Free Route Airspace (FRA) offers airspace users some early and important performance-enhancing benefits as a result of cooperation between ANSPs, as envisioned by the European Commission in its Single European Sky programme. Savings in distance from these improvements across Europe could be as much as 25,000 NM a day. Flying distances can be reduced by approximately 7.5 million NM, representing the equivalent of 45,000 tons of fuel saved, or a reduction in emissions of 150,000 tonnes. FRA will also make it possible for ANSPs to more easily meet the demands of future airspace users - such as unmanned aircraft systems, hypersonic transports, airships and balloons.
FAB CE Partners are driving forward the implementation of FRA and have become pioneers in this area. The FAB CE X-Border Free Route Airspace (FRA) study, completed in April 2017, provided a baseline evaluation of the feasibility of implementing FRA and has defined the operational and technical pre-conditions for the introduction of the procedure throughout the FAB CE area. Among its findings are that the unrestricted FAB CE level cross-border FRA concept provides the desired benefits for airspace users in terms of horizontal flight efficiency.
FAB CE has set up a Project to synchronise the deployment of FRA in the FAB CE area to maximise user benefits:
Cross Border FRA Projects Overview:
Slovenian/Austrian Cross Border Free Route Airspace (SAXFRA)
In 2016 Austro Control and Slovenia Control successfully implemented Europe’s first cross-border Free Route Airspace procedure without any vertical or time-based restrictions.
SAXFRA offers airspace users the opportunity to fly between predefined entry and exit points using the most direct route possible. Airspace users are able to select the optimum route and vertical profile for their requirements via intermediate points. Enabling free route flying options in this complex and already highly-optimized environment offers an estimated savings of 13,000 kg of fuel daily and helps to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 43,000 kg per day.
South-East Axis Free Route Airspace (SEAFRA)
This was the first European FRA concept implemented over the territories of four States, two of which are members of FAB CE (Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina) with Serbia and Montenegro which are not a part of the FAB initiative, proving that such cooperation is possible and can be of benefit to all stakeholders. SEAFRA offers airspace users the opportunity to plan and execute flights 24 hours a day, seven days a week, free of fragmentation by State or AoR borders above FL325.
The idea of such a large-scale FRA programme was initiated by ATM experts of the ANSPs concerned, with a common goal of improving air traffic service safety, efficiency and environmental protection by reducing fuel burn, CO2 and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.
South Eastern Europe Night Free Route Airspace (SEEN FRA)
The cross-border night FRA project between Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria bridges the airspace between the two functional airspace blocks of FAB CE and DANUBE FAB. It allows airspace users complete freedom to plan routes throughout the combined airspace of the three nations at night, paving the way for future expansion. This project generates cost savings for airspace users in terms of distance flown, time taken and fuel consumed, as well as reducing environmental Impact.
In addition to these direct benefits, the lessons learned from this trilateral inter-FAB initiative and the shared experience from each ANSP FRA project will give greater opportunities to expand both the geographical scope and hours of operation of FRA operations, as ANSPs collectively improve flight efficiency for their airspace users.
SECSI FRA (South East Common Sky Initiative Free Route Airspace)
On February 1, 2018 SECSI FRA began operations, merging the two Free Route Airspaces SAXFRA and SEAFRA and offering airspace users significant benefits along the South East Axis, by delivering the shortest route options from Central Europe to South Eastern Europe. The benefits gained through the SECSI FRA are substantial. Based on the shortest route assignment potential savings per day are up to 1.940 NM in flight distance, 285 minutes in flight time, a reduction in fuel consumption of 8,000 kg and a reduction in CO2 emissions of 25,500kg.
SECSI FRA is expected to deliver potential savings of 600.000-700.000 NM in flight distance per year. It will make more options available when determining the user-preferred trajectory. Full cross-border FRA allows airlines to take better advantage of wind or adapt to network disruptions. The better use of FRA options at flight planning level improve predictability and reduce ATC workload.
Please find below the presentations on SECSI FRA made during the World ATM Congress 2018 in Madrid:
The implementation of FAB CE will maintain and wherever possible improve the current level of safety – despite any increase in traffic - notwithstanding the increased traffic through the establishment of a common safety management system.
FAB CE has put in place an ongoing safety assessment process that will result in the production of a FAB CE Safety Case. The FAB CE Safety Management Systems Roadmap plans activities in the safety area with the aim of harmonizing existing national Safety Management Systems' processes within the next five years and managing safety efficiently.
The ATM services within the FAB CE will be provided in an environment characterised by cross-border airspace design and extensive cross-border sectorisation. The airspace design process will therefore not be constrained by borders between the FAB CE States but will be based on operational needs and air traffic flows resulting in better horizontal and vertical flight efficiency, improvements in productivity and the consequent increase in capacity.
With the Free Route Airspace concept the expected benefits are even more substantial. Users will be able to freely plan a route between a defined entry and exit point, with the possibility to route via intermediate (published or unpublished) way points, without reference to the ATS route network. Implementation of Free Route Airspace has already begun in most of the FAB CE states. The step by step realisation within FAB CE will result in incremental benefits by applying Free Route Airspace structures and principles and deploying Free Route Airspace stepwise across the borders as part of a FAB CE wide implementation programme.
FAB CE’s work programme will result in a reduction of flight delays, while at the same time handling more air traffic. Capacity will be increased to cope with the expected rise of traffic. Enhanced civil/military cooperation and application of Flexible Use of Airspace procedures will also be a benefitting factor to increasing capacity. FAB CE is projected to improve financial and economic cost-effectiveness by around 3-4% compared to the situation without the FAB, as indicated by the CBA.
Source: Eurocontrol Statfor