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Why airspace infringements have the potential to impact all of us.

In 2015 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) received over 1100 infringement reports. Almost 650 of these infringements were reported by NATS, the remaining were from other ANSPs and Military units.

Most involve flying into controlled airspace without permission – primarily Control Zones (CTRs) and Control Areas (CTAs) serving airports, Terminal Manoeuvring Areas (TMAs) and Airways.

Those occurring outside controlled airspace tend to involve Aerodrome Traffic Zones (ATZs) and Danger Areas. If they detect an infringement, air traffic controllers assume that the pilot is lost, the flight path is unpredictable and establish a five-mile buffer around the offending aircraft, which create major disruptions to commercial aircraft flights, especially those descending into and climbing from large airports.

According to the CAA, an infringement by just one pilot can mean delays for up to 30 airliners and 5000 passengers and result in £50,000 worth of fuel being wasted. In May this year the CAA announced that pilots who infringe controlled airspace could have their licences provisionally suspended while the incident is assessed.

The consequences of infringements are severe, with almost every incident, no matter how brief, involving widespread, knock-on effects for other pilots, air traffic controllers and passengers. Some of these effects are obvious but others are not

Top reasons infringements happen

Since 2009 NATS has collected over 700 questionnaires from infringing pilots to try and understand the main causes of airspace infringements. NATS has a list of 31 causal factors which are grouped into 8 categories:

  • Distraction
  • Pilot Actions
  • Navigation
  • Planning
  • Weather Related
  • ATC Interaction
  • Equipment
  • GPS

Read and watch more on the NATS website here.

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