Airspace Q4 2018: Uniting European skies through fee route airspace

17 December 2018

The South East Common Sky Initiative Free Route Airspace (SECSI FRA) was successfully implemented in 2018 with the support of EUROCONTROL’s Network Manager.

SESCI FRA merges two existing free route airspaces – SAXFRA (Austro Control and Slovenia Control) and SEAFRA (BHANSA from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia Control, and SMATSA from Serbia and Montenegro). The project took less than a year from the signing of the agreement to full implementation.

SECSI FRA went operational on 1 February 2018, offering airspace users significant benefits along the southeast axis by delivering the shortest route options from central Europe. SECSI FRA is expected to deliver potential savings of 600,000-700,000 nautical miles in flight distances per year.

One of the most important aspects of the initiative was the collaboration between multiple ANSPs. Establishing a functional and operational 24/7 cross-border free route airspace is a complex business.

Challenges included the simulation of flow changes and taking into account existing agreements and established procedures. This meant revising route availability document (RAD) rules where needed, changing radar handover procedures and adapting remaining fixed routes, including arrivals and departures.

Central to discussions was an awareness of the capabilities of the various air traffic management systems. Communication between different systems is essential, as data exchange has to be seamless. Fortunately, there were no major obstacles.

The intensive work continued with aeronautical information publications and circulars, where the synchronisation of the FRA chapters was a challenging task but very much appreciated by airspace users. In SECSI FRA, the States and ANSPs reached a unique agreement and the FRA text is for the most part unified.

Looking at the operational aspects, the major change was separation methods and procedures. Those based on fixed network and coordination points had to be updated for the FRA environment. The partners in SECSI FRA successfully integrated two models – areas of common interest and time/distance-based procedures, initially developed for SAXFRA and SEAFRA respectively.

SECSI FRA partners included EUROCONTROL in the process from the outset. EUROCONTROL had an essential supporting role, providing experience, simulations and verifications. It also managed the Integrated Initial Flight Plan System (IFPS) and the correct coding of the airspace changes, which was crucial for the project.

Airspace users were also involved from the beginning and briefed regularly on all aspects of the upcoming FRA.

Five ANSPs closely working together to implement SECSI FRA in less than a year is a remarkable achievement. This project will not only make the flow of air traffic through Europe more efficient but also is a clear sign that significant progress is being made towards achieving a common European free route airspace by 2022.


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