The full set of hot-spot narratives can be found on this page: Local area information
While we understand that many pilots are currently unable to fly due to COVID-19 restrictions we aim to continue to release safety education and awareness material to support the GA community with the future return to flying and promote longer-term safety awareness. To meet that aim we are continuing to publish information relating to airspace infringement hot-spots.
Preventing infringements of Prohibited and Restricted Airspace
This infringement update is the twentieth in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement hot-spots in the UK. It has been written by the airspace sponsors involved in the establishment of permanent and temporary prohibited and restricted airspace.
Each year a number of pilots infringe prohibited or restricted airspace in the UK. There are three types of such airspace:
- Prohibited and Restricted Airspace;
- Restricted Area (Temporary) also known as a RA(T); and
- Emergency Restrictions of Flying, known as ERF.
Irrespective of the type of area, all three are established under article 239 of the Air Navigation Order 2016 (ANO2016) [as amended] on behalf of the Secretary of State. The regulations made under this article may apply either generally or in relation to any class of aircraft as notified and it is an offence to contravene, permit the contravention of or fail to comply with any regulations made under this article.
Power to prohibit or restrict flying
239.(1) If the Secretary of State decides it is necessary in the public interest to restrict or prohibit flying by reason of—
(a) the intended gathering or movement of a large number of persons;
(b) the intended holding of an aircraft race or contest or of a flying display; or
(c) national defence or any other reason affecting the public interest,
the Secretary of State may make regulations prohibiting, restricting or imposing conditions on flights by aircraft specified in paragraph (2) flying in the circumstances specified in paragraph (2).
(2) The aircraft and circumstances are—
(a) aircraft, whether or not they are registered in the United Kingdom, in any airspace over the United Kingdom or in the neighbourhood of an offshore installation; and
(b) aircraft which are registered in the United Kingdom, in any other airspace, being airspace for which the United Kingdom has, under international arrangements, undertaken to provide navigation services for aircraft.
All types of area are established by secondary legislation through a Statutory Instrument (SI) and notified by a variety of means. Notifications comprise a volume of airspace and a list of types of operations that are exempt the restrictions (such as Police Helicopters, Helicopter Emergency Medical Services etc) or a means by which a pilot may request access to the area. This may be granted as:
- a clearance issued by an ATC unit named in the SI; or
- a permission issued by an individual, a function (such as Flying Display Director or Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit), FISO or AGCS unit.
In 2019 there were 22 infringements of restricted airspace; 6 in permanent areas, 15 in RA(T)s and one in an ERF. This article is intended to provide some knowledge of these types of airspace structures and guidance and useful tips to assist pilots in preventing infringing them.
Prohibited and Restricted Areas
A Prohibited area is an area within which flight is prohibited. There are currently 2 Prohibited Areas in the UK and are listed in the UK AIP ENR (En-Route) section 5.1 (ENR 5.1); both surround nuclear establishments in Scotland. Both areas are assigned a 3 letter and 3 number code. The letters are EG (the designator for the UK) and P for Prohibited; the initial number relates to the position in degrees of latitude e.g. P813 at 58oN.
A Restricted area is an area within which some flying is restricted. As with prohibited areas, all are listed in the UK AIP at ENR 5.1. There are over 40 areas in the UK and they are found around nuclear installations, high-security prison sites, royal residences, areas of Central London and some military establishments. Each area is assigned a 3 letter (EG R) and 3 number code as for Prohibited Areas, e.g. R036 for 50oN. One area is designated as an EG RU (Port of Dover) as it is only applicable to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, hence the U.
The areas are charted as a magenta hatched area and annotated as, for example P813 or R220. The altitude is shown in thousands of feet (2.1 meaning 2,100 feet) and is AMSL (see FIGURE 1). In one area the altitude is Unlimited (UNL).
The entry in the UK AIP ENR 5.1 notifies the dimensions and the exceptions to the restrictions when, or under what criteria flight, is permitted. Once a permission or a clearance is granted to enter the area, it is still cognizant on the pilot to comply with other aviation legislation such as the ANO2016, Standardised European Rules of the Air (SERA) or the Rules of the Air 2015. As part of pre-flight planning, if your flight will be in the vicinity of a Prohibited or Restricted Area, it is good practice to review the AIP entry to understand the entry conditions.
Restricted Area (Temporary) (RA(T))
The onset of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of many air displays, festivals and major sporting events. However, prior to 2020, each year some 80-90 RA(T) were established under article 239 of the ANO2016; as the UK comes to terms with the pandemic, events will undoubtedly start to be arranged that will require the protection through RA(T) which will require the awareness of airspace users.
Established to ensure the safety of participants or attendees or for national security reasons, these temporary airspace structures, are notified via a J-series NOTAM and, whenever time permits, through the issuing of a MAUVE Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC). AIC’s can all be found on the NATS AIS website. Just click IAIP (at the top) and they are within the Aeronautical Information Circulars link. White, Yellow, Pink Mauve and Green AIC will all be displayed. M064/2019 would have been found in the Mauve section.
For complex structures where the AIC 28-day publishing schedule cannot be met, the CAA team will aim to issue a Briefing Sheet on the NATS AIS News page (http://www.nats-uk.ead-it.com/public/index.php.html). In addition, details of RA(T) are available on a daily basis on the NATS AIS Telephone Information Line; two numbers are available as follows: 08085-354802 or +44(0)1489-887515. The recorded message will give brief details of any restrictions on which you can then brief yourself using the UK NOTAM system (for example via the NATS AIS website) or on Moving Map software.
A RA(T) will always be designed to restrict flight using the minimum amount of airspace to achieve the aim. Whilst most are circles of a specified radius, some RA(T) can be more complex in shape. To assist you in interpreting the list of coordinates forming the boundary, each AIC will include a chart of the area. When operating in the vicinity of a RA(T), it is essential that a good lookout is maintained for other traffic which may be routing abound the area. In addition, for air display RA(T), participants, including fast-jets and large aircraft or formations may be holding outside the RA(T) awaiting a display slot-time and clearance to ‘run-in’.
As RA(T) are specific to individual locations and events, an air show with slower and lower display participants will a have a smaller RA(T) than one which has, for example, fast-jets. This allows the protection of the aircraft engaged in display manoeuvres from unknow traffic but does not restricted transit traffic through the area disproportionately. Due to the manoeuvres associated with displaying a large-formation team, such as the Red Arrows, these shorter, individual displays, although part of the bigger event, require a larger volume of restricted airspace. For a standard display, in anticipation of a full show, the Red Arrows will be granted a 45-minute cylindrical RA(T) extending to 8,000 feet agl (depending on other airspace structures) within a circle of radius of 6nm centred on the Team’s display datum.
When planning a flight in the vicinity of an air show, it is important to consider all restrictions in 4 dimensions to ensure that the correct volume of airspace is avoided at the relevant times, for example:
|AIR SHOW 1
|AIR SHOW 2
|Air Show||Rectangular RA(T)
5nm x 8nm
SFC – 5,500 feet amsl
Daily 1200-1600 hrs UTC for 4 days
Circle 3nm radius
SFC-4,000 feet amsl
1100-1600 hrs UTC
|Jet Formation Display Team||Circle 6nm radius
SFC-8,000 feet amsl
Day 1: 1200-1245 hrs UTC
Day 2: 1400-1445 hrs UTC
Day 3: 1400-1445
Day 4: 1515-1600
|Circle 6nm radius
SFC-8,000 feet amsl
1230-1315 hrs UTC
FIGURES 2 to 5 relate to the RA(T) for the Royal International Air Tattoo 2019. The NOTAM (J0214/19) in FIGURE 2 notifies you of a RA(T) comprising 2 areas (one from Surface to FL65 and one from Surface to FL85) between 0700 hours UTC and 1900 hours on each day from 17 to 21 July 2019. Narrative 17 at https://airspacesafety.com/local-area-information/ provides information on how to decode NOTAM.
The AIC narrative (FIGURE 3) and associated chart (FIGURE 4) are extracts from AIC M064/2019 which was issued on the NATS AIS website and provide a clearer notification of the activity. The AIC is also referred to in the NOTAM to assist in your briefing.
As all RA(T) will be notified by NOTAM, they should appear on Moving Map displays provided that the platform is connected to the internet at the time of planning provided the NOTAM has been issued at that time (a final check of the AIS Telephone Information Line just before you go flying will reduce the risk of not knowing about a RA(T)). FIGURE 5 shows how the RA(T) was depicted on a Moving Map for the Royal International Air Tattoo 2019. The benefits of the correct use of Moving Map technology when planning for, and undertaking, the flight cannot be underestimated.
Emergency Restrictions of Flying
In the event of a disaster or major incident occurring on land or sea, within the boundaries of the UK Flight Information Regions, an Emergency Controlling Authority (ECA) may request that an Emergency Restriction of Flying (ERF) Regulations be made under the ANO2016. This is done to prohibit flight in the vicinity of the incident by aircraft not directly engaged in emergency action and thus ensures the safety of life and property, particularly for those working at the scene of the incident or engaged in Search and Rescue (SAR) action. Similar restrictions might also be necessary in the case of an emergency not classed as a disaster or major incident. In 2019, 14 ERF were established for incidents ranging from terror events to the finding of unexploded World War II munitions.
When ERF Regulations have been brought into force, the ECA is the only authority which may grant permission for aircraft to be flown within the notified airspace. Subject to overriding considerations of safety, flights by aircraft directly associated with the emergency action will be given priority over those seeking to overfly the area for any other reason.
Due to the nature of these restrictions, the means of notification are much more limited; a J series NOTAM (FIGURE 6) will be immediately issued but this serves only to notify pilots in the pre-flight planning phase and Air Navigation Service Providers.
To cascade this information, the Distress and Diversion (D&D) cell at Swanwick Centre will broadcast a sécurité message on the aircraft emergency frequencies (GUARD) of 121.500MHz and 243.000MHz; air traffic service units close to the area will also advise pilots of aircraft on frequency.
How to Avoid the Risk of Infringing Airspace
The following points have been drawn up through analysis of recent airspace infringement of restricted airspace:
The Airspace & Safety Initiative website provides extensive advice on how to avoid the risk of infringing airspace.
Always use a Moving Map as part of your pre-flight route planning and in-flight to display the most ‘up-to-date’ airspace situation. Ensure that your device is connected to the internet when planning your flight.
In 2017, a pilot dispensed with their moving map when flying close to an air display; the subsequent RA(T) infringement resulted in an airprox with a jet positioning for its display.
In 2018, a pilot failed to connect their tablet device to the internet when planning/briefing for their flight and was unaware of a RA(T); the subsequent RA(T) infringement resulted in an airprox with a large transport aircraft practising its display.
Plan every flight in detail. Once you formulate your plan, consider a Plan B.
Apply Threat and Error Management in your planning. Threat & Error Management
Always call the NATS AIS Telephone Information Line prior to your flight (including each individual flight on a ‘multi-sector’ day’s flying). This will not only provide you with information on planned RA(T) but also on any ERF that may have been established since your last briefing. The information on this telephone line will not be sufficient to use solely as briefing material but will form the starting point to conduct a NOTAM/AIC brief on the activity. Two numbers are available as follows:
- 08085-354802; or
Always carry out a NOTAM brief prior to EVERY flight no matter how short or local your flight is anticipated to be.
When able, it is recommended that you ‘Take 2’ around or over restricted airspace. In any case, when flying in the vicinity of such airspace structures, keep a good look out for other traffic and, for air display RA(T), beware aircraft entering, or holding to enter, or exiting the RA(T). TAKE2
Previous narratives in this series have encouraged pilots to obtain a service from ATC or use a Frequency Monitory Code (also known an FMC or Listening Squawk) when operating in the vicinity of controlled airspace to prevent airspace infringements or to enable their prompt resolution; by doing so (or by monitoring 121.500MHz on a second radio), you will also receive timely notifications of any ERF. Listening Squawks