European Airspace Infringement Action Plan
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The Scale of the Problem
Airspace infringement, often referred to by regulators as “unauthorised penetration of airspace”, is a major operational hazard created by the division of airspace into classes and structures and its joint use by different categories of users, often with competing objectives and different operational requirements and capabilities.
Although airspace infringements are not new, their trend is of a growing concern to aviation safety professionals. Infringements can happen several times a day in busy airspace and, without prompt action by air traffic controllers and pilots, can result in disruption to flight operations, loss of separation, or even mid-air collision. The statistical analysis of recorded infringements in Europe in the period 2002 - 2008 shows that the overall number of incidents reported has been constantly increasing.
Source: EUROCONTROL Safety Regulation Unit
Airspace infringement has been recognised by EUROCONTROL’s Safety Regulation Commission as one of the four major risk areas in the European airspace along with controlled flight into terrain (CFIT), runway incursion and level bust.
Launch of the Airspace Infringement Safety Initiative
Recognising the severity of the threats to aircraft operations posed by airspace infringements, EUROCONTROL’s Safety Team launched the Airspace Infringement Safety Initiative at the beginning of 2006. Such a pan-European approach to risk mitigation has proved its worth in other safety improvement initiatives, such as those on runway safety and air-ground communications. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to develop a risk reduction action plan and support airspace users, civil and military service providers and national authorities in implementing the recommended safety improvement measures.
European Action Plan for Airspace Infringement Risk Reduction
The Action Plan, approved by EUROCONTROL Provisional Council in December 2009, is the key deliverable of the development phase of the safety initiative. It contains the set of safety improvement measures derived during the risk analysis phase and supported by risk stakeholders. The Plan was developed with the support of, and active contributions from, organisations representing the airspace users, service providers, regulatory and military authorities. Notable contributions were made by the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (European region), Europe Air Sports, the Association of European Airlines, the International Air Transport Association, the European Commission and EUROCONTROL Member States. In addition, many hundreds of individual general aviation (GA) pilots contributed to the work and supported this pan-European safety improvement effort.
The safety improvement measures recommended by the Action Plan are targeting at realising improvements in five focus areas.
European action plan for airspace infringement risk reduction recognises the need of local implementation strategy and priorities. While airspace infringement is an important operational risk across much of Europe, the nature and scale of the problem varies between States. The complexity of the airspace structure, the scale of military flying activity, the scale and maturity of both commercial and general aviation sectors, the scope and nature of air traffic service provision and State’s regulatory and legislative frameworks are the factors which will shape the local airspace infringement risk reduction strategies and determine the most appropriate and effective actions to be taken by individual States.
The Action Plan aims to achieve the right balance between positive encouragement and regulatory enforcement, which is of particular importance for the development of general aviation in Europe. It is a further acknowledgement of the recognised need for harmonisation and standardisation of the services provided to all flights in European airspace, and calls for a consistent and integrated approach to the needs of general aviation, military and commercial operations.
Action Plan Implementation
The initial target time for Action Plan implementation was set to 2013. However, a precise deadline for the implementation of the identified airspace infringement risk reduction measures does not exist, as this operational risk requires continuous efforts by all concerned parties. National authorities should play the leading role in establishing and promoting local implementation priorities and actions in consultation with airspace users and service provider organisations.
The EUROCONTROL Agency supports the implementation efforts of national authorities, service providers and airspace user organisations. A set of guidance notes for GA pilots have been published and made accessible on SKYbrary with the objective to reduce the number of airspace infringements by improving pilots’ awareness and knowledge of the role of pre-flight preparation, navigation and R/T communication in the prevention of airspace infringements. Further guidance material is also accessible via the dedicated SKYbrary General Aviation portal.
The Action plan implementation is subject to continuous monitoring and review by EUROCONTROL in collaboration with all concerned risk stakeholders. The analysis of the latest incident data reported by the European states suggest that the Action plan implementation rate should be boosted. In this context, the Action plan is currently under review and an updated version is expected to be published in 2020/21.
Articles in the Airspace Infringement Category
EUROCONTROL Airspace Infringement Initiative:
- European Action Plan for Airspace Infringement Risk Reduction;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part I;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part II;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part III;
- Airspace Infringement Initiative FIS Study;
- Airspace Infringement Initiative website.
EUROCONTROL Airspace Infringement Safety Letters:
Belgian Advisory Leaflet