iNM programme.


IFPU1 and 2 entered into operations via a phased approach, beginning initial tactical operations in March 1995, continuous operations in April 1995 in parallel/shadow mode, and full operations on 28 March 1996. Initially, when an average of 30,000 filed flight plan messages per day had to be handled, the teams were divided. Brussels focused on flights taking off from the northern and north-eastern parts of Europe and North America, while IFPU2 did the same with respect to flights from the south and south-eastern parts of Europe and the rest of the world.

Since 2013, the two IFPS units had the same geographical area of responsibility acting as one team via the so-called Single Queue Concept. All flight plan messages will now be processed from the Network Manager Operations Centre (NMOC) in EUROCONTROL’s Brussels headquarters.

Learn more about our IFPS

Rationalising the reception, initial processing and distribution of IFR flight plan data.

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