Airspace Infringement and Navigation

Airspace Infringement and Navigation


Airspace infringement occurs when an aircraft penetrates airspace for which explicit prior clearance is required without having such a clearance.

A major cause of airspace infringement is poor navigation, leading to penetration of the controlled airspace or dangerrestrictedprohibitedtemporary segregated or temporary reserved area concerned.

This situation may arise either because the pilots are uncertain of their position or because they are unaware of the designation of the area concerned because of inadequate briefing or their use of out-of-date charts.


  • Loss of Separation from other aircraft, which may result in collision.
  • Exposure to danger from military hazards, e.g. radiation, gun-firing or manoeuvring high-performance aircraft.
  • Perceived security risk, if prohibited area is penetrated, which may result in a military response.
  • Damage to ground installations within prohibited areas, including vulnerable animals.
  • Disruption of military or other special activities within restricted, danger or prohibited airspace.


Typical Scenarios

  • An aircraft operating VFR and approaching controlled airspace with the intention of obtaining crossing clearance mis-identifies a position on the ground due to partial cloud cover and enters the controlled airspace without permission.
  • A pilot navigating by reference to VOR beacons makes an error in determining his position, alters heading on this basis and enters a Prohibited Area.
  • A pilot using GPS incorrectly programmes the equipment and follows a track which diverges from the planned route, resulting in violation of a Danger Area.
  • A pilot using an out of date chart enters the area concerned without awareness because it is not marked on the chart being used.

Contributory Factors

  • Inadequate basic training in appropriate navigational techniques;
  • Lack of expertise of VFR private pilots in equipment operation, especially GPS;
  • Adverse weather;
  • Inadequate pre-flight preparation.
  • Routine (assumption that airspace restrictions on a familiar route will not change).


  • Improved training in navigational techniques, equipment operation and pre-flight preparation;
  • Improved, easier to use, light aircraft navigation systems, especially GPS integrated with other aircaft navigational aids

A&I Examples

On 20 July 2014, the pilot of a VFR Cessna 172 became distracted and entered the Class 'C' controlled airspace of two successive TMAs without clearance. In the second one he was overtaken by a Boeing 738 inbound to Copenhagen with less than 90 metres separation. The 738 crew reported a late sighting of the 172 and seemingly assessed that avoiding action was unnecessary. Although the 172 had a Mode C-capable transponder, it was not transmitting altitude prior to the incident and the Investigation noted that this had invalidated preventive ATC and TCAS safety barriers and compromised flight safety.

On 19 December 2002, a Piper PA-46 Malibu, after takeoff from Son Bonet Aerodrome, penetrated the control zone (CTR) of Palma de Mallorca tower. The pilot was instructed to leave the CTR and the aircraft headed towards mountainous terrain to the north of the island where the flight conditions were below the VFR minimum. In level flight the aircraft impacted terrain at an altitude of 2000 ft killing all three occupants.

Related Articles

Further Reading

EUROCONTROL Airspace Infringement Initiative

EUROCONTROL Guidance Notes for GA pilots

HindSight Articles




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