UK-Ireland FAB trial on new air traffic control procedures

- London, UK

The UK-Ireland Functional Airspace Block (FAB) has launched the first-ever operational trial to test new ways of delivering air traffic control services to airlines and gather information on efficiencies that could be gained through the SESAR concept of ‘dynamic sectorisation’ – the tactical switching of air traffic services between providers.

The trial involves enhanced cooperation between the Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP) FAB Partners, Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) and UK NATS, under which the IAA will deliver, on a trial basis, air traffic control services in airspace over Northern Ireland and further north. This will be followed by two further phases of trial in order to develop understanding of cross border dynamic sectorisation. These trials are part of a new initiative between the two jurisdictions under the umbrella of the UK-Ireland FAB, established in 2008 under the EU Single European Sky initiative. The UK-Ireland FAB has been designed to create a more efficient airspace across Ireland and the UK by allowing airlines to operate more efficiently. It has important safety benefits, and reduces costs, particularly fuel burn.

Since January 9th, the IAA has been delivering air traffic control services for an area of airspace off Rathlin, Co. Antrim. The IAA is controlling air traffic over this airspace, within a portion of a sector known as Rathlin West, for a nine month trial period up to September. Known as the ‘Dynamic Sectorisation Operational Trial (DSOT)’, it is the first significant trial of its kind between the IAA and NATS. The trial has been operating successfully since it started in January, and its findings will be fed into future phases of DSOT trial.

These developments have been actively supported by the Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, Leo Varadkar and the UK’s Aviation Minister, Robert Goodwill.

Minister Varadkar said: “I’m delighted to see the start of these landmark trials. They demonstrate the maturity of the relationship between the UK and Irish administrations. And it shows without any doubt our combined commitment and focus towards always looking for the best and most efficient way of organising these vital air traffic control services. It’s good news for both airlines and their passengers, and should lead to more efficient and safer services within our airspace. The trials should also make a substantial contribution to the success of the EU Single European Sky project and shows that the two governments are fully committed to the success of that vitally important EU project”.

Robert Goodwill, UK Aviation Minister, said: “The co-operation and innovation shown in this trial puts UK and Ireland at the cutting edge of air traffic control. It cements our efforts to deliver the safest, most efficient and cost effective way of managing our skies. The launch of the trial is a credit to the shared commitment of all those involved.”

Richard Deakin, Chief Executive NATS said: “This is one of the most challenging and complex projects we have undertaken to date as a FAB and has only been possible through very close teamwork. We have always been committed to pioneering improvements for our customers and we are confident this trial will be another major step forward.”

Eamonn Brennan, Chief Executive IAA, said: “We’re pleased our FAB is taking a leading role with one of the first Dynamic Sectorisation trials of this type within Europe. DSOT demonstrates the commitment of all the FAB partners to deliver the maximum potential benefits to our customers. We look forward to the continued success of the trial over the coming months.”

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