The North European Functional Airspace Block, NEFAB is today implementing Free Route Airspace (FRA)

Today, on 12 November 2015 North European Functional Airspace Block, NEFAB introduces major changes in airspace structure and air traffic management systems, contributing to improved flexibility and cost-efficient operational opportunities for airspace users in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Norway. This is a real example of commitment to the targets of the Single European Sky, creating less fragmented airspace in Europe.

The North European Functional Airspace Block, NEFAB is today implementing Free Route Airspace (FRA), an advanced solution, allowing operators plan and take their preferred routes, taking into account a range of different factors, including variables such as weather systems, prevailing winds, shortest routes and military activities. Ultimately, it will reduce fuel load, delivering considerable savings in terms of both costs and environmental performance.

This complex project has been an outstanding long-term effort of experts and project teams from NEFAB Programme and NEFAB air navigation service providers. It has become the reality owing to all these people who have contributed to operational and technical developments.

The FRA is an important element of the NEFAB Target Concept described in the NEFAB Network Plan. The Network Plan is composed of several elements being implemented in order to maximize operational flexibility and benefits for the airspace users, and to improve coordination between air traffic control centers, enhancing capacity and maintaining safety levels. These are major changes in Airspace Management, structural changes in temporary segregated areas, enhancements in Flexible Use of Airspace processes and introduction of processes in order to improve airspace management and predictability for civil and military users.

Benefits for the airspace users are further enhanced through the good cooperation with the Danish-Swedish Functional Airspace Block, DK-SE FAB, as the free route airspace volumes in NEFAB and DK-SE FAB are connected using common flight planning rules. The airspace users are now able to plan and execute their flights with user preferred trajectories across the FRA volumes over two functional airspace blocks covering six states.

The free route airspace concept will further be developed, and by summer 2016 in the second implementation step, the borders between these FRA volumes will be removed. From an airspace user’s perspective the whole area will then seem as one continuous FRA. In addition, FRA in Bodø Oceanic will be established pending on formal approval with ICAO during the summer 2016.

This is the stepping stone to major changes in airspace organisation in the Northern Europe in the coming years when DK-SE FAB and NEFAB will connect their FRA volumes with UK-Ireland FAB and Iceland. It will create a continuous FRA across nine States in Northern Europe by 2021 in the Borealis FRA programme, launched this year. Implementation of larger continuous FRA volumes will maximize the benefits to airspace users enabling them to plan and take the most cost effective routes across a considerable airspace volume, saving time, money and fuel. With its goals and ambitions, the programme is a major step towards realization of Single European Sky.