Future Sky Theme SAFETY


The main reasons to have a joint research programme on safety are:

  • Safety is a transverse domain of common interest to all stakeholders and with reduced competitive aspects;
  • Safety is closely linked to key research and test infrastructures that are operated by EREA members;
  • Aspects such as aviation safety policy/regulation/certification have an EU dimension, hence it is clear that a JRP on safety has European added value;
  • A JRP on safety helps to overcome some “regulatory barriers” for introduction of innovative products, technologies, systems, and processes, and thus help innovation;
  • Trends in safety performance over the last decade indicate that the ACARE safety goal of an 80% reduction of the accident rate is not being achieved. A stronger focus on safety is needed. This requires research in which safety improvement is the specific purpose (not a secondary benefit).


Activities under the Joint Research Programme

 The Joint Research Programme on Safety focuses on two main streams of activities:

  • Coordination of institutional safety research programmes

The national research establishments participating in the programme coordinate the safety research executed under their national institutional research programmes. The set-up of new institutional programmes is coordinated, national results are shared amongst the establishments, the hiring of PhDs can be coordinated, etc.

  • Collaborative safety research

Gaps in safety research that remain even after the coordinated effort of the research establishments will be tackled in this second part of the programme where the research establishments will cooperate with universities, industry, SMEs and airlines.

The Research Coordination Program under activity 1 for the first time brings the safety research of the European Research Establishment under coordination to maximize efficiency, to develop critical mass, and to ensure excellent alignment with the relevant safety agenda’s in Europe. This coordination program has among others delivered an annual Safety Research Agenda that is also shared with the main European stakeholders. The set of safety institutionally funded research projects is driven by the Safety Research Agenda and complements the (nine) collaborative safety research projects under activity 2, thus providing a strong leverage effect of the European Commission funded part of the JRP.

The Joint Research Programme on Safety is open and in coordination with EASA, IMG4, SESAR Joint Undertaking, EUROCONTROL and ongoing projects.


The set of collaborative safety research projects of Future Sky Safety is built on relevant safety priorities in Europe. Main European safety pillars are defined by the ACARE Working Group 4 on Safety and Security, the EU Safety Management Policy, and the European Aviation Safety Plan (EASp). The long term aviation vision, issued by the EC as Flight Path 2050 includes safety as one of the most important European priorities: to achieve the highest levels of safety and security to ensure that passengers and freight as well as the air transport system and its infrastructure are protected. The first three Flight Path 2050 safety goals for Challenge 4 “Safety and Security” provide important focus areas for Horizon 2020:

The European ATS has less than one accident per ten million commercial aircraft flights.
Weather and other hazards from the environment are precisely evaluated and risks are properly mitigated.
The European ATS operates seamlessly through interoperable and networked systems allowing manned and unmanned air vehicles to safely operate in the same airspace.

The Future Sky Safety Programme links the EASp main pillars (operational issues, systemic issues, human performance and emerging issues) to the Flight Path 2050 safety challenges through four Themes.

Theme 1 (new solutions for today’s accidents) aims for breakthrough research to address the current main accident categories in commercial air transport with the purpose of enabling a direct, specific, significant risk reduction in the medium term.

Theme 2 (strengthening the capability to manage risk) conducts research on processes and technologies to enable the aviation system actors to achieve near-total control over the safety risk in the air transport system.

Theme 3 (building ultra-resilient systems, organizations and operators) conducts research on the improvement of Systems, Organizations and the Human Operator with the specific aim to improve safety performance under unanticipated circumstances.

Theme 4 (building ultra-resilient vehicles) aims at reducing the effect of external hazards on vehicle integrity as well as reducing the number of fatalities in case of accidents.

Together, these Themes and the institutionally funded safety research intend to cover the safety priorities of Flight Path 2050 as well as the ACARE Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) (in particular the Challenges brought forward by ACARE Working Group 4 “Safety and Security”).


What is entirely new in the European context is that the coordination between the EC funded projects and the Institutional Programs of the Research Establishments is ensured by the development of an EREA Annual Safety Research Agenda, which will be shared with the main stakeholders (EASA, SESAR JU and industry partners) as part of the Institutional Safety Research Coordination Project (P1). 

Therefore, the institutionally funded projects and the coordination of the institutional programs, both among the research establishments and with Technical Projects are integral parts of a single roadmap.


Over half of the fatalities in worldwide commercial air transport occur in only two accident categories: Loss of Control in flight and Runway Excursions. Therefore, the two Projects proposed here focus on these accidents as it may be expected that progress here will have a major impact on the fatality rate. For Runway Excursions (P3), the research challenges are already well understood and the expected impact of improvements is in the short and medium term. For this reason, this Project is proposed for the first phase.

For the Project on Loss of Control (P8), it is noted that a large program (SUPRA) has already been conducted on the recovery of Loss of Control, and more work in this area is foreseen in the EU-Russia program later on. Therefore, the project proposed here is focusing on the prevention element. Solutions in this area will have a longer term impact because TRL is still low, and implementation will most likely occur in a next generation of aircraft. Therefore, this Project is proposed for the second phase.

Project P3 - Specific solutions for runway excursion accidents

The objective is to perform breakthrough safety research, in accordance with the EAPPRE priorities, to enable a significant reduction of runway excursion risk in the medium term. The European Action Plan for the Prevention of Runway Excursions (EAPRRE) has identified areas where non-ATM research is needed to further reduce runway excursion risk:

  • Flight mechanics of ground operations on slippery runways under crosswind conditions
  • Impact of fluid contaminants of varying depth on aircraft stopping performance
  • Advanced methods for analysis of flight data to monitor runway excursion risk factors.

A fourth work package will look into new technologies, other than the Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS) (e.g. gear technologies, pavement technologies, on-board guidance, ....) to prevent excursions or the consequences of excursions.

Project P8 - Advanced flight envelope protection

The objective is to develop methods, tools, and systems able to guarantee an order of magnitude higher safety level with regard to flight envelope protection, thereby preventing loss of control. Research into higher levels of fixed and rotary wing flight operations integrity in nominal and off nominal conditions:

  • Flight envelope extensions through development of improved models to predict aircraft behaviour in off-nominal conditions.
  • Development of improved envelope protections
  • Providing better flight envelope awareness to the crew

The project will develop methods and tools to retain adequate aircraft performance and controllability in case of system or component failures or "exogenous" events.


To strengthen the capability for pro-active management of safety risks, two projects are proposed.

The first one, P4 on Total System Risk Assessment, builds on the progress made in five major programs (CATS in the Netherlands, AIM in SESAR and EUROCONTROL, ISAM and ASIAS in the FAA, and the EC FP7 Project ASCOS) and brings the results of these programs together to develop a permanent risk observatory for Europe. Because TRL is already rather high and safety benefits will be Europe-wide and may be expected in the medium term, this Project is proposed for the first phase.

To also ensure sufficient innovative development and to further strengthen the pro-active capabilities, P9 focuses on Big Data and the detection of Emergence of new risks. This is a lower TRL activity, and the capability will build on the availability of the risk observatory to be developed in the first phase in P4. The expected impact will be in the longer term. Therefore, this project is proposed for the second phase.


Project P4 - Total system risk assessment

The objective is to develop a prototype risk observatory to assess and monitor safety risks throughout the Total Aviation System and allow frequent update of the assessment of risks. Adequate means for safety risk assessment and safety performance monitoring of large, complex and dynamic systems of sufficient accuracy and depth are not yet available. Explicit representation of latent factors in risk assessment and data, processes and techniques for continuous updating of risk pictures must be developed. The project builds on existing means for safety risk assessment and continuous safety performance monitoring, and will develop a next generation of safety assessment techniques.


Project P9 - Getting ahead of the curve; emergence detection and big data

The objective is to establish tools, techniques and processes supporting big data analysis for discovery of existing unknown hazards, gaining a better understanding of existing known hazards and detecting the emergence of trends which may evolve into new hazards to aviation safety.  In current diagnostic approaches, risk is identified by exploiting incident and/or accident reports or ‘exceedances’ (pre-defined “knowns”). This project will develop methods that allow for concurrent (daily) analysis enabling identification of emergent safety risks profiles, by:

  • Developing data-traps to monitor approach to risk criticality
  • Analyzing big data to find evidence of the emergence of new risks
  • Mitigating the identified emerging safety risks before realization



Strengthening the resilience to deal with current and new risks of the humans and the organizations operating the air transport system is a key component of the project supported by three Projects. Two projects are aimed at the Human Operator, both on the cockpit.

Project P6 on the Human Performance Envelope builds on a concept previously proposed in the ATM domain. The Impact will primarily be though improved training and operational practices and is thus expected in the short to medium term. This project is therefore proposed for the first phase.

Project P10 is designed to strengthen the cooperation between the human operator and the automated aircraft systems under unanticipated circumstances. Because there will be a strong link with system and Automation design, this is a lower TRL project and the expected impact will be in the longer term. Therefore, this project is proposed for phase 2.

Third Project in this Theme is focussing on what is most probably the most important contributing factor in today’s accidents; the organizational factors (P5). While the proposed work is breakthrough research in aviation safety, expected outcomes can be applied almost immediately in air transport organizations. Because of the widespread and short term expected impact, this project is proposed for the first phase.


Project P5 - Resolving the organisational accident

The objective is to reduce the likelihood of organisational accidents in aviation via development and implementation of a Safe Performance System. Safety focus has traditionally been on technical failures and human error as they occur in operations. New and promising approaches consider the overall socio-technical system in the full operational and organizational context. The research addresses effects of organizational structures, processes & cultural phenomena on safety performance in aviation organizations.


Project P6 - Human Performance Envelope

The objective is to define and apply the Human Performance Envelope for cockpit operations and design, and determine methods to recover crew’s performance to the centre of the envelope, and consequently to augment this envelope, through HMI principles, procedures or training. The Human Performance Envelope is to some extent a new paradigm in Human Factors. Rather than focusing on one or two individual factors (e.g. fatigue, situation awareness, ....), it considers a range of factors and how they collectively influence performance. Through studies and simulations the project will:

  • Find the points at which performance deteriorates
  • Determine behavioural or physiological markers and recovery measures that could be applied in real-time
  • Identify ways to augment the envelope in order to increase safety and improve performance.

Project P10 - More resilient crew – flight deck automation cooperation

The objective is to drastically reducing the impact of startle and surprise on human performance and safety in modern technology cockpits.  This project will focus on research into startle, surprise and cognitive lock-up in the crew interaction with non-nominal flight deck automation behaviour and unanticipated flight conditions. The project will develop training to help increase crew resilience in case of non-nominal flight deck automation behaviour. It will develop automation strategies in support of continued flight crew performance in case of automation degradation. The project will be building on – and adding to EC Project such as ACROSS, Man4Gen. This project is not about loss of control of the flight envelope, but findings could also help reduce LoC risk.



Two projects under this Theme focus on the safety resilience of the vehicle.  Project P11 is about Icing, which is still considered the most important environmental threat that could possibly be amplified by global climate change. Because this project builds on the results of other projects that are ongoing (such as HAIC) this Project is proposed for phase 2. It is expected that this project will be supported by one of the institutionally funded projects on the safety implications of Climate Change.

The second project P7 is about the risks associated with fire, smoke and fumes in modern technology composite and more-electrical aircraft. This project will be looking at design aspects which will have an impact in the longer term, but also at more operational aspects of dealing with on-board fires. The results are thus expected to also have significant short term benefits in in the operation for the survivability of fires. As new technology aircraft are currently entering service in greater numbers, this research is needed in the short term and is therefore proposed for the first phase.


P7 – Mitigating the risk of fire, smoke & fumes

The objective is to develop solutions to mitigate the risk of fire, smoke and fumes related (fatal) accidents. Important knowledge gaps exist around fire behaviour of CFRP materials for primary structures, and the risks related to fire, smoke & fumes in the modern cabin environment, despite EC FP7 projects such as AircraftFire. The P7 project will improve understanding of fire behaviour of composite materials and explore new generations of mitigating solutions. Possible risks associated with on-board (including cabin) air quality will also be studied by addressing knowledge about the thermo-chemical and thermo-physical decomposition (be it natural or accidental) of materials (incl. materials, fuel, oil, ...) in new generations of aircraft systems, and its measurement when for instance low contamination level or very fast changing ones are considered. Mainly:

  • Develop better methods to measure and assess material properties,
  • Analyse composite behaviours under various temperature, flame, and load conditions,
  • Evaluate numerical models and methods,


P11 - Reducing the effect of environmental hazards

The objective is to improve the safety of flight in icing conditions by improving numerical simulation tools and methodologies needed to reduce the testing of greener electrical ice protection systems. Icing is one of the most serious weather hazards for aircrafts. Simulation tools are currently used to support pre-design, design and certification of equipment and systems only up to a certain degree. These tools will play a strategic role in the near future due to the evolution of certification rules (SLD, mixed phase conditions) and the need to reduce cost and development cycles. But they still present some important gaps which have been highlighted in the framework of the EC FP7 support action WEZARD. Following WEZARD conclusions and focusing on topics which are not addressed in other ongoing EC FP7 projects (HAIC devoted to ice crystals, and STORM devoted to engine icing issues), P9 project will perform research, including laboratory experiments, to:

  • Improve understanding of SLD physics (for droplet deformation, break-up & impingement)
  • Develop more reliable SLD models, implement them in icing codes and perform validation tests
  • Further develop and validate 3D ice accretion numerical tools,
  • Improve and further validate CFD tools for prediction of aerodynamic performance degradations.



Updated information on Future Sky Safety (cf. White Papers updated in 2019-2020)

With up to 25 million commercial flights to be expected by 2050, the ability of the future ATS to deliver excellent safety performance, independent of any environmental hazards or disturbances, is not a given. While any spare capacity remaining in the ATS is taken up by the growing traffic load, thus removing to recover from disturbance, with a new demographic entering the industry both in the air and on the ground, and new business models, new vehicle technologies, and new entrants in the ATS, the goal of reducing the accident rate to less than 1 accident per 10 million flights presents a formidable challenge.

This topic thus calls for enhanced cooperation between research establishments, giving a clear commitment to link their nationally funded institutional programs and to work closely together with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and EUROCONTROL in order to ensure the integration of research results at EU level. Joint activity will also involve oversight authorities, service providers (airport operators and airlines), universities and industry, and take into consideration the recommendations from ACARE (SRIA) and the OPTICS projects. The research in this Future Sky Theme will address the following topics to achieve a significant aggregated impact on the safety performance of the future ATS:

  • Decreasing accident risk by developing new and more efficient safety interventions, both at the technology level, the operations level and the human operator level, specifically for the main accident categories Aircraft Upset/Loss of Control and Runway Excursion. Interventions shall include advanced flight envelope protection and improved protection against external hazards including adverse weather hazards (poor visibility, icing, lightning, wind & turbulence)
  • Strengthening the capabilities in Europe to manage diverse risk by developing and applying advanced tools and techniques such as data analytics and dynamic risk modelling, to detect the emergence of new risks in the air transport system – such as mass diversion, to assess their potential impact and to investigate potential interventions;
  • Strengthening vehicle resilience for impacts (birds, drones), and on-board hazards such a fire;
  • Finding new ways to significantly strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of Safety Management, including Integrated Risk Management, the development of organisational design guidelines and the development of new and effective and (cross-organisational) safety culture interventions;
  • Enhancing the effectiveness of aviation sector specific Safety Oversight and performance-based regulation;
  • Improving passenger and crew safety by adapting the development of cabin environment technologies and airframe technologies;
  • Further enhancing the role of the Human Operator by developing more advanced methods & techniques for Human Performance Management and crew interaction in highly automated environments, and by strengthening European capabilities in the field of evidence based training, advanced flight simulation - including virtual flight simulation and blended learning;
  • Developing methods to ensure the safety performance of new entrants in the air transport system such as personal aircraft and supersonic transports as well as new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. This shall include new approaches & tools for certification such as digital twins and virtual certification;
  • Improving maintenance safety across the full vehicle and ATS life cycle.

It is essential that the work is closely coordinated with rulemaking programs and industry development programs at the European level to ensure that the results of the research under this Future Sky Theme find their way into safety regulations, technology and development operations.

More information on this Future Sky Theme is available in the White Paper on Safety.