UK-Ireland FAB trial on new air traffic control procedures

12 March 2014

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.”


General Enquiries: Please direct these to

IAA: Tony Lane,  Tel  +353 1 603 1199 / +353 86 791 1864,

NATS: Jevon Snell, Tel +44 1489 616 038,

CAA, Press Office, Tel +44 20 7379 7311,

Further technical information:

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

The first phase began as planned on 9 January 2014, with the temporary delegation of the Air Traffic Service (ATS) in a portion of Rathlin West Sector (UK airspace) from NATS to the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

This phase will run for nine months and consider operational and regulatory objectives before the ATS reverts to NATS in September 2014. Further phases of the trial will follow based on the outcomes delivered during the first phase.

The objective of the trial is to gather information on how, in the future, sector responsibility can be changed on a tactical basis between ATC centres through dynamic sectorisation. Doing so helps airlines to reduce fuel burn and costs.

The trial has gone ahead following joint regulatory approval from the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Irish Safety Regulatory Division, resulting in a single regulatory approval from both FAB NSAs. The successful introduction is a culmination of many months’ intensive work that has required the coordination and agreement of both states, both regulators, the UK Ministry of Defence, the Irish Defence Forces and the teams at both NATS and the Irish Aviation Authority. Dynamic Sectors Operational Trial (DSOT) has required close collaboration, including a joint regulatory team, a joint safety management plan, regular dialogue with the Trades Unions and revised arrangements with the Military.

DSOT has already started to provide participants with a wealth of information on the system, procedural, training and regulatory changes required for the FAB to generate a Roadmap for implementing the Dynamic Sectorisation concept.  It has already attracted interest from other industry stakeholders.

Notes to Editors on the UK-Ireland FAB

•    Functional Airspace Blocks (FABs) are a primary tool of the European Union’s Single European Sky programme, to help reduce the current fragmentation of air navigation service provision across Europe.

•    The UK-Ireland FAB was the first FAB to be established under the Single European Sky initiative.  In its first four years since being established in 2008, optimisation of FAB airspace through more direct routings has delivered over €70m of enabled savings to customers, including 232,000 tonnes of CO2 and 73,000 tonnes of fuel. Total cumulative savings from 2008-2020 amounts to €336.5m, including 332,000 tonnes of fuel (1.06m tonnes of CO2 emissions).

•    The UK-Ireland FAB is Europe’s transatlantic gateway.  Around 80% of North Atlantic traffic passes through Irish or UK airspace.   One of the core functions of the FAB is to ensure the successful integration of traffic flows between the North Atlantic (NAT), domestic UK-Ireland, and core European area traffic.

•    The primary objective of UK-Ireland FAB is to reduce costs to airspace users and increase the efficiency of FAB airspace. Through this objective, the FAB is aiming to meet the European Union’s SES performance targets regarding safety, cost efficiency, capacity/delay and the environment.

•    The UK-Ireland FAB is developing incrementally through a “design and build” approach on a partnership basis between the ANSPs, airlines, military and staff, and supported by the coordinated work of the Irish and UK National Supervisory Authorities and the Governments of the UK and Ireland.

•    Establishing the FAB required liaison with staff groups and trade unions, airlines and the military – all of whom have played a key part in ensuring its success.

•    On behalf of the Irish and UK Governments, governance is provided by a FAB Supervisory Committee, which includes both National Supervisory Authorities (NSAs). Day-to-day management and implementation of the FAB activities is overseen by the FAB Management Board, co-chaired by the air navigation service providers, the IAA and NATS, which also includes Military and Airline representatives.


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