First in series of safety improvements launched to prevent unknown GA aircraft straying into commercial airspace

Increasing concerns about unauthorised penetration of European airspace by general aviation aircraft have prompted Eurocontrol to launch an information toolkit for pilots and air traffic controllers aimed at reducing the risk of midair collisions.

The move is the first under Eurocontrol's airspace infringement safety improvement initiative, approved in December 2005. "Airspace infringements represent a severe threat to aviation safety, and the majority involve general aviation aircraft," says programme co-ordinator Alexander Krastev.

He adds that the main reasons for infringement are inadequate flight preparation and pilots becoming lost or unsure of their position. Other factors include pilots failing to brief themselves on airspace restrictions, using out-of-date aeronautical charts and an over-reliance or misuse of GPS navigation systems.

According to Eurocontrol, unknown aircraft stray into some of the busier airspace zones at least once a day, mostly involving airport control zones or areas and en-route airspace. The toolkit provides help with setting up airspace infringement working groups, and advice for controllers and pilots.

Eurocontrol aims to develop a Europe-wide action plan by early 2008. In its 2005 annual report, the agency's safety regulation commission identified unauthorised penetration of airspace as a "crucially important" safety issue.

"It appears that private pilot's licence [PPL] training does not give sufficient information on how to behave in controlled airspace. The training syllabus for PPLs should therefore be revised," it says.

While the main focus of the new initiative is infringement of controlled airspace in International Civil Aviation Organisation classes A to E, the work will also address "numerous infringements of airspace that is restricted or temporarily restricted for military use". These involve mainly GA aircraft "and are caused largely by navigation errors or inadequate flight planning".

Eurocontrol highlights the "random nature of the problem and unpredictability of the aircraft involved".

Source: Flight International