Major efficiencies predicted through plans to combine two national airspace blocks

Europe’s first multinational functional airspace block (FAB) created under the Single European Sky (SES) plan could come into being in 2008-9, says a study commissioned by the UK and Irish civil aviation authorities. The plan for an Anglo-Irish block was mooted about a year ago, but the just-completed study has shown the concept is feasible and has drawn up plans for the changes involved.

The block is forecast to deliver annual efficiency savings of €7-10 million ($8.5-12 million) for the two air navigation service providers, the Irish Aviation Authority and UK National Air Traffic Services (NATS). Airlines are expected to save 10-30 million through better routeing and fewer delays, says the report’s author, consultancy Solar Alliance. Solar says it has worked with all the stakeholders to prepare the report, including governments, regulators, Eurocontrol and airspace users.

The study also suggests the FAB should cover the whole of the Shanwick Oceanic flight information region, which extends halfway across the Atlantic. The airspace would be run from three area control centres (ACC) – Shannon in Ireland, Prestwick in Scotland and Swanwick in England. A new Prestwick is being built for service entry in 2008-9 and its launch will determine the earliest date of operation for the new Anglo-Irish FAB.

Under the proposal, two UK centres already due to close – West Drayton and Manchester – will close without replacement, and the Dublin terminal manoeuvring area (TMA) centre might change its task, with its en-route function taken over by Prestwick.

Unlike proposals so far for the structure of SES FABs, the report suggests the Anglo-Irish block should include all the lower as well as the upper airspace, from ground level upward. Current proposals for SES FABs are that they should, at least initially, be upper airspace sectors only, starting at flight level 285 (28,500ft/8,700m).

Major changes in airspace control responsibilities would take place if the proposal is accepted: Prestwick would assume control of the sector the Dublin centre now manages; Shannon would take over all the North Atlantic transition sectors, including some now handled from Prestwick; and Prestwick would take control of much of England’s north west, now controlled by Swanwick.


Source: Flight International