The unauthorised entry into controlled or temporarily restricted airspace, or active Danger Area, by an aircraft is known as an infringement. In 2018 there were 1358 reported incidents in the UK. The majority involve general aviation pilots.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority, the air traffic control provider, NATS, and general aviation groups continue to work together to raise awareness of the issue and to cut the risk of infringement.
Tips for avoiding infringements
Think, plan, avoid and enjoy your flight
Key tips to help avoid airspace infringements produced in collaboration with the Airspace Infringement Working Group:
1. NOTAM checking
Check NOTAM before flying (www.ais.org.uk). Learn to use an efficient method such as ‘narrow route brief’ and make best use of ‘saved briefings’, which can be re-run at later dates to cut down checking time. If using a commercial or graphical product, do not put the plotted graphic printed on a clubroom wall without the ‘not plottable’ list displayed just as prominently.
2. Restrictions of flying
To look ahead, planned restrictions are issued as Aeronautical Information Circulars on www.ais.org.uk.
For checking just prior to flight, the number 08085 354802 will give the very latest situation.
If you are abroad you can get the same recorded information on +44 (0)1489 887515.
3. Transit routes
During planning for any zone transit, think about your routing in relation to the active runway alignment. You are much more likely to get a crossing approved over the runway if your track is perpendicular to it than aligned with it.
There are also useful airspace guides written by local ATC for most of the CTRs in the UK, giving tips, photos, and preferred routings – see the next tip!
NATS has launched a pre-notification tool for flights crossing Class D controlled airspace in the London area. You can use it at https://aup.nats.aero/
4. Controlled airspace local VFR guides
Check for a local Airspace Guide for your route. There are numerous guides often written by controllers who are hobby pilots in their spare time. They can be incredibly useful to anyone visiting a local area.
5. Plan B
When planning a route including a controlled airspace crossing, always have ‘plan B’ to avoid it too.
If you wish to transit controlled airspace or a zone:
- Think about what you need to say in advance
- Call the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit at ten nautical miles or five minutes flying time from the airspace boundary to give notice
- Make a decision checkpoint on where to take an avoidance route if a clearance is not possible
It’s much easier to get round a block of airspace from a few miles distant than to successfully divert around tight up to the boundary.
Remember to plan time and fuel calculations using the longer route.
6. Radio calls
Think before you transmit. Using the correct radio phraseology helps air traffic control to help you.
7. Specific clearance
You need a formal specific clearance to enter or cross controlled airspace.
The instruction ‘Standby’, or the provision of a transponder squawk, or even the provision of any type of service is not an ATC clearance.
An instruction to ‘Remain Outside Controlled Airspace’ on the first reply from the controller does not mean your transit is already refused, it merely warns you not to enter until a formal clearance and routing is agreed.
Flying with a moving map will help you to manage this.