Where Air Traffic Controllers Learn The Job: What Is ENAC?

Toulouse is well-known as a center for aerospace. However, it is more than just home to manufacturers like Airbus and ATR. Indeed, it is also the location of a highly specialized university called ENAC, where aviation professionals such as air traffic controllers learn their trade. Simple Flying recently had the chance to take a look around.

ENAC Toulouse
ENAC is a highly selective institution known as a grande école. Photo: YtoSu via Wikimedia Commons

ENAC in a nutshell

Situated just southeast of Toulouse, the main campus of the École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile (National School of Civil Aviation) is an exclusive location. While universities typically have tens of thousands of students, ENAC’s website confirms that its tally is just 3,000.

Being a grande école, it can be far more selective than the main French university system. The university, which was established over 70 years ago in 1949, is widely considered to be Europe’s best aviation academy.  As such, it attracts students not just from within France but all over Europe and indeed the world, and currently has 950 international students.

Simple Flying recently visited the university, in co-operation with Invest In Toulouse and Finn Partners. Here, we learned that, over the last decade, the next generation of budding pilots, engineers, and air traffic controllers from 117 countries have studied at ENAC.

ENAC Toulouse ATR Simulator
ENAC has several simulators, such as this ATR 72 cockpit. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

Training the next generation of controllers

One of ENAC’s key functions is as an academy for a new generation of air traffic controllers. The university has extensive facilities to support this mission, and Simple Flying was able to take a closer look at some of these. France reportedly expects significant retirements among controllers over the next 15 years, so good training for newcomers is key.

ENAC’s 15-year-old, 4,000-square-meter ATC training center can presently support 300 new students a year. However, the university expects to be asked to take on more in years to come. One of the most impressive aspects of the facility is its full 360-degree tower simulator. Here, budding controllers can get a good feel for their future work environment.

Of course, not all air traffic control work takes place in airport towers. Indeed, remote ATC is becoming more common in Europe. For example, such facilities have recently entered service in Sweden and the UK. As such, ENAC also has a remote ATC facility that links directly to nearby Muret-Lherm Aerodrome. This can even operate in rain and darkness.

ENAC Toulouse ATC Training Center
ENAC expects to train more and more controllers in the future. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying

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Flight training and societal projects

Away from air traffic control, ENAC also plays a key role as a flight school. It has an extensive fleet of more than 100 trainer aircraft, which allows the university to loosely dub itself as France’s second-largest ‘airline.’ Interestingly, this fleet also includes aerobatic trainers, namely in the form of the agile two-seat Mudry CAP 10 design.

While an exclusive institution, ENAC also retains a strong focus on its social responsibility. The university has an emphasis on gender equality, and also spends €150,000 ($174,000) on 80 scholarships for disadvantaged students. In terms of sustainability, June 2021 saw ENAC sign the Grenoble Agreement, where it committed to various environmental targets.

Did you know about ENAC? Have you ever been lucky enough to visit or even study at this special university? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!