South Eastern Europe Night Free Route Airspace (SEEN FRA)

A stepwise approach based on regional initiatives is vital in building experience to overcome the complexities involved in moving towards a seamless European airspace.

The recently initiated cross border Night FRA project between the States of Hungary, Romania and graph 1Bulgaria represents such a step. Bridging the airspace between the two Functional Airspace Blocks of FAB CE and DANUBE FAB by spring 2017 will allow Airspace Users complete freedom to plan routes throughout the combined airspace of the three nations at night, paving the way for future expansion.

All EU Member States have until the end of 2021 to implement FRA within their own airspace . To date, whilst 66% of European Area Control Centres (ACCs) have implemented FRA to some extent, only 16% have full 24h FRA, and only 25% represent cross border initiatives , both of which are required to allow Airspace Users complete freedom in planning their routes in order to maximise benefits.

Challenges towards large scale cross border FRA

May cause major shift in traffic flows

Unpredictability of traffic distribution within FRA

Airspaces of different sizes and complexity

Knowledge of flights way beyond national boundary

Upgrading Flight Data Processing systems

Advanced conflict management tools

Ensuring interoperability of ATM Systems

Extensive cooperation between ACCs

Changes/harmonisation of working methods

Current statistics represent a good start, yet achieving FRA across large sections of Europe as promised by a number of wide reaching partnerships brings significant challenges which should not be underestimated. It is wise to overcome these barriers through a number of well-defined and achievable milestones initially based on regional cooperation, as opposed to a “big bang” implementation. The DANUBE FAB and HungaroControl (member of FAB CE) partnership to extend their FRA projects represents a concrete step in this direction. With dedicated project teams assigned, the Concept of Operations and the  implementation plan have been drafted and agreed, and Air Traffic Management System testing is currently underway between the three ANSPs, in preparation for implementation by spring 2017. This project will generate cost savings for Airspace Users in graph 2terms of distance flown, time taken and fuel consumed, as well as reducing environmental impact.

On top of these direct benefits, the lessons learned from this trilateral inter-FAB initiative and the shared experience from each ANSP’s FRA projects will give great opportunities to expand both the geographical scope and hours of operation, as ANSPs collectively improve flight efficiency for Airspace Users.


New data exchange to facilitate inter-FAB free route

DFS and Austro Control implemented a new method to exchange flight data that increases the accuracy and timeliness of the data displayed on the radar screens in both the Karlsruhe and Vienna control centres.

Data are no longer based on potentially outdated flight plan information. The new electronical data exchange, which is based on an OLDI specification (LATLON), will support the implementation of free route airspace.

Using the new method to coordinate data, both partners are now able to integrate the real-time planning horizons across ACC/UAC and FAB boundaries into their current operations. Previously, the trajectory data of each incoming flight had to be individually checked and manually updated as the data were mainly based on the flight plan. However, these data became less accurate as the flight progressed. Thanks to the new method, it is expected that numerous coordination activities per year will no longer be necessary. This reduces the workload of air traffic controllers, generates capacity and is a practical example of interoperability.

ATM systems have exchanged coordination data electronically for many years. In a conventional ATM environment, airspace design is based on a fixed route network and predefined coordination points (COP). In a free route environment, the number of route options is significantly higher, allowing customers to plan their flights using a variety of criteria (wind, fuel burn, etc.). By using the new method, the number and position of COPs between the sectors will no longer be relevant. The number of options will increase significantly.

To deal with this increase, a new method for the coordination of flight data regardless of COP (OLDI specification, LATLON format) has been implemented for the first time between DFS Karlsruhe UAC and Vienna ACC as of 9 June 2016. Further implementations allowing an exchange of updated trajectory information are scheduled for the upcoming months, aimed at the maximum use of this procedure with all neighbouring ACC/UAC and FABs.

Austro Control and DFS, as members of FABCE and FABEC respectively, are expecting significant benefits from this inter-FAB activity. Especially in view of the FABEC free route development and the SAXFRA (Slovenian/Austrian cross-border free route airspace) to be implemented in November 2016 under the FABCE umbrella. Each year, there are about 310,000 flights that cross the Austrian-German border, connecting two of the biggest functional airspace blocks.

FAB CE takes part in InterFAB Operations Workshop

On 2 and 3 May 2016 an information exchange between the operations managers of the functional airspace blocks FAB CE, FABEC, BALTIC FAB, BLUE MED, DANUBE, UK-IRELAND, NEFAB and the SW FAB took place on the premises of DFS in Langen, Germany.

The goal of the InterFAB Operations Workshop was to promote the exchange between those who are responsible for operations at the various FABs and ANSPs using concrete examples and issues but without the constraints of a formal framework. Representatives from all FABs discussed current developments and challenges for the coming years based on nine best-practice examples and different presentations. The two-day workshop was divided into sessions on free route airspace, cross-border operations and changing traffic flows. The final session was devoted to opportunities for and limitations to creating benefits.

A diverse range of best-practice examples concerned with the topic of Free Route Airspace clearly showed that enormous progress has been made. Operational solutions exist and are evolving across Europe. However, limitations to these concepts are apparent, when, for example, military requirements must be taken into account or when capacity in busy airspace is restricted. FAB CE gave a presentation on SAXFRA,  the Slovenian Austrian cross border free route airspace, which will be the first free route airspace without vertical or time based restrictions and is due to be implemented on 10 November 2016 (see FAB CE Spring Newsletter for a more detailed article).

One major focus of discussions was cross-border operations. Numerous case studies demonstrated the operational benefit of this type of cooperation. At the same time, implementation is very individual and tailored to regional circumstances. For example, the implementation of cross-border sectors, flexible sectorisation and the beginnings of a common airspace management.

The third session also showed that a one-size-fits-all approach is not adequate. Based on various case studies, the experts discussed the effects that increasingly volatile traffic trends and changing traffic flows have on daily operations. The impact of local developments on the whole network is increasing. This is compounded by the fact that many changes cannot be predicted, which means that long-term forecasts are not as valuable as in the past.

During the final panel discussion, participants demanded more realism concerning the discussion topic "Opportunities for and limitations to creating benefits". InterFAB cooperation and cross-border cooperation can provide many positive approaches particularly as there are more and more limits to improving the system as a whole.

FAB CE Newsletter Spring 2016

The FAB CE Newsletter Spring 2016 is now availabler for download.

This issue covers the following topics:

  • - Introduction, Dr Franc Željko Županič, CEOC chair
  • - Updated FAB CE strategy approved
  • - High Level plan aligns with SESAR
  • - Opening up freely planned routes
  • - Matej Eljon, FCE Director, key projects
  • - AB CE appoints Programme Support Office (PSO)
  • - PSO Manager Juraj Jirků describes the tasks ahead
  • - First steps for common procurement
  • - FAB CE expands regional flow management
  • - Synergy in common license requirements



FAB CE appoints Helios and Integra to run its Project Support Office

FAB CE project team highThe Functional Airspace Block Central Europe (FAB CE) has taken significant steps forward towards meeting Single European Sky goals and Commission targets by establishing a joint venture limited company to manage its programme activities and appointing Helios and Integra to run its Project Support Office.

The joint venture limited company FCE (FAB CE Aviation Services Ltd) is only the second of its kind in Europe and is tasked with implementing agreed priority programmes spanning harmonisation of airspace and operations, business planning, technical harmonisation and common procurement. The Project Support Office is a vital enabler to FCE’s work, helping to align it to Single European Sky and SESAR requirements, coordinate actions and track progress.

The FCE sees joint procurement as a way to reduce costs for ANSPs; early targets include common procurement of communications components, and other options are also being explored.
In operations, Free Route Airspace (FRA) is a mandatory requirement for the Single European Sky by the end of 2021 and is one of the priority programmes for FCE. Comments Programme Manager Matej Eljon: “FAB CE members are being progressive with FRA implementations at the national level, providing the building blocks towards a future full FAB CE FRA environment. Hungarian airspace was the first in Europe to have its entire fixed ATS route network abolished; the first cross border FRA was introduced above FL325 in April 2015 for night time flights over Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, followed by night FRA over Hungary and Romania in August. Then in October an initiative to extend H24 FRA from ground to FL660 within the airspace of Austria and Slovenia was launched.” In addition, a full FAB CE FRA study is ongoing and is supported by facility funding from the European Commission.

Also on the agenda are airspace management and flow management integrated processes, fluent and flexible transfer of responsibility, training, harmonised safety management and contingency processes -  all enablers for future operational concepts.

Adds PSO project manager for Helios, Dr Juraj Jirků: “We are delighted to have been appointed to support FAB CE during this next vital phase of their development. This is an important contract involving ten of our most experienced experts, working alongside seven experts from Integra. The challenge for FAB CE over the next reference period will be to exploit the cooperative structures already in place and realise tangible cost efficiency benefits. We are looking forward to helping them do this and meet the aims of the Commission’s performance scheme.”

FAB CE’s “Free Route Airspace from the Black Forest to the Black Sea”-Study receives EU Grant

CEF LogoThe Grant Agreement for FAB CE’s Free Route Airspace from the Black Forest to the Black Sea study was signed on 27 November, 2015. The study is co-financed by Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) with over one million euros of co-financing and will be managed by SESAR Deployment Manager.

The project was selected for funding under the SESAR priority of the 2014 CEF Transport calls, which made 13 billion euros available to finance projects to improve European transport infrastructure, promote transport safety, develop intelligent transport systems and mitigate the environmental impact of the sector. The study contributes to the deployment of Flexible Airspace Management and Free Route, one of the six ATM functionalities identified in the Pilot Common Project (Regulation (EU) No 716/2014).

About the study

The title of the study reflects FAB CE’s determination of creating a concept whose potential does not end where its geographical borders do: it reflects a forward-thinking attitude that benefits not only the Functional Airspace Block, or even one single region, but the added-value will be recognizable on a European scale. The study takes the commitment of the seven FAB CE ANSPs, seven countries with one common goal: the defragmentation of airspace that supports the Single European Sky.

The aim of the technical feasibility study, which was launched in September 2015 and will be completed by April 2017, is to develop and validate the Free Route Airspace Concept of Operations (CONOPS) within the Functional Airspace Block Central Europe (FAB CE) with the potential of extending it beyond its borders. The study will include the development of the CONOPS, simulation exercise (simulations at HungaroControl’s Centre for Research Development and Simulation will be performed as a means of validation) to validate the findings and a detailed elaboration on the necessary ATM system requirements to connect the individual ATM systems.

By 2019, FAB CE aims to fully implement the FRA concept. For the users this will mean that within dedicated Free Route Airspace they may freely plan routes across the whole FAB area, respectively between defined entry points and defined exit points, with the possibility to route via intermediate waypoints. There will be no reference to the Air Traffic Service route network, subject to airspace availability. Within this airspace, flights remain at all times subject to Air Traffic Control and to any overriding airspace restrictions. The main objective of FRA implementation is to offer opportunities for the users to improve the efficiency of plannable direct routes, trajectories both within the FAB CE airspace and between neighbouring FABs.

FAB CE Aviation Services Limited is the affiliated entity of Austro Control, ANS CR, Croatia Control, Hungarocontrol, LPS SR, Slovenia Control and will act as the main decision-making body supporting the implementation of the Action, and its legacy following its completion. in general, it will be responsible for the management of several projects related to the improvement of air navigation efficiency in the region, since the major goal of the establishment of the affiliated entity was to foster the implementation of agreed deliverables of FAB CE projects on the one hand, while on the other hand, the goal was to facilitate the exchange of services and to assist the whole FAB CE Programme, with high-level professional ATM expert support, project management techniques, and professional administrative services.

About Connecting Europe Facility

Regulation (EU) 1316/2013 established Connecting Europe Facility “which determines the conditions, methods and procedures for providing Union financial assistance to trans-European networks in order to support projects of common interest in the sectors of transport, telecommunications and energy infrastructures and to exploit potential synergies between those sectors. It also establishes the breakdown of the resources to be made available under the multi-annual financial framework for the years 2014-2020.”

CEF is a key EU funding instrument to promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through targeted infrastructure investment at European level. It supports the development of high performing, sustainable and efficiently interconnected trans-European networks in the fields of transport, energy and digital services. CEF investments fill the missing links in Europe's energy, transport and digital backbone.