Air Traffic Control urges local flyers to plan before take-off
As days get longer and the weather gets warmer, more and more aviation enthusiasts are taking to the skies to explore countryside and coast from above – so it’s more important than ever for all airspace users to focus on flying safely and responsibly.
Every year NATS air traffic controllers see approximately 600 unauthorised entries into controlled airspace, with each causing delays for up to 30 airliners, 5,000 passengers and wasting £50,000 worth of fuel.
Almost every incident, no matter how brief, involves widespread knock-on effects for other pilots and air traffic controllers who must take immediate action to ensure all affected aircraft are kept safe.
According to pilots the five main reasons for infringing are ‘pilot workload’, ‘misidentification of land features’, ‘poor or incorrect pre-flight briefing’, ‘inadequate knowledge of airspace’ and ‘unplanned change in route or altitude’ – but there are a number of practical and low cost initiatives that can minimise the risk for everyone:
- Ensure controlled airspace is identified in pre-flight planning by using tools such as SkyDemon and Aware from Airbox
- Turn transponders on and set to mode Charlie (Alt)
- Use listening squawks to monitor what is going on around you
- Use an airspace alerting device
- Make contact with local air traffic control when flying near controlled airspace
- If in doubt, pilots are urged to utilise the Flight Information Service or contact Distress and Diversion on 121.5 MHz
Blain Kelly, Terminal Control Safety Manager for NATS, the UKs leading provider of air traffic control services, said: “Most infringements occur in southern England where the skies are more crowded than in other areas of the country and where there is a complex airspace structure – mainly in the airspace surrounding Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, Southampton, Gatwick and London City airports.
“The vast majority of private pilots fly responsibly and in line with the rules, but those who don’t have a serious impact on airport operations, disrupting arrival and departure procedures, delaying passengers and increasing the workload of controllers and pilots.”
NATS core aim is to share the skies safely and efficiently, working closely with the general aviation community to promote airspace awareness and infringement prevention.