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Airspace infringement occurs when an aircraft enters notified airspace without previously requesting and obtaining clearance from the controlling authority of that airspace, or enters the airspace under conditions that were not contained in the clearance.
Notified Airspace includes controlled airspace structures in ICAO airspace classes A to E, such as Airways, Terminal Control Areas (TMAs), Control Zones (CTRs) or aerodrome traffic zones (ATZ) outside controlled airspace, as well as restricted airspaces, such as danger areas, restricted areas, prohibited areas and temporary reserved airspaces (TRA).
It should be noted that VFR traffic cannot infringe class E airspace because under ICAO rules neither an ATC clearance nor radio communication is required to enter or operate within it, unless filed national differences call for one or the other (or both). Traffic following instrument flight rules (IFR) can infringe class E airspace when not in receipt of a clearance to enter it.
Although VFR flights do not require clearance to enter Class E airspace, serious incidents have occurred between VFR and IFR flights in such airspace due largely to limitations in the “see-and-avoid” principle. Therefore this type of incident is also being addressed by airspace infringement prevention initiatives.
All classes of aircraft are prone to airspace infringement, but the majority of incidents recorded involve General Aviation. This is unsurprising, as most GA VFR flights are conducted outside controlled areas and zones, and are in general flown by less trained and experienced leisure pilots; whereas IFR flights are usually conducted within controlled airspace and carried out under the supervision of ATC units.
- Loss of Separation from other aircraft. An infringement leading to loss of separation may also cause Loss of Control due to wake vortex encounter and even injuries to passengers or crew when violent manoeuvres are needed to avoid the other aircraft.
- Disruption to flight operations. An infringement can significantly increase controller and pilot workload due to the need to break an approach, change aircraft sequence for landing or implement other contingency measures. Any disruption to flight operations is likely to have adverse environmental and economic impact due to increased fuel burn by aircraft subject to delays both in the air and on the ground.
- Exposure to danger from military hazards, e.g. radiation, gun-firing or manoeuvring high-performance aircraft.
- Perceived security risk of flight contrary to clearance which may result in a military response.
- Disruption of military or other special activities within restricted, danger or prohibited airspace.
- Enhanced Flight Information Service (FIS) based on the use of radar to provide services to VFR flights outside controlled aispace, such as the Traffic Service (provides the pilot with traffic information on conflicting aircraft) and Deconfliction Service (provides the pilot with traffic information and deconfliction advice on conflicting aircraft) provided in the UK airspace.
- Accurate aircraft navigation systems, including conventional, BRNAV and PRNAV systems
- Hand held or mounted GPS equipment used in VFR flying on board light aircraft, provided that the pilot has a proper understanding of the right way to use it and is aware of its limitations.
- Use of aircraft transponders, especially those associated with encoding altimeters which enable ATC to identify traffic and can facilitate TCAS-based avoiding action.
- Ground based Safety Nets, such as Short Term Conflict Alert (STCA) and Area Proximity Warning (APW) that can alert controllers to hazardous sitations and help mitigate the effects of infringements.
- Knowledge of and strict adherence to RTF procedures.
- Aircraft flying outside controlled or restricted airspace, etc. enters the airspace without clearance due to:
- Lack of awareness of existence of the airspace (maps, briefing, etc.); or,
- Lack of awareness of the activation of airspace restriction; or
- Poor navigation performance (equipment or technique); or,
- Poor air-ground communication technique; or,
- Lack of understanding of procedure for obtaining clearance to enter.
- Aircraft flying outside controlled or restricted airspace enters it with or without awareness as a result of adverse weather avoidance
- Aircraft flying outside controlled or restricted airspace enters it as a result of misunderstanding or misinterpretation of ATC instructions or clearance.
- Poorly equipped aircraft (navigation and communication equipment).
- Inexperienced or inadequately trained pilots.
- Poor pre-flight preparation (out-of-date or inappropriate maps, NOTAM briefing, etc.).
- Over-reliance on GPS eqipment
- Adverse Weather.
- Absence of enhanced Flight Information Service.
- Airspace design which constrains uncontrolled air traffic into corridors of limited horizontal and/or vertical extent.
- Unfavourable attitude of ATC controllers to VFR flights, leading to poor comunication.
- Routine (assumption that airspace restrictions on a familiar route will not change).
- Improve airspace infringement awareness;
- Improve pilot's navigation and communication skills by raising the standard of pilot training including, especially an awareness of the importance of and means to:
- Enhance Flight Information Services to VFR flights based on the use radar in areas where airspace infringement is common;
- Implement safety nets, such as Area Proximity Warning (APW) that can alert controllers of potential or actual infringements;
- Improve the availability and accessibility of aeronautical and meteorological information to VFR flights;
- Review airspace design where repetitive airspace infringement occur with the objective of removing features which appear to have contributed to such incidents;
- Encourage or mandate the use of high quality aircraft systems for navigation and communication, including transponders;
- Improve cooperation at local level between ATS providers, GA establishments and the military.
- European Airspace Infringement Action Plan
- Airspace Infringement and Briefing
- Airspace Infringement and Communication
- Airspace Infringement and Navigation
- Airspace Infringement: Guidance Notes for GA Pilots
EUROCONTROL Airspace Infringement Initiative
- European Action Plan for Airspace Infringement Risk Reduction;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part I;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part II;
- Airspace Infringement Risk Analysis Part III;
- Airspace Infringement Initiative FIS Survey;
- Airspace Infringement Initiative website;
EUROCONTROL Guidance Notes for GA pilots
- Rules for VFR flight;
- Flight preparation;
- Getting aeronautical information before flight;
- Reading and understanding NOTAMS;
- Getting meteorological information before flight;
- Reading and understanding weather reports and forecasts;
- Using meteorological information for planning;
- Visual navigation;
- VOR/DME/ADF Navigation;
- GPS Navigation;
- Getting aeronautical and meteorological information in flight;
- Entering controlled airspace;
- Getting the most out of your transponder;