NATS and IAA publish three year plan for Functional Airspace Block (FAB)

NATS and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the UK and Irish air navigation service providers have published their three-year plan for making the management of the airspace for which they are responsible more efficient, and to provide enhanced safety and environmental benefits.
The Plan, which has been submitted to the Irish and UK governments through the FAB Supervisory Committee, has been developed during the ten months since the announcement of the UK-Ireland Functional Airspace Block (FAB), which was established under the Single European Sky initiative. It sets out some of the goals to be achieved over the next three years and is the first step towards achieving the high level financial targets that were set out in the FAB proposal; €12m per annum, through delay savings, reduced fuel-burn and CO2 emissions savings by 2013, rising to €40m per annum indicative savings by 2018 through reduced fuel burn, fewer delays, efficiency improvements through airspace redesign, and ATM technology savings. The FAB Supervisory Committee commended the plan as a comprehensive and detailed piece of work that has, importantly, begun to put meaningful detail on the Design and Build concept of the UK/Ireland Functional Airspace Block. The Committee added: The scale of achievement that has been realised in a relatively short timescale should not be underestimated and it is noteworthy that the report highlights 30 initiatives that have the potential to deliver safety, cost-saving or environmental benefits. The FAB Management Board, jointly chaired by the UKs leading airspace navigation service provider NATS and the IAA, includes airline and military representatives from both sides of the Irish Sea. As key customers, they are playing a significant role in the development of the FAB and its initiatives which are expected to deliver significant efficiency and environmental benefits.
Among early successes for the FAB is the P600 Irish Sea Airspace Change which better aligns the airspace between the southwest of Scotland, Dublin and Northern Ireland. The change, which was approved earlier this year and came into effect last week (May 7), should reduce delays by easing the complexity of the route structure, and bring environmental benefits in terms of more efficient routings both domestically, and to and from the North Atlantic. Three FAB working groups are looking at every aspect of Irish and UK air traffic operations under the umbrellas of Safety, Service Delivery and Airspace Design to establish where improvements and efficiencies can be developed. The Plan outlines 30 operationally-based service improvements to be achieved, 15 of which are for implementation during 2009. Among these are:
  • Improvements to the Oceanic/Domestic interface for UK and Irish traffic.
  • Removal of ATS routes from Shannon Upper airspace to allow direct routeing and flight planning from entry point to exit planning into UK airspace delivering significant fuel-uptake and route distance savings for North Atlantic airline customers.
  • The creation of straight line routes across Irish and UK airspace and into Europe for use by Eastbound aircraft during quiet hours at night.
  • A single Pre-Tactical process for planning the management of traffic flows.
  • Joint Irish and UK strategic rolling plan for the management of specific events that create extra or more complex traffic arrangements, such as major cultural or sporting events or air shows.
  • A common safety scheme for en-route events to measure and improve operational safety performance and to establish common safety targets.
  • The FAB has been operational for ten months and, as the first working FAB to be established in Europe, is providing a model for others currently in development. The two countries, no boundaries FAB agreement is the culmination of four years work by the IAA, NATS, their respective airline and military customers and the two governments to develop their adjoining airspace into one seamless operation. Ian Hall, Joint Chairman of the FAB Management Board and Director of Development and Investment for NATS, said: We have achieved a significant amount in a short period of time as part of the FAB and that bodes well for the future co-operation between us and the Irish. We have removed the boundaries between our two countries to allow the airspace to be managed in the most efficient way possible to the benefit of our customers and the traveling public. Pat Ryan, Joint Chairman of the FAB Management Board and Director of Operations at the IAA, said: The last few months have demonstrated how well the FAB partners are working together. The 2009 work programme is focused on implementing those initiatives that have been identified in the FAB Plan so as to deliver real efficiency and environmental benefits. Aidan Fox, Manager Flight Dispatch at Aer Lingus as co-chairman of the Service Provision Working Group, said: The FAB initiative is innovative in its approach in crossing national boundaries in an inclusive manner with the involvement of ANSP providers and airlines, and should lead to a more efficient service and benefits to the consumer, the travelling public" Grant Worsley, Air Traffic Services Manager at bmi and co-chairman of the Services Provision Working Group, said: The FAB has proved itself to be forward thinking by directly involving airline customers in the process from the beginning. The ultimate success of the FAB will be measured by the delivery of the quantifiable benefits for the various initiatives, while being able to adapt positively within a changing environment. The level of commitment and co-operation shown by all the stakeholders has been excellent and bodes well for the future of the FAB Air Commodore Mark Wordley, the UK MODs Director, Defence Airspace and Air Traffic Management, and representing the UK military on the FAB Management Board, said: The significance of the establishment of the UK/Ireland FAB cannot be underestimated and it is particularly noteworthy that the military has been included in the institutional arrangements from the very start. This should ensure that any agreed FAB developments are mutually beneficial to both the civil and military aviation sectors. Full military involvement in the FAB also provides an excellent model for others to follow as airspace, in every respect, becomes an increasingly important topic. Colonel Paul Fry, of the Irish Air Corps and representing the Irish military on the FAB Management Board, said: The Irish Air Corps, is proud of its involvement with all the stakeholders in the FAB process from its inception. It is impressed with the product of radical thinking and redesign and is confident that this represents a truly international yardstick against which other FABs will be judged. The involvement in the process by the Irish Air Corps is an indication of its long-standing and continued commitment to the efficient design and use of airspace in Ireland.
    Press Office


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