Centre for Air Travel Research

The Centre for Air Travel Research (CATR) at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the only facility in the world designed to study the full experience of travelling by air. Inaugurated in 2018, the CATR and its team of experts work with academia and companies of all sizes to deliver world‑leading research for safe and healthy air travel experiences.

The facility includes all the features found in modern air travel to simulate the process of checking‑in, boarding and flying in an airplane. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers can customize the facility to meet their needs and use the space to conduct research using passengers in a realistic environment.

This facility, with its ability to recreate the airport terminal spaces as well as the aircraft cabin environment, is also a key enabler in helping the industry offer a safer and healthier air travel experience in light of the current COVID‑19 pandemic.

Our capabilities

CATR consists of 4 laboratories, with each playing a unique role in recreating the air travel experience:

Airport terminal laboratory

  • The airport terminal laboratory (ATL) is where the air travel experience and the research begin. Passengers arrive in this area to be greeted and to "wait" for their flight. The ATL is designed to match the look and feel of a modern airport, so that passengers are immediately put into the travel mindset. This space can be used for human subject studies, such as testing new boarding techniques, measuring responses when entertainment services are added to the waiting area and more.

Flexible cabin laboratory

  • The flexible cabin laboratory (FCL) is designed to recreate the in‑flight environment after passengers have boarded the aircraft. The FCL's dimensions can be customized to match the interior of a small regional aircraft or a wide‑body cabin like the Boeing 777. The FCL uses a working interior, complete with realistic features such as noise and vibration, lighting, power, ventilation, food and beverage service, in‑flight entertainment and real‑life interactions with the crew. This space can be used to study human physiology using the built‑in equipment, which includes 2D and 3D cameras and environment sensors.

Fuselage laboratory

  • The fuselage laboratory uses an aircraft body (fuselage of a Boeing B737‑500) with a cabin complete with power, seats, passenger service units, lighting and overhead bins. The cabin also has functioning kitchens, washrooms and environment control systems. This space can be used for human subject studies, including passenger evacuation trials and comfort testing.

Human vibration laboratory

  • The human vibration laboratory (HVL) recreates the vibrations that occur in the cabin and seat in helicopters, turboprop and jet aircraft during normal or abnormal operations. The HVL also measures the effects that these vibrations may have on aircrew and passengers. The space includes a human‑rated vibration rig, a climate‑controlled environment and the electrical power of an aircraft.

Why work with us

The NRC's Centre for Air Travel Research is focussed on supporting the airline industry by providing access to a realistic and flexible air travel environment for development, design and evaluation purposes. The equipment in the facility provides exclusive opportunities to experiment with new interiors, technologies and concepts that may lead to reduced costs and new revenue streams for airlines, as well as increased safety, comfort and productivity for passengers and crew. Our world‑class researchers are available to assist with all air‑travel evaluations. The facility offers the ability to address next‑generation challenges and opportunities to improve the air travel experience today.

Participate in future research studies on air travel

The Centre for Air Travel research team at the NRC is regularly looking for passengers and current or former crew members to participate in upcoming research studies on issues that affect Canadian travellers. Research activities could include online surveys, telephone surveys or in-person simulations at our Centre for Air Travel Research facility in Ottawa. We study a variety of topics such as aging and air travel, crew experience and passenger comfort.

To participate, you must be at least 18 years old. For in-person simulations, you must live in the Ottawa-Gatineau Region to participate. If you'd be interested in participating, simply complete the expression of interest form.

Participation is voluntary and providing your contact information through this website does not imply consent in any study. You will be contacted regarding opportunities at which time you can decide on participating.

Expression of interest