Eurocontrol, founded in 1960 is an international organisation with its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium and has 41 member states. It is the central organisation for the coordination and planning of air traffic control for all of Europe. It’s not an agency of the European Union but the EU is a signatory of Eurocontrol, and all EU member states are members of Eurocontrol. The organisation employs about 2000 people and has an annual budget of more than €500 million.
Eurocontrol has formal links with the European Commission, (EC) the European Space Agency, (ESA) the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and NATO.
The organisation was first established to harmonise air traffic over the Federal Republic of Germany, (the former West Germany) Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. France and the UK initially declined to join over concerns about their national military airspace control, given the Cold War was at its height.
By 1986, the pressure on European air traffic was huge and it was clear that the imminent further expansion of traffic would present serious safety and efficiency challenges. The European Civil Aviation Conference encouraged all its members to join Eurocontrol and delegated sufficient political powers to rationalise traffic control and information sharing. The Linate airport disaster in 2001, the Überlingen mid-air collision in 2002 and the September 11th attacks in the US all highlighted the need for still greater cooperation, which broadly fall under the Single European Sky initiative.
The main services of Eurocontrol are;
- The Network Manager Operations Centre which coordinates flight pans and actual traffic.
- The Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre which deals with both civil and military traffic above 24 500 ft over Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland and northwest Germany.
- The Experimental Centre conducting research
- The Institute of Air Navigation Services, conducting training and e-learning.
Perhaps not the most glamorous aspect of aviation, but without Eurocontrol, the continent would be wholly unable to safely and efficiently control the many thousands of journeys across, to and from airports as far apart as Aberdeen and Ankara.
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