Toulouse – Capitale Aéronautique

By Hans Adriaanse

ENAC, with its 50 years may be not as old as NLC (since 1937!) or even NLS (since 1927!) oldest pilot training centre in Europe, but still with half a century there is more than enough reason to celebrate: ENAC 50-ième anniversaire!

Toulouse is a compact town, and was so in roman times already. It is situated just north of the Pyrenees, halfway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. There are more than 100,000 students in town, nurturing themselves at the many Universities, Ecole Nationales etc.

In the Complexe Scientifique de Rangeuil, many of those Institutes and research centres are located: among them is ENAC, the Ecole Nationale de l’Aviation Civile. ENAC is part of the typical French system of Ecole Nationales, characterized by meritocracy in this sense that admission to these schools is based on highly competitive examinations, the so-called ‘concours’. Thus, la douce France creates its elite very consciously: at the same time this is a stumbling block to the internationalization of this part of the French educational system, because as a foreigner you practically have no chance of reaching the required levels.

The school offers basic training in civil aviation at bachelor’s and at master’s levels, as well as a broad range of refresher courses, corporate training short courses on new developments targeting professionals in the field. In the basic training programmes for aircraft engineering, aircraft design and operation, aviation technician, air traffic controller and aircraft dispatcher, ENAC admits every year 300 students at maximum, half of them being in ATC.
In the five Masters’ programmes, also taught in French with the exception of the new Master in Satellite-based Communication & Navigation, only 15 students can be admitted each year.

Capitale Aéronautique
Toulouse calls itself “capitale aéronautique” with good right. In addition to the famous aircraft builders Airbus and ATR, space industries like Matra, Lagardere (Ariane rockets), there are approx. 200 aerospace-related industries in the area. A plethora of research & development organizations, training institutes and industries make up the picture of Toulouse as an aviation brainpower centre, not unlike Sillycon Valley for the computer industry.

Of course, it would not be in the French tradition of the “rayonnement de la culture francaise” if they would not only claim to be the capitale aéronautique of France, but at least the Seattle of Europe. Overseeing the Toulouse aviation scene, as I had the opportunity to over the last two visits, I can assure you that the TLS influence is not limited to the hexagone and Dom-Tom, on the contrary it goes more and more global every year. Airbus having the lead over Boeing in market-share, is an illustration of the effectivity of the European aviation strategy.

JET ’98
The Journées d’Enseignement de Telecommunication 1998(JET’98) were devoted to satellite communication. Technologically already available satellite systems not yet applied in aviation other than experimentally will change air traffic dramatically early next century. After a masterly introduction to the basis of satellite communication and navigation by professor Gerard Maral, from the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Telecommunications (ENST), we were immersed in the acronymical vernacular centering around GLOBALSTAR, IRIS, SKYPLEX, SKYBRIDGE, EGNOS, WAAS, STENTOR, WEST, WORLDSPACE, CNS/ATM, EATCHIP, OACI, CNSS, MODE-S, APALS, TCAS etc. I will not even try to begin to clarify this aviation poetry, because as a curriculum-planner I only know too well when it needs a content expert.

For further reading I can wholeheartedly recommend Maral G & Bousquet M, Satellite Communications System, Wiley, 1998, 732 pages). Do keep in mind however, that FANS means Future Air Navigation Systems. Here, again, it is the well-known game of: “who sets the norm, sells!” The card played in Toulouse is called “AIM-FANS: Airbus Interoperable Modular Future Air Navigation System”. It was remarkable that the participation in this high level conference was limited to the French speaking part of the world: no foreign speakers at all!

IAS, Institut Aéronautique et Spatiale
During the days of the JET ’98 Conference, I had the opportunity to link up with some of the other institutes, a/o the Airbus Training Centre and the Institut Aéronautique et Spatiale (IAS). At present, Seattle seems to be closer to Amsterdam than Toulouse. Fokker has almost completely missed out on the Airbus project, focussing then on McDonnell-Douglas for global co-operation. Dutch presence by Fokker/ Stork is nevertheless visible on the Ariane project, however for 3% only. Nowadays, it does not count anymore whether you are based in Hoogeveen and speak Dutch or in Irkoetsk and speak Russian, as long as you bring something good to the air, it will sell if you succeed to communicate your message interculturally correct, or have the blunt power.

Toulouse has a hospitable, but congested city centre, where we discovered as a hotel Le Père Léon for FF180 located between metro Esquirol and the banks of the Garonne; as a not-to-be-missed cafe we can recommend Le Père Louis, maison fondée en 1889. Their ‘muscats’ and ‘tariquets’ deserve fame and “degustation intensive”.

The TLS airport Blagnac is a fast grower currently featuring a 3 times a day KLM-service to Amsterdam, and a 4 times-a-day to Brussels by Sabena. New is regular service to Malpensa. Blagnac is the home of Airbus, most visibly so by the range of Beluga’s displayed at the industry apron. The Beluga’s, successor of the GUPPY, commute to Hamburg to bring in aircraft fuselage from the Airbus plant in Germany. These strange aircraft with the appearance of a pregnant whale with a dolphin nose, are especially designed for heavy lift operations and are one more very convincing illustration of the necessity and usefulness of European co-operation in civil aviation.

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