Future Sky Safety has officially taken off in 2015 and now has its own website https://www.futuresky-safety.eu

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 will have European added value;
  • A JRP on safety could help 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 will focus on two main streams of activities:

  • Coordination of institutional safety research programmes

The national research establishments participating in the programme will coordinate the safety research executed under their national institutional research programmes. The set-up of new institutional programmes will be coordinated, national results will be shared amongst the establishments, the hiring of PhDs will 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 will for the first time bring 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 will among others deliver an annual Safety Research Agenda that will also be shared with the main European stakeholders. The set of safety institutionally funded research projects will be driven by the Safety Research Agenda and will complement 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 will be 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”).

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    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.