Flying in the North West

Information for pilots

Manchester Frequency Monitoring Code (FMC)

The Manchester Low-Level Route

The Manchester Low-Level Route (MLLR) is within the Manchester Control Zone (CTR) and is Class D airspace. It is 4NM wide (except at the southern end where it widens to the east) and extends from surface to 1,300 feet on the Manchester QNH.

The North West Local Airspace Infringement Team (LAIT) has put together this Fly SAFE guide and answered the ten most commonly asked questions about the MLLR:

Can I squawk 7000 in the MLLR?

No. Pilots of transponder equipped aircraft must squawk 7366. This shows Manchester and Liverpool controllers that you are familiar with the procedures.

Can I transit the MLLR without talking to anybody?

Yes. However, radio equipped aircraft must monitor Manchester Radar on 118.580MHz.

Can I talk to Manchester Radar whilst transiting the MLLR?

Yes. However, this would then require you to have a new squawk and clearance allocated by Manchester Radar, potentially delaying your transit.

Can I talk to Liverpool Radar whilst transiting the Manchester Low Level Route?

No. Radio equipped aircraft must monitor Manchester Radar on 118.580MHz when inside the Low Level Route.

Can I transit the MLLR at night?

Yes, subject to your own licence privileges.

Can I transit the MLLR when the visibility is less than 5km?

VFR flight for aircraft other than helicopters is not permitted in less than 5km. An individual SVFR clearance would be required from Manchester Radar, which may involve significant delay due to traffic inbound to and outbound from Manchester and Liverpool airports.

Helicopters may operate VFR when the visibility is less than 5km with an individual clearance from Manchester Radar.

Can I transit the MLLR route if my aircraft is not fitted with a transponder?

Yes, however you must still monitor Manchester Radar on 118.580MHz and comply with all other aspects of the Low Level Route procedure.

Can I transit the MLLR if my aircraft is not fitted with a radio?

Yes, however you must still comply with all other aspects of the Low Level Route procedure.

Can I get a Basic Service inside the MMLR?

No. The Manchester Low Level Route is Class D airspace and therefore Basic, Traffic, and Deconfliction Services are not available. Aircraft with individual clearances to enter the Low Level Route will be provided with a Radar Control Service.

What will happen if I make a mistake and do not follow the MLLR procedures correctly?

Any aircraft that does not comply with the rules for the Low Level Route will be handled in the same way as those who do not follow normal clearances and instructions from Air Traffic Control. If you believe you have made an error or require assistance then speak to Manchester Radar as they may be able to provide help.

Hot-spot narratives

02. Manchester low-level route

Preventing airspace infringements in the vicinity of the Manchester low-level route

UPDATED 7 September 2021

This infringement update is an amendment to the second in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement ‘hot-spots’ in the UK. It has been written by members of the Northwest LAIT: NATS Manchester; ATCSL, Liverpool; Barton Aerodrome; and Liverpool Flight School.

The Low-level Route (LLR) is a 4nm wide corridor of Class D airspace within which aircraft may fly VFR without individual ATC clearance subject to specified conditions.

Aircraft may be flown as VFR within the LLR (day or night) without individual ATC clearance, subject to the aircraft being flown:

  • in accordance with the Visual Flight Rules (SERA.5005);
  • in a flight visibility of 5km or more;
  • at an indicated airspeed of 140 kts or less;
  • if the aircraft is transponder & radio equipped, squawk 7366 and monitor Manchester Radar 118.580 MHz.

If an aircraft is non-transponder equipped, the pilot can still fly in the Low-Level Route without an ATC clearance (subject to the above conditions), but the pilot must monitor Manchester Radar, 118.580MHz.

If an aircraft is non-transponder and non-radio equipped, the pilot can also still fly in the Low-Level Route without an ATC clearance providing they comply with the above conditions.

No ATC service is provided to aircraft flying within the LLR in accordance with the above conditions and all such aircraft are responsible for providing their own separation against all other aircraft in the Low-Level Route at all times.

If a pilot is unable to comply with the above conditions, they must contact Manchester Radar for an individual ATC clearance to fly within the Manchester CTR/LLR, or Liverpool Approach if wishing to fly within the Liverpool CTR.

The previous 7364 squawk procedure for aircraft flying SVFR is no longer valid, since the above conditions are now only applicable to aircraft flying VFR. All SVFR flight will require an individual ATC clearance, and is unlikely to be granted within the confines of the Low-Level Route unless absolutely necessary.

Pilots should not request a Basic service in the Low-Level Route as this is not available inside Class D controlled airspace – if Manchester Radar are able to issue an individual clearance, a Radar Control Service will be provided.

Pilots should be aware of the possibility of wake turbulence when flying within the Manchester Low Level Route, particularly when flying in the vicinity of the Liverpool and Manchester extended runway centrelines. Pilots operating in the Low Level Route in accordance with the above conditions will not be passed wake turbulence warnings.

The infringement teams associated with this airspace have noted the risk areas:

Entering and Leaving the LLR

The majority of airspace infringements occur in three areas:

  • The northern end of the LLR near the VRPs at Wigan Lakes and Leigh Flash due to pilots starting their descent to enter the LLR too late or due to starting the climb to a higher altitude too early;
  • The southern end of the LLR near the VRPs at Winsford Flash and Oulton Park, again due to pilots starting their descent to enter the LLR too late or due to starting the climb to a higher altitude too early; and
  • the eastern edge of the LLR near the VRPs of Stretton and Thelwall Viaduct. These infringements tend to be due to aircraft starting a climb too early to reach the altitude to carry out an overhead join at Barton aerodrome or by turning the corner to Class G airspace too early using Stretton as a turning point. In the case of the disused aerodrome at Stretton, the VRP is towards the western end of the site and outside controlled airspace; the aerodrome extends a further 0.65nm into the Manchester Class D Control Zone (CTR). As such, pilots are advised to remain to the west of the western perimeter of the aerodrome to avoid inadvertently infringing controlled airspace.

The LLR Area North of the M56 Motorway

The M56 crosses the LLR west to east at the approximate mid-point:

  • To the east of the northern half of the LLR lies Class G airspace from surface to below 2,000 feet amsl. Above that lies the Manchester Control Area (CTA) to 3,500 feet amsl, with the Class A Manchester TMA extending upwards from 3,500 feet amsl.
  • To the west of the LLR lies the Liverpool CTR from surface to 2,500 feet amsl and then the Class D Manchester CTA to 3,500 feet amsl, with the Class A Manchester TMA extending upwards from 3,500 feet amsl.

Pilots departing Barton and routing to the west, are reminded that once they reach the eastern edge of the LLR, to continue westbound without a clearance, as far as the western edge of the LLR, they must be at or below 1,300 feet Manchester QNH. It is vital that pilots understand that three-dimensional structure to avoid being in conflict with Commercial Air Transport aircraft.

To deconflict Liverpool IFR inbounds to Runway 27 from the Manchester departures from Runway 23L/R the 2 units operate a “tunnel system”. This means that when Runway 23L/R is in use at Manchester, Liverpool cannot just route their inbound traffic straight for final approach. Instead Liverpool need to pass to the west of the aerodrome and descend below 4000 feet before turning downwind descending further to 2000 feet before the western edge of the LLR.

Manchester departures from Runway 23L/R will climb above the Liverpool traffic

Liverpool cannot vector aircraft east of the eastern edge of the LLR and, therefore, when required to sequence their inbound traffic one method available is to vector traffic towards the northeast of Liverpool’s Class D airspace, which sits above the northern portion of the LLR. The Liverpool traffic must be at 2000 feet to safely pass beneath the Manchester departures whilst aircraft within the LLR can be at 1300 feet and just 700 feet below.

Therefore, any aircraft initiating an early climb above 1300 feet before they have left the northern edge of the LLR pose a serious risk to the Liverpool traffic; in addition, there is an increased risk of experiencing wake turbulence issues. When the Liverpool radar controller observes aircraft climbing early and infringing above the northern portion of the LLR, they are unable to take avoiding action by climbing as this will result in confliction with the Manchester departures, instead the only option available is to make an avoiding action turn. With the resultant delay in flight crew initiation compounded by the rate of turns, the potential for a loss of separation event is increased.

Manchester area chart

To prevent an airspace infringement, as part of their pre-flight planning and in-flight execution, pilots are strongly encouraged to:

Use a Moving Map and where able, outside the LLR,  Take 2

Use the FMC. In the LLR pilots MUST (if suitably equipped) squawk SSR code 7366 and maintain a listening watch on Manchester Radar frequency 118.580 MHz. Squawking 7000 is no longer permitted.

Elsewhere, pilots operating in the vicinity of, but intending to remain outside Manchester’s controlled airspace bounded by the following co-ordinates:

533723N 0023744W – 534459N 0020433W – 533650N 0015216W – 532510N 0014456W – 530412N 0015647W – 530253N 0023751W – 533723N 0023744W

should squawk 7366 and maintain a listening watch on Manchester Radar frequency 118.580 MHz

If aircraft are fitted with Mode S transponders the Manchester Radar controller will be able to see your callsign on their radar display and will be able to call you if they observe anything untoward. Obtain the Manchester QNH by listening to that given to other aircraft on 118.580 MHz, from the Arrival ATIS (128.180 MHz), Departure ATIS (121.980 MHz), or the MCT VOR (113.550 MHz); on VOLMET North (128.600 MHz), or by asking an adjacent ATS unit. Aircraft should not hesitate to establish contact with Manchester Radar if they require any assistance or are unsure of their position.  Note that the FMC procedures in Manchester’s UK AIP entry at AD 2.22 (paragraph 8) are in the process of being changed to reflect the advice here.

Plan. As part of your plan, build in your climb and descent points when routing in the vicinity of multiple CTAs with differing base altitudes – this is especially pertinent when approaching/leaving the LLR. Know what the VRPs look like and what airspace lies above them or close by. Beware when flying through the LLR as some VRPs are not easy to see, especially when trees are in full foliage.

Avoid flying on the Regional Pressure Setting (RPS) in the vicinity of Manchester and Liverpool CTAs. When flying on the RPS, as it is the forecast lowest QNH for a region, you will probably be higher in relation to the Manchester or Liverpool QNH – and therefore possibly inside controlled airspace without a clearance to do so. If you are receiving a FIS from London Flight Information Service, ask the FISO for the relevant QNH rather than remaining on the Barnsley RPS.

Obtain an air traffic service. Know which ATS unit can provide a LARS. To the south of the Manchester/Liverpool controlled airspace it is Shawbury Radar (133.150MHz) and to the north it is Warton Radar (129.530 MHz).

To transit through the Liverpool CTR, a well-trodden route is to cross CAS from Oulton Park – Runcorn Bridge to Kirby or vice versa. Liverpool ATC will aim to clear the pilot to cross controlled airspace by their requested route as much as possible. However, as traffic levels increase during certain times of the day, traffic may be asked to orbit south of the M56 motorway (northbound transits) or north of the M62 motorway (southbound transits) until the Runway 27 approach is clear and the transit traffic can safely pass behind the inbound traffic. As a consequence, during busy inbound traffic periods, transits may initially be asked to position and route through the LLR and once north / south of the final approach be given a clearance to enter controlled airspace and proceed on their requested/cleared route.

Think MAM TOR. This is a useful mnemonic created by the CFI at Liverpool Flying School, who is an active member of the Northwest LAIT:

  • Manchester QNH – Get from the ATIS;
  • Altitude – fly not above 1,300 feet on the Manchester QNH;
  • Map Navigation – is your route planned?;
  • Transponder – squawk 7366 whilst monitoring Manchester Radar;
  • Open Eyes! – keep a good lookout as lots of traffic use the LLR in both directions, not always with a transponder or radio;
  • Ready – to Aviate, Navigate and Communicate.


  • ORS4 No1489 – UK Standardised European Rules of the Air – VFR Flights within the Manchester Low level Route
  • AIP Supplement 031/2021
  • UK AIP wef AIRAC 9/2021 effective 9 September 2021

06. Hawarden RMZ

Preventing airspace infringements of the Hawarden Radio Mandatory Zone (RMZ)

This infringement update is the sixth in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement ‘hot-spots’ in the UK. It has been written by the air traffic control team at Hawarden aerodrome which is a key member of the Northwest LAIT.

History of the RMZ

Due to Hawarden’s location in uncontrolled airspace it was becoming ever more difficult to de-conflict aircraft on Standard Outbound Clearances (SOCs) from the myriad of non-communicating flights permitted to operate in uncontrolled airspace. To maintain the safety of all aircraft, Hawarden ATC is required to avoid conflictions to planned Hawarden departures by delaying an aircraft’s take-off until unknown traffic is no longer an operational issue.

Control of inbound airways traffic to Hawarden Airport is transferred to Hawarden ATC within the protection of Controlled Airspace. However, all Runway 04 final approach paths and several critical areas of the Runway 22 final approach are located in Class G airspace, where Hawarden traffic may come into conflict with unknown, non-communicating aircraft. In cases of such conflict, Hawarden ATC would provide an extended routing to their traffic, which resulted in an increased fuel burn and the associated environmental impact.

Numerous high velocity and heavy aircraft operating at Hawarden Airport made the ‘see and avoid’ principle incompatible with Class G operations. If the pilots’ intentions could be ascertained, this would increase situational awareness, and allow controllers the ability to plan ahead accordingly.

In 2017 Hawarden ATC identified these safety concerns that could be improved by the adoption of a known traffic environment such as a Radio Mandatory Zone (RMZ).

The RMZ would require all aircraft to make and maintain two-way radio contact with Hawarden ATC and advise ATC with pertinent flight details. This would generate a known traffic environment. An RMZ would not permit Hawarden ATC to deviate the route of all traffic to aid deconfliction; it would however, generate the known traffic environment within which the lower de-confliction minima can be applied (in accordance with UK FIS) and Hawarden traffic could be routed with the confidence that routine unexpected manoeuvres of aircraft do not need to be taken into account.

It was recognised that the establishment may generate some operational restrictions to non-radio equipped aircraft which currently utilise the airspace. To this end, it was necessary to permit some ‘alternative means of compliance’ to be developed which would allow operators to access the airspace, yet still provide Hawarden ATC with a known traffic environment.

It was considered that the option of an RMZ provided the most balanced solution with due regard to Hawarden Airport operators and other airspace users. After a period of consultation and CAA review the airspace was implemented in March 2017. It comprises 3 areas:

Area A lies to the north and is located underneath the Manchester CTA; it extends from the surface to 2,500 feet amsl.

Area B is the largest area and lies overhead the Hawarden ATZ and to the south; it extends for the surface to 3,000 feel amsl.

Area C lies to the south and is located over the western part of Wrexham and over the high ground to the south of Hawarden aerodrome; it extends for the surface to 4,500 feel amsl.

All three areas are charted on VFR charts with blue semi-circles on the inside of the boundary lines. The Hawarden Radio Mandatory Zone (RMZ) frequency 120.055 MHz which is also annotated on the charts.

Hawarden Radio Mandatory Zone

Hawarden Radio Mandatory Zone charted on VFR charts with blue semi-circles on the inside of the boundary lines

Hawarden RMZ Areas

Hawarden RMZ areas

RMZ Procedures

For flights within the RMZ pilots must comply with ONE of the following:

(a) Establish 2-way RTF communication with Hawarden Radar (120.055 MHz) passing flight details before entering the RMZ and maintain communication within the RMZ.

Flight details will comprise:

  1. Callsign
  2. Aircraft type
  3. Position
  4. Level/altitude
  5. Intentions of the flight.

(b) Display the Hawarden Frequency Monitoring Code (FMC) of 4607 (with Mode C (ALT) if available), whilst monitoring Hawarden Radar on frequency 120.055 MHz prior to entering, and within, the RMZ.

(c) Non-radio aircraft should contact Hawarden ATC by telephone (01244 522012), email ( or by text message to 07786 208 291 prior to commencing any planned flights that will enter or cross the RMZ. The aircraft registration, type, estimates and points of entry/exit, planned altitudes and duration/activity in the RMZ needs to be passed to Hawarden ATC. On receipt of this information an acknowledgement will be issued. This gives you authority to enter the RMZ.

(d) Conduct flight in accordance with valid Letter of Agreement with Hawarden ATC if operating from a site within the RMZ.

Hawarden Frequency Monitoring Code (FMC)

The Hawarden FMC (commonly known as a listening squawk) is 4607. It should always be used with Mode C (ALT) if available). It is designed so you can monitor the Hawarden Radar Frequency without contacting ATC; however, you must establish two-way communication with ATC if requested. Observing the transponder code will indicate to Hawarden ATC that you are monitoring the frequency able to be contacted by ATC should the need arise.

Use of the FMC:

  1. Monitor the Hawarden Radar Frequency of 120.055 MHz.
  2. Select the transponder code 4607 (with Mode C (ALT) if available).
  3. Remember you are not receiving an ‘Air Traffic Service’.
  4. You remain responsible for your own navigation and terrain clearance.
  5. You are not cleared to enter the ATZ or any Controlled Airspace.
  6. You do not need to contact Hawarden Radar.
  7. ATC will call you if they wish to contact you. You will be called in relation to your position.
  8. When leaving the RMZ, deselect 4607 first and change frequency.

Visual Reference Points (VRPs):

These VRPs can be useful in identifying the boundaries of the RMZ to assist with frequency change or selection of the FMC. We suggest pilots use the VRPs in the vicinity of Hawarden as a guide to selecting the FMC.

Outside the RMZ:

  • Beeston Castle lies 5.7nm to the east of the RMZ boundary near the village of Tarporley and to the south of the Shropshire Union Canal).
  • Chester VRP lies just to the east of the RMZ Boundary to the east of the city of Chester and on the junction of the M53 and A51.
  • Oulton Park lies 8.3nm to the northeast of the RMZ boundary and just to the south of the entrance to the Manchester Low-level Route.
  • Borras Quarry lies on the eastern RMZ boundary and to the north of Wrexham town.

Inside the RMZ:

  • Poulton Disused Airfield lies 0.9nm inside the RMZ boundary and to the southeast of Hawarden aerodrome.
  • Mold Town lies 1.4nm inside the western RMZ boundary
  • Flint Bridge lies 0.5nm inside the RMZ boundary to the northwest of Hawarden aerodrome.

RMZ Infringements

Whilst there has been a year-on-year reduction in the number of airspace infringements of the RMZ, the numbers remain high. In the 9 months of its implementation in 2017 there were 115 airspace infringements (circa 13 per month), in 2018 there were 74 airspace infringements (6 per month) and in 2019 there has been as average of 4 airspace infringement per month.

The major causes of RMZ Infringements appear to be a lack of understanding by pilots of the requirements for 0entry to an RMZ or a failure to note the area’s depiction on aviation charts.

It is important for pilots to ensure they are operating the latest software updates for their navigation equipment. Procedures and frequencies do change and a number of infringements have been down to calling on/monitoring the out of date Approach frequency.

Most aircraft that infringe the RMZ tend do so to the south west of the airspace just below the Niton CTA, base level 4500 feet. Pilots, believing that they are routing well to the south west of Hawarden don’t call Hawarden Radar, but end up transiting through the south western portion of the zone.

This has a significant impact on aircraft making instrument approaches to Runway 04. The RMZ provides a certain amount of protection from, and predictability for, aircraft transiting nearby. However, due to the high ground in that area radar coverage is poor and unknown traffic quite often appears late on, requiring rapid avoiding action for aircraft at a critical stage of flight, unknown traffic must be de-conflicted by either 5nms horizontally or 3,000 feet vertically. If aircraft call early to transit, co-ordination can be achieved, or inbound aircraft vectored early to pass behind the known traffic.

An aide memoir detailing the RMZ and its requirements can be found here: Hawarden Radio Mandatory Zone

07. Manchester Barton ATZ

Preventing ATZ infringements at Manchester Barton Aerodrome

UPDATED January 2023

This infringement update is the seventh in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement hot-spots in the UK. It has been written by the Aerodrome Flight Information Service Officers (AFISO) at Manchester Barton Aerodrome who are members of the Northwest LAIT.

ATZ infringements

Whilst ATZ infringements have always been reportable as an occurrence (a breach of Rule 11 of The Rules of the Air Regulations 2015), in recent years the national focus on Airspace Infringements prevention and improved reporting have identified a number of common factors which have led to such infringements.

In 2021 there were 95 reported infringements of ATZs in the UK. From January to 31 October 2022 there were 84. This type of airspace infringement is a particular risk to the operation at Manchester (Barton) Aerodrome. This article is intended to give helpful guidance and useful tips to assist pilots in preventing an ATZ infringement at the Aerodrome and may also be relevant at other ATZs elsewhere.

The Barton ATZ

The Barton ATZ has a 2nm radius and extends to 2,000 feet above aerodrome level. It sits underneath the Manchester Control Area (CTA with vertical limits of 2,000 feet – 3,500 feet Manchester QNH) and against the Manchester CTR (Surface to 3,500 feet Manchester QNH) as depicted below; it is a non-standard ATZ as it excludes the portion of the circle that would lie within the Manchester CTR. The ATZ is active during the published hours of the Aerodrome Flight Information Service as per the entry in the UK AIP at EGCB AD 2.17. The ATZ is established to give protection to aircraft at the critical stages of flight when departing, arriving, and flying in the vicinity of the aerodrome and it can be a busy area of airspace. Barton is an aerodrome used by many aircraft which vary greatly in performance levels; compliance with Rule 11 of the Rules of the Air Regulations 2015 is essential to ensure that the ATZ’s protection is an effective mitigation against a mid-air collision.

The ATZ lies primarily within Class G airspace, however the top of the ATZ lies above the base of the Class D Manchester CTA (aerodrome elevation is 73 feet amsl). This also means that it is impossible to transit at the top height (2,000 feet agl) or above the Barton ATZ without clearance from Manchester ATC. Aircraft arriving to and flying visual circuits at Barton will do so on the Barton QFE; departing aircraft will be issued the Manchester QNH.

Extract from: Sheet 5 Central England and Wales Edition 14 (2021)

Reported infringements

Since 2021, there were 12 reported infringements of the Barton ATZ. Most of these infringements involved aircraft that were inbound to land with a small number by aircraft not landing but flying within the vicinity.

Manchester (Barton) Aerodrome is a member of the Northwest Local Airspace Infringement Team (LAIT). Significant local awareness and education material has been made and a large reduction in the number of infringements involving locally based aircraft has been evident, as illustrated below. This additional information aims to further extend this awareness and educate pilots around the country who may be visiting the aerodrome or passing the vicinity.

Inbound Local Area Transits
Locally-based aircraft Visiting aircraft Non-Barton based
2018 13 8 4
2019 6 4 2
2020 Data been omitted as 2020 was not a comparable flying year
2021 2 3 3
2022* 2 2 0

*1 January to 15 December 2022

Common causal factors

A study of the infringements breaks down the majority of causal factors into the following areas:

Lack of awareness of Rule 11 – A number of pilots were unaware that they must not enter the ATZ (even if they have previously remained on frequency in the local area) until the AFISO has passed updated aerodrome information directly to them. Most incidences cited busy RTF as a contributary factor, with the PIC not able to make an initial joining call to obtain airfield information, or having been asked to “standby” due to AFISO workload. See the below section Plan Ahead for guidance.

Further information on Rule 11 and ATZs can be found in this leaflet.

Incorrect frequency selection – Barton Information frequency is 120.255 MHz and has a Designated Operational Coverage (DOC) of 10NM radius and up to 3,000 feet amsl. The second most common cause for Barton ATZ infringements is incorrect frequency selection and pilots continuing their flight into the ATZ having not received a response. Rule 11 applies to aerodromes with a Flight Information Service (FIS) centre during the notified hours of watch of the FIS unit as notified in the UK AIP or as amended by NOTAM. If you don’t receive a response during these hours, check your frequency selection and avoid the ATZ entirely.

Lack of pre-flight planning – It was evident that in some cases, non-Barton based aircraft transiting or operating within the immediate local area had not completed an adequate pre-brief for their intended flight. In some cases, these aircraft had also not completed PPR.

Distraction – The pilot may have been distracted, either by passengers or whilst under instruction, in the latter cases allowing the student to continue to infringe without taking preventative or corrective action in good time.

Tips on preventing ATZ infringements at Barton

Several local VRPs are established in the vicinity of the aerodrome which may provide assistance in judging a suitable distance at which communications and aerodrome information should be established and received.

Inbound from the South (via the Manchester Low-Level Route)
If your aircraft is transponder and radio equipped, you must monitor Manchester Radar on 118.580 MHz and squawk 7366 within the Manchester Low-Level Route (MLLR); therefore, you must be outside of the MLLR before making your initial call to Barton Information. Plan to be entirely east of Thelwall Viaduct VRP and if you are unable to establish two-way communications, you should remain 3-4 nm from the ATZ by routeing northbound until this is established.

Procedures for the Manchester Low Level Route (MLLR) can be found UK AIP EGCC AD 2.22 (7) and Hot-Spot Narrative 02: Manchester Low-Level Route.

Inbound from the Northwest, North and Northeast
A good place to make your initial call is in the vicinity of VRP’s at Winter Hill Mast, Middlebrook Stadium or M60/M62/M66 Heaton Interchange. These all allow 5+ nm before reaching the ATZ.

Transiting Southwest to Northeast and reverse
The aerodrome and ATZ can become extremely busy. Should a transit of the ATZ be necessary, ensure that a call is made in good time at least 5 miles before reaching the boundary to allow you to receive aerodrome and specific traffic information to conduct your transit safely. We would suggest, when busy, that it may be more prudent to remain at least 3-4 nm from the Aerodrome, therefore well outside the ATZ, and route around via the West and North side of the ATZ. The Barton AFISO can provide a basic service and will advise of any traffic that may be of relevant to your routing.

Plan ahead – Especially during busy periods, the frequency may be busy and so sufficient time should be allowed in order to establish two-way communication and aerodrome information. If you are asked to standby, you must not enter the ATZ; in addition, it would be best practice not to orbit immediately adjacent to the ATZ, so, where possible, an early call ten miles out will be beneficial. Have a backup plan should you be unable to establish contact. This may involve re-routing or holding within the local area, being careful of other airspace in the vicinity.

Use a Moving map – A VFR moving map display, with audio alerts enabled, will give you a good clear indication of the ATZ and adjacent airspace giving you the ability to maintain situational awareness. Ensure your alerts are configured correctly as it is possible to disable alerts for certain airspace types such as ATZs.

Transponder Code
When in communication with Barton Information, aircraft can be expected to be allocated a specific transponder code. This code is designed to assist adjacent radar equipped ATC units in identifying any aircraft that are in communications with the Barton AFISO, enabling improved and swift resolution should any infringements of the Manchester or other nearby airspace occur. Aircraft should not select the Barton conspicuity code without first being instructed to do so by the AFISO.

Relevant Traffic Information
The AFISO is responsible for providing traffic information to aircraft within the ATZ and immediate vicinity. Therefore, by ensuring a timely call to the AFISO with accurate position and height well before entering the ATZ, he/she is then able to provide a much more complete ‘picture’ of relevant traffic to both yourself and other aircraft in or near the ATZ, assisting all pilots in situational awareness and reducing risk of collisions.

Barton operates an ADS-B Flight Information Display (FID) in line with CAP 797 (Appendix F). This helps provide the AFISO with additional situational awareness and provides a further tool in which the AFISO can help pilots avoid ATZ or other controlled airspace infringements as long as their workload permits.

Local Procedures
The overhead join height is 1700 feet agl. This aims to give separation from the Manchester CTA above and in the vicinity of the aerodrome reducing potential for inadvertent vertical infringements of the Manchester CTA. Circuit height is 1000 feet agl.

Further information, local procedures and online PPR can be found within the Operational section at

12. Pennines to the east of Manchester

Preventing airspace infringements in the vicinity of the Pennines to the east of Manchester

This infringement update is the twelfth in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement hot-spots in the UK. It has been written by members of the Northwest LAIT at Manchester Airport Air Traffic Service Unit.

During the 12-month period, from April 2019 to March 2020, almost 80 airspace infringements occurred in Manchester controlled airspace. Three areas have been identified in a heat map as high-risk areas:

  1. Manchester Low-level Route (54% of infringements)
  2. In the vicinity of Barton aerodrome (18% of infringements); and
  3. Manchester CTA-3 and the eastern edge of the CTR (17% of infringements)

The Class D Manchester CTR extends from the Surface to 3,500 feet amsl; the Manchester CTA-3 is also Class D with a base of 3,000 feet amsl and upper limit of 3,500 feet amsl. Above both is the Manchester Control Area (TMA) which is Class A airspace. All airspace is based on the Manchester QNH.

Figure 1 Manchester CTR

Figure 1 Manchester CTR

The following land features are all outside Manchester CTR and under CTA-3:

  1. the VRP at Dovestone Reservoir;
  2. Chew Reservoir;
  3. the easterly lakes of Torside Reservoir;
  4. Kinder Reservoir;
  5. Combs Reservoir;
  6. Fernlee Reservoir; and
  7. Errwood Reservoir.

The VRPs at Glossop, Whaley Bridge and Lamaload Reservoir all lie on the edge or inside the Manchester CTR.

Figure 2 VRPS on the edge of the Manchester CTR

Figure 2 VRPS on the edge of the Manchester CTR

Figure 3 VRPS on the edge of the Manchester CTR

Figure 3 VRPS on the edge of the Manchester CTR

Fourteen airspace infringements of the Manchester CTR and CTA were on the west side of the Pennines between Stanedge (a helicopter site marked on the VFR chart) and Whalley Bridge; the biggest cluster was around Dovestones Reservoir.

The main causal factors associated with airspace infringements in this area are:

  1. flying too close to the Manchester CTR to remain to the west of the Pennines;
  2. flying too close to the base of the Manchester CTA or operating on the RPS and not the Manchester QNH. Since the RPS being the lowest forecast pressure for the entire Barnsley Altimeter Setting Region, when flying on the RPS, pilots will be higher in relation to controlled airspace than they think. Remember: “Wind-on Hectopascals, wind-on height”; and
  3. operating on the London Flight Information Service frequency rather than Manchester Radar’s frequency. This offers no ability for prompt resolution to a potential airspace infringement. When pilots listen out on Manchester Radar (and squawking 7366), Air Traffic Control has got the opportunity to carry out ‘defensive controlling’ and free-call an aircraft prior to the pilot possibly infringing.  In addition, pilots will hear the Manchester QNH being given to IFR inbounds thereby obtaining the correct altimeter setting.

The Low-level Route (LLR) was covered in the second narrative of this series (see narrative 02); this narrative has been amended in line with the changes relating to the Class D VMC criteria which came into effect on 26 March 2020.  As a review, the main factors that may prevent the 40+ infringements in this area are:

  • Do not commence a climb too early when exiting the LLR;
  • Do not enter the LLR too high due to commencing a descent too late when approaching the LLR;
  • Do not turn to the east too early (in the vicinity of Stretton) or commence a climb too early when positioning to recover to Manchester Barton. When routing northbound, turning abeam the Thelwall Viaduct and delaying a climb until east of a line that runs south to north through M6 Junction 20-21 to M62 Junction 11 will keep you clear of the Manchester CTA above the LLR;
  • Applying Threat and Error Management when routing through the corridor; it may not be possible to Take 2 but being aware of the effects of thermal lift around Warrington may prevent a vertical infringement.
  • Ensuring you are flying on the correct altimeter setting (Manchester QNH). When under the service of an adjacent ATS unit, do not accept the RPS (Barnsley); ask for the Manchester QNH or listen out on the Manchester ATIS (Departure ATIS (121.980 MHz), or the MCT VOR (113.550 MHz); on VOLMET North (128.600 MHz)

To prevent an airspace infringement, as part of their pre-flight planning and in-flight execution, pilots are strongly encouraged to:

Use a Moving Map and, when able, Take 2.

Use the FMC. When flying VFR in the LLR, rather than squawking 7000, use the Frequency Monitoring Code by squawking 7366 and monitoring Manchester Radar on 118.580 MHz. If aircraft are fitted with Mode S transponders the Manchester controller will be able to see your callsign on their radar display and will be able to call you if they observe anything untoward. Aircraft should not hesitate to establish contact with Manchester Radar if they require any assistance or are unsure of their position.

Plan. As part of your plan, consider not only the route but forecast and actual weather conditions on the Pennines.

 Avoid flying on the Regional Pressure Setting (RPS) in the vicinity of Manchester Controlled Airspace.  When flying on the RPS, as it is the forecast lowest QNH for a region, you will probably be higher in relation to the Manchester QNH.  If you are receiving a FIS from London Flight Information Service, ask the FISO for the relevant QNH rather than remaining on the Barnsley RPS.

Obtain an air traffic service.  Know which ATS unit can provide a LARS.  To the south of the Manchester controlled airspace it is Shawbury Zone (133.150MHz) and East Midlands Radar (134.180 MHz); to the north it is Warton Radar (129.530 MHz).


Infringement occurrences

05. Class D: Manchester Control Area

Infringement of Class D – Manchester Control Area

Aircraft Category Fixed-wing Microlight
Type of Flight Recreational Flight
Airspace / Class Manchester CTA / Class D

Air traffic control

The Manchester radar controller was alerted to an aircraft squawking 7365 a few miles to the northeast of Barton aerodrome. The aircraft was indicating an altitude of 2,400 feet (1). The base of the Manchester CTA is 2,000 feet.

Mode S allowed the aircraft to be identified so the controller was able to contact the Barton Flight Information Service Officer (FISO). After a second call to Barton the aircraft descended.

The aircraft was inside controlled airspace for 3 minutes and 36 seconds before leaving the CTA. No other traffic was affected by the infringement.

The Barton FISO explained that the unit is part of an ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast) trial. This allows a FISO to offer generic traffic information (TI) to pilots operating within the unit’s designated operational coverage (DOC). Manchester Barton’s DOC is notified as 10NM/3,000 feet. Generic traffic information is given using phrases such as “in your vicinity”.  The FISO could see that the frequency had not been changed to Warton after the aircraft left the unit’s DOC heading north. So issued TI on traffic that was approaching position from the east (see figure 1).

Map showing the position of the aircraft and the approaching traffic

Figure 1: The position of the aircraft is shown as ‘1’ and the approaching traffic as ‘2’

On recovery to Barton, the pilot informed the FISO that they were over Bury (figure 2). The FISO issued TI against an aircraft that was departing the ATZ northbound in a reciprocal direction.

Map showing the position of the aircraft over Bury

Figure 2: Position of the aircraft over Bury

At that point the aircraft was inside the DOC area, and the FISO commented to their assistant that, based on ADS-B altitude, the aircraft appeared high compared with the reported altitude.

The FISO was about to ask the pilot to confirm their altitude and pass updated information on the opposite traffic when the Manchester radar controller called to let them know the traffic was too high. The pilot was informed and carried out a descent out of the CTA to the correct altitude for an overhead join.


The pilot was carrying out a VFR sightseeing flight from Barton to Rawtenstall via Bury and Ramsbottom (figure 3).

On the day of the flight, met conditions were good. Visibility was in excess of 10km with some cloud detected at around 4,000 feet and a light and variable surface wind.

Map showing route from Barton to Rawtenstall via Bury and Ramsbottom

Figure 3: Flight from Barton to Rawtenstall via Bury and Ramsbottom

The pilot usually flew with a fellow pilot to supplement each other’s navigation, lookout and communications. On this occasion they were flying solo as their flying partner was unavailable. The pilot was flying the EV97 for the first time in some months. The pilot was using a 1:250,000 VFR chart and a basic version of a VFR moving map application on their mobile phone. This was secured in a mount on the right-hand side of the instrument panel due to the location of the 12V socket and position of the mount. The pilot explained that mounting a moving map is limited to the right-hand side as nothing can be fixed to the canopy. This meant that altitude information was very difficult to see from the left-hand seat. The aircraft was not equipped with either strobes or a beacon and, due to its bare aluminium colour, the pilot was aware that it was harder to see air-to-air than white microlights. The pilot remained on the Barton frequency throughout the flight and was in receipt of a Basic Service from Barton Information.

On the outbound leg, the FISO issued a warning of a much faster aircraft heading in a reciprocal direction. The microlight pilot became extremely anxious that the pilot of the conflicting aircraft would not become visual and all their focus turned to lookout, scanning all around in an unsuccessful attempt to catch sight of the aircraft. Although trimmed for level flight, the microlight had started a gradual climb from Bury to reach an altitude of 2,700 feet at Rawtenstall. Due to their focus on scanning, the pilot had not realised that the aircraft had climbed approximately 1,000 feet above their intended cruising altitude. On turning back towards Barton, and not realising they had climbed so much, a quick glance at the altimeter told the pilot that the aircraft was at *,800 feet. Having intended to fly at around 1,700 feet, the pilot mistakenly took this reading to be 1,800 feet. It was really 2,800 feet. The pilot started a gradually descent of 300 feet to what they thought was 1,500 feet, but was actually 2,500ft. This altitude was maintained the rest of the way back to the Barton overhead.

The pilot made two position reports en-route at this altitude of “Overhead Bury, one thousand five hundred feet” and “Half a mile north of Swinton Interchange at one thousand five hundred feet”. Overhead Barton, the FISO asked the pilot to check their altitude at which point they realised that the needle on the altimeter was pointing towards “2” not “1”. The pilot apologised whilst commencing a steep descent into the Barton circuit. The pilot added that a smaller aircraft or one with less performance in their proximity, “as often happens around Barton”, would not have caused them so much concern. But the warning of a larger aircraft travelling at a much higher speed triggered a serious worry about the risk of a mid-air collision had affected their concentration.

Figure 4 shows an approximate representation of the flight profile.

Map showing an approximate representation of the flight profile.

Figure 4: Approximate representation of the flight profile.

After the event the pilot analysed the occurrence, and noted a number of factors that led to them not noticing the higher altitude:

  • Better conspicuity would lessen the stress of not being seen by other aircraft thereby reducing their focus on external scan and allowing some division of attention between lookout and instrumentation.
  • A check of the basic version of the VFR moving map technology led them to note that their version did not offer warnings of possible vertical infringements.
  • The mobile phone was positioned so far away from the pilot that they could not get an independent altitude check from that equipment.
  • In previously flown aircraft, they recall seeing an additional display within the altimeter showing the altitude in numbers.

Causal factors

The pilot had planned to carry out a sightseeing flight to the north of Barton. The decision to use a 1:250,000 chart, allowing greater definition of the route features, was good based on the aircraft’s speed and the relatively short distance of the flight (approximately 15NM from Barton aerodrome). The use of a chart for navigation was supported by a VFR moving map.

However, in becoming distracted in trying to visually acquire conflicting traffic, an inadvertent climb resulted in the aircraft eventually reaching 1,200 feet higher than the intended cruising altitude.

The pilot was subject to confirmation bias. They knew they wanted to fly at or around 1,500 feet and the small needle on the altimeter pointed to 800 feet. In the pilots mind they expected to be at or around 800 feet. Having not flown the EV97 solo for some time, they were not surprised to have reached a slightly higher altitude by a few hundred feet.

Nothing in their plan or the small needle on the altimeter was to indicate that they were over 1,000 feet higher than intended. The confirmation bias could have been broken by one, or both of the following:

  • The pilot normally flew with another pilot who has a tablet device with a ‘full’ version of a VFR moving map application. Had the pilot has such a device/version, even as a back-up to their using the 1:250,000 VFR chart, they would have had the benefit of a larger display which would have provided them with alerts as they climbed up to 2,800 feet with the Manchester TMA being above them at 3,500 feet. It would also have provided an alert on the inbound leg as they approached the Manchester CTA some 300 feet above the base altitude and then again as the CTA base stepped down to 2,000 feet.
    These warnings are shown when the trajectory, both horizontal and vertical, would take an aircraft into a volume of airspace. An onscreen warning is often accompanied by an audible alert, the form of which depends on the type of airspace, and a thick border may be drawn on the map accompanied by large coloured arrows to highlight which piece of airspace is associated with the warning.
    The CAA and safety partners actively encourage all pilots to incorporate the use of moving maps in both pre-flight planning and during flight. On this occasion, the pilot had not applied active Threat and Error Management in relation to their equipment in respect of the size and position of the display and the functionality of the ‘basic’ version of the application. In addition, the lack of options for the position of the mount may have played a part in accessing data from the moving map.
  • Had the pilot elected to obtain an air traffic service from the local LARS unit at Warton on 129.530MHz the chain of events may have been broken. On initial contact the pilot may have noticed the error when passing their details to the controller or, when they told Warton Radar that they were at 1,800 feet, Warton Radar would have noted an error in the Mode C when carrying out the verification and validation process during identification for a radar service. The Barton DOC is notified as 10NM/3,000 feet. When leaving the DOC area northbound, the pilot would have been better served getting a service from Warton.

The pilot became task saturated. While trying to visually acquire the aircraft for which they received information they failed to note an inadvertent altitude change. The pilot cannot be criticised for being risk aware and concerned of the developing situation. However, the use of an electronic conspicuity device on a larger display and/or the provision of an air traffic service are effective mitigations of mid-air collision. With mitigations in place capacity can be increased and stress levels reduced.

Having operated the EV97 for some time some skill fade may also have been a contributory factor.

Post-flight analysis

The pilot is commended for carrying out such detailed post-flight analysis of the occurrence (including the submission of a detailed and honest report), their approach to the factors surrounding the occurrence and for following Just Culture principles.

In addition they immediately engaged the services of a flight instructor to obtain remedial refresher training to ensure that issues could be addressed and rectified.

Focus on

(1) Please note that Mode A code and Mode C pressure-altitude have not been verified.

Other narratives in this series can be found on the Infringement occurrences page.

Radar replays

Manchester CTR

Watch the clip: Radar video clip for Manchester LLR (6 MB)

You’ll see an aircraft (in fact more than one) leaving the Manchester Low Level Route into the CTR. The clip is annotated to explain the disruption that results.

The radar replay shows the south western section of the Manchester Control Zone. Manchester Airport is using its north easterly runways (landing runway 05R and departing runway 05L). At the start of the replay Manchester Airport, the 10 mile range ring from the airport and the final approach track for runway 05R are all highlighted. At the time of this incident traffic levels were high, notice there is a continuous sequence of inbound aircraft that are being vectored for approximately 4 miles spacing on final approach.  Also out of picture, there are several aircraft at the 3 Manchester holding stacks waiting for their turn to make an approach.

The infringing aircraft was traced by tracking it on radar and actually turned out to be 3 aircraft that were flying in loose formation (only one was squawking but if you watch the replay again you can make out the primary radar returns from the other 2 aircraft). The 4 aircraft broken off approach were all delayed by 8 minutes but also 10 aircraft that were already in the holding stacks were also delayed 8 minutes. This gives a total delay for all aircraft of 2 hours and if you consider the average size of the delayed aircraft involved was a Boeing 737 (which burns around 2.5 tonnes of fuel an hour while holding) it’s a costly business.

OK, so the controllers did pretty well, keeping the impact to just time and money, not lives, but here’s another learning point; If the 7000 squawk has been simply listening in to Manchester Approach on 118.575 Mhz and displaying the Manchester ‘listening in’ squawk of 7366, it could have been contacted as soon as it left the corridor.

Keep reading

Flying over gliding sites

Planning around winch launch sites

Stansted information

Flying in the Stansted area

Wessex information

Flying in the Solent area

North West information

Flying in the North West

East Midlands CTA-2

Hot-spot update

Denied airspace access?

Online reporting form

Radio Telephony planning

Online tutorial