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 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 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).


The full set of hot-spot narratives can be found on this page: Local area information

Narrative 02. ‘Preventing airspace infringements in the vicinity of the Manchester low-level route’ has been updated since it was first published in line with the changes relating to the Class D VMC criteria.

Keep reading

Infringement updates

Pennines to the east of Manchester

Infringement avoidance

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Pre-flight planning

Learn more