Single functional block is major step towards Single Sky
The UKand Ireland have become the first two European countries to agree to a wholesale merger of their airspace to form a single "functional airspace block" (FAB), in a major step towards implementing the Single European Sky.
Airspace controlled by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS) will start to be transformed into a single FAB within a year, the organisations' chief executives have agreed. A precursor to that process is a study to be commissioned by the IAA and NATS on how best to design the new FAB's upper and lower airspace sectorisation.
The chief executives of NATS and IAA, Paul Barron and Eamonn Brennan, have agreed that the study should be conducted by an independent consultant, and involve consultation with stakeholders including the airlines.
Eurocontrol director of air transport management programmes George Paulson describes the plan as "a welcome development" in the context of progress toward the Single European Sky objective. Eurocontrol's own control centre at Maastricht, in the Netherlands, manages the only FAB in Europe - the Maastricht upper flight information region (UIR), which extends over four nations. Meanwhile, the eight states in the Central European Air Traffic Services region intend, by 2008-9, to have created one UIR.
Simultaneously NATS and the IAA say the new Northern Oceanic Transition Area (NOTA - see diagram) will from January provide a Shannon-based radar service offering oceanic flights earlier achievement of desired rerouteings and ideal flight levels than can now be offered, complementing the southern area (SOTA) service.
DAVID LEARMOUNT / LONDON
Source: Flight International