Free routes liberate airspace with a stepwise method

03 January 2018
FRA is being rolled out at Langen (pictured) and other DFS control centres, to cover all German airspace above FL245 on a 24-hour basis. Source: DFS

The busiest airspace in Europe is set to benefit from the introduction of Free Route Airspace

European Union (EU) Regulation 716/2014 requires European states to implement Free Route Airspace (FRA) at and above Flight Level 310 (FL310) from 1 January 2022. FRA enables airspace users to plan a route between a defined entry point and a defined exit point, subject to air traffic control, rather than adhere to the current fixed route network. Eurocontrol estimates it could reduce flight distances by 7.5 million n miles annually, helping to meet the demands of future airspace users such as civil and military unmanned aerial systems (UASs), airships, and spaceplanes.

Extensive free routing is already available to airspace users, but it is predominantly confined to relatively uncongested airspace. For example, Northern European FRA supports seamless flights across Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway, and Sweden above FL285. In southeast Europe, cross-border FRA has been in place over Slovenia and Austria since 2016, when HungaroControl also abolished its route network altogether in favour of unrestricted free routes, saving up to 1.5 million km annually.

FRA for core Europe

Now the focus is turning to busy core airspace in western and central Europe, where complex route structures, closely located hub airports, and shared civil-military airspace all present a challenge.

Ensuring the ground infrastructure can support FRA is crucial to its delivery. Air navigation service providers (ANSPs) are investing in advanced flight data processing systems, which enable trajectory-based flight and support the navigation capability on modern aircraft. At the Maastricht Upper Area Control Centre (MUAC) in the Netherlands, and the Karlsruhe Upper Area Control Centre in Germany, early versions of interoperability

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    PIS/LFBI AIRFIELD REF PT.: N46 35.15 E000 18.24 ELEVATION : 423' 129m CFR : 5 MAX RWY LENGTH : 7,710' 2,350 m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 03/21, 7,710' 2,350 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt, PCN 44 F/C/W/T. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : Rwy 03R/21L, 2,297' 700 m, width 148' 60 m, grass, Rwy 03L/21R,


    HOR/LPHR AIRFIELD REF PT.: N38 31.19 W028 42.95 ELEVATION : 118' 36m CFR : 6 MAX RWY LENGTH : 5,233' 1,595m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 10/28, 5,233' 1,595 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : None. RUNWAY LIGHTING : Rwy 10: LIRL, REIL, ALSF-2, PAPI.Rwy 28: LIRL, REIL, ALSF-2,

  • PICO

    PIX/LPPI AIRFIELD REF PT.: N38 33.16 W028 26.29 ELEVATION : 109' 33m CFR : 0 MAX RWY LENGTH : 5,725' 1,745m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 09/27 Twy, 5,725' 1,745 m, width 148' 45 m, asphalt, PCN 80 F/B/W/T. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : None. RUNWAY LIGHTING : Rwy 09: LIRL, PAPI.Rwy 27: LIRL, ALSF-2,


    SMA/LPAZ AIRFIELD REF PT.: N36 58.28 W025 10.24 ELEVATION : 308' 94m CFR : 7 MAX RWY LENGTH : 10,000' 3,048m General Information SURFACE : Rwy 18/36, 10,000' 3,048 m, width 197' 60 m, concrete. ADDITIONAL RUNWAYS : Rwy 15/33, 6,004' 1,830 m; Rwy 04/22, 4,345' 1,324 m; both asphalt; both closed.