UK and Irish air navigation services have identified 30 initiatives arising from the two countries' decision to form a functional airspace block, half of which will be implemented this year.

These initiatives are aimed at generating safety and cost benefits following UK NATS' and the Irish Aviation Authority's efforts to create a combined airspace control zone.

Among the improvements listed in a new three-year plan is the creation of straighter eastbound routes across UK and Irish airspace for use during quieter night hours.

Shannon upper airspace will have certain air traffic services routes removed to allow aircraft to operate more directly - a scheme that is expected to provide "significant" fuel savings for North Atlantic flights. The interface between oceanic and domestic airspace will also be improved.

The two sides are also to devise common traffic-flow management and safety monitoring processes.

Since the agreement to create the combined airspace block in June 2008, the air navigation providers have implemented early projects such as the "P600" change to Irish Sea airspace - introduced on 7 May - designed to reduce route complexity between south-west Scotland, Northern Ireland and Dublin.

The functional airspace block's management board has achieved a "significant amount in a short period of time", says its joint chairman, Ian Hall, adding that this "bodes well" for future co-operation.

Combination of UK and Irish airspace is aimed at saving €12 million ($16 million) from reduced delays by 2013 and up to €40 million by 2018.

Source: Flight International