Slovakia joins South East Europe Free Route airspace initiative

Slovakia joins South East Europe Free Route airspace initiative, reducing daily flight lengths by up to 3,200NM

From 6 December 2018 aircraft operators will be able to plan their flights freely across the airspace of four States - Bulgaria , Hungary, Romania and Slovakia - without having to take into account the limitations imposed by geographical borders. From 00:01 a.m. local time Slovakia has opened its airspace to Free Route Operations.

LPS SR, Slovakia’s air navigation service provider (ANSP), has joined the SEEN FRA (South East Europe Night Free Route Airspace) initiative of three ANSPs - BULATSA, HungaroControl and ROMATSA. SEEN FRA is a volume of European airspace where aircraft operators can file flight plans without having to follow prescribed air traffic service (ATS) routes (or “airways“) during night times, between midnight and 0600.

The new flight planning rules significantly optimize flight trajectories to provide the shortest possible connections and the most effective routings when changes to the flight plan – to advoid adverse weather, for example – are required. According to simulations of the airspace change the synergistic effect of all improvements could reduce trajectories by a daily average of 3,200 nautical miles (NM), which equates to 15 tonnes of fuel and 49 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Further improvements to Central and South-Eastern European airspace configurations will take place next year. From April 2019, 24-hour FRA will be implemented within Slovakian airspace and during summer 2019 LPS SR will consider extending SEEN FRA availability for longer periods of the day.

From 7 November 2019 the three countries initiating the SEEN FRA programme (Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania) will extend the availability of cross-border FRA operations across the entire day with the introduction of the South East Europe Free Route Airspace (SEE FRA) project.

The activities related to SEEN FRA/SEE FRA and national FRA projects are in accordance with Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 716/2014, which directs individual ANSPs to cooperate towards introducing Free Route Airspace above FL300 (9,000m) throughout Europe by the end of 2021.

The main enabler and driver of airspace changes at a European level is EUROCONTROL, and in particular, the Network Manager. Thanks to the involvement and good will of all stakeholders - including EUROCONTROL Member States and the EUROCONTROL Agency - aircraft operators will be able to fly optimised profiles, burning less fuel and reducing aviation´s environmental footprint.

With the  Initiatives SEEN FRA (Bulgaria , Hungary, Romania and Slovakia) and SECSI FRA (Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina and Serbia-Montenegro) large parts of FAB CE are now Free Route Airspace.