In a joint initiative, the functional airspace blocks Central Europe (FAB CE) and Europe Central (FABEC) are expanding free route airspace (FRA) to optimise important south-east/north-west routes in Europe.
FAB CE and FABEC have now agreed to introduce cross-border operations for free route airspace. This follows the signing of a joint declaration in summer 2021 to deepen the cooperation between the functional airspace blocks. Free route airspace will enable airspace users to plan optimal routes across large areas of European airspace. It is precisely this possibility of being able to plan the shortest, most economical and thus potentially also the most climate-friendly route in advance that is the greatest advantage of free route airspace. Aircraft can fly through airspace on a direct path, without detours, using the shortest route. This saves fuel and reduces emissions. The larger these airspaces are, the greater and more sustainable their effect. Furthermore, cross-border free route options allow airlines to freely plan a routing between defined entry and exit points on different sides of national airspace boundaries. This will enable them to reduce flight miles in the future, take advantage of favourable wind conditions or optimise flight paths around military training areas.
The new cross-border interface will be established between the Karlsruhe SÜD Free Route Airspace in Germany and the SECSI FRA (Southeast Europe Common Sky Initiative Free Route Airspace) on the border with Austria. Implementation will begin in stages from 24 March 2022. Cross-border free route operations between Austria and Germany are to be started gradually. All initiatives will allow airspace users to use more climate-friendly flight profiles.
"Austro Control and the members of FAB CE have done pioneering work in Europe with the implementation of free route airspaces, which extend from Austria to North Macedonia and to the Black Sea. With the agreement signed today, we as FAB CE and FABEC are pursuing a clear common goal. We want air traffic to be as climate-friendly as possible in an airspace that enables flights on the shortest route, regardless of national borders, and can thus contribute to a sustainable reduction in emissions. With the connection of these two free route airspaces, we have once again come a step closer to this goal," said Valerie Hackl, Managing Director of Austro Control, the Austrian air navigation service provider (ANSP).
Arndt Schoenemann, CEO of DFS, the German ANSP, emphasised: "FABEC and FAB CE controllers manage one of the busiest airspaces in Europe. The introduction of the cross-border free route concept is an important regional solution. This will support major air traffic corridors and meet the requirements of pan-European network management. The current measures are the latest in a series of initiatives to reduce aviation's environmental footprint, for which FABEC had already received the ATM 2020 Environment Award in 2020."
Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 2021/116 provides for cross-border free route airspaces above flight level 305 (approx. 9,000m) by European air navigation service providers by the end of 2025.