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UK CAS busts 2013

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The overall high/medium totals remain fairly consistent over the years, but the low risk figures vary greatly - is this because of increased reporting rather than a genuine fluctuation in incursions?

Heathrow and Gatwick have a similar proportion of high to low risk, whereas Stansted, Birmingham and Southampton have far more low risk in proportion to high risk. Could this also be because the latter 3 do more reporting, rather than there being a genuine difference in numbers.

If it wasn't for the good service of London Information and the involved airspace owners, I would have contributed at least 5 last week during my IFR in low level G adventure

I guess the complex airspace layout and the varying degree of FIS service level are an important reason of the large number of CAS busts.

Here is something I posted in 2006 on another forum. I have added the TODAY paragraph with changes I have seen happen over the past few years.

Several reasons I see for causes of infringements:

1) CAS is designed tightly around STARs, SIDs and Airways with differing base levels and little or no relationship to visual ground features or radio navaids. All this combined makes airspace look horribly complex. Mathematically sum up the total length of CAS boundaries on ENR This length is a good indication of the surface area exposed which gives rise to infringements. Like the grille on the back of a radiator. As an example, take Y8, a tiny 'bit' of airway just NE of the Isle of Wight. This has a different base level than everything else around it. I do not plan to fly under it at FL70 for example, just to avoid this bit. One who really tries to do so may be asking for a bust. So one would typically plan a flight way below the adjacent 'bits' around it too. This would generally be 2400ft for the London TMA. There's worse. North West of Luton there's a block with a base of FL55 next to another block with a base of 5500 feet... Therefore it seems plausible to simplify the number of 'shelves' of airspace with the advantage of reducing chart clutter and simplifying the flight planning process, which is a great help to the pilot. The area of CAS would grow, but it doesn't concern me half as much as the chart clutter that we've got now. I'd prefer to have the use of more standard shapes such as America's "inverted wedding cakes" which has clearly written base levels.

Less infringements happen when the airspace structure is simpler leading to uncluttered, clearer charts.

TODAY: Transition altitudes have been simplified thus removing the FL55 blocks next to the 5500ft blocks. However no further simplification of current airspace has happened so far. However the regulators and ANSPs are aware of high risk-of-collision pinch-points and the need to not create overly complex airspace.

2) Class A airspace being established at low-levels so that VFR transits are never possible, regardless whether or not there is any traffic, even if it is VMC. This can upset non-IR pilots and many are wary about any extension of CAS because of a lack of airspace access and service provision for transits. Hence some may drive for a reduction in Class A, which gives rise to the problems found in 1) above. If the issues of 1) are addressed and CAS is enlarged, I would guess that after FABs are properly implemented in SES, the sequencing of busy IFR traffic can be done hundreds of miles out, thereby reducing some of the complexity and intensity of the TMA and enabling it to take simpler structures. It may therefore be possible to then reclassify any Class A TMA (or parts of it) to B or C which is a feature of equivalent busy airports in America. Perhaps consequently the existing Class A airways should be reclassified to D or E as well which is what is being used around the rest of Europe.

Less infringements happen when pilots are in receipt of a service and have access to airspace.

TODAY: Little re-classification of over-classified airspace has happened and there are still too many VFR no-go areas. However the ANSPs are open to creating NEW Class D areas where needed instead of Class A everywhere.

3) There is poor traffic co-ordination between neighbouring ATSUs. Fly around London to know that you'll be freecalling several stations. You'll pass repeated information over and over again on the radio, changing squawk codes along the way. You put yourself into the ATC system and get dropped from it when moving from one area to the next. Find multiple aircraft in pretty much the same space talking to completely different units - some radar equipped, some not. There are even issues with the wider distribution of radar feeds to other operators. The same units then complain about aircraft infringing their space. I envision a greater known traffic environment served by a centralised facility which sorts out all IFR+VFR traffic. Not just CAT landing at the largest airports and other CAT revolving around it.

Less infringements happen when there is better co-ordination of all air traffic between adjacent ATS units

TODAY: Some improvements of co-ordination on neighbouring ATSUs have happened and Farnborough Radar has been set up in an effort to make a known traffic environment. However further co-ordination still needs to take place between some units, for e.g. to prevent clipping corners of other airspace becoming an issue when there is really no collision risk. Freecalling and squawk code changing still remain a problem. Farnborough will not pro-actively clear aircraft through controlled airspace.

4) Historically, airspace has been designed with the commercial user in mind without much thought given for other legitimate airspace users. The result of it is this patchwork of airspace and fragmented service provision as described above. It works fine for the airlines, but inadequate for GA traffic. Making matters worse is the controversial privatisation of ATC which is still in debt and needs to recover its costs. I suspect there is little commercial incentive for any massive redesign of airspace. Yet we know GA cannot afford to pay even more fees on top. Funding needs to come from the government as a result of better services for GA. Already large amounts of money are being raised from AVGAS duty and VAT which is pocketed by the Treasury and doesn't get re-invested into developing aviation infrastructure. With more investment and a centralised ATC function, instrument approaches and traffic separation for GA airfields like Elstree, Stapleford and Andrewsfield could be provided and better managed when the weather isn't ideal. In America, radar services provided at large airports serve the smaller ones around it for miles around (New York Approach, Miami Approach, Fort Myers Approach, etc). Currently widespread Class G means no separation when flying IFR, even in IMC. You fly using see-and-avoid, but there isn't much to see. If converted to Class E, separation is offered, yet flexible flying (and no clearance needed) is still preserved whilst VFR. It can give more space for ATC to use as well.

*Less infringements happen when pilots know the service and the wider system, works for them, with them, and not against them. *

TODAY: Concerns with privitization on the grounds on safety and flight efficiency and cost effectiveness have been largely dropped. Funding to lower airspace radar services is being met to a degree through taxation, others via aerodrome navigation/approach fees. Lots of good roadshows by ANSPs promoting airspace safety and visits to ATC have proven to be an extremely useful, knowledgeable and friendly experience. Acknowledgement from many ATCers that UK airspace is in need of massive redesign. CAA is about to launch a consultation on permitting instrument approaches at untowered aerodromes. What remains is whether ANSPs at parent larger airports will be able to provide, for a small fee, any approach services to neighbouring smaller GA aerodromes if requested from the pilot. Also IFR en-route charges for 2T or above aircraft remain the second highest in Europe.

5) PPL navigation taught using WW1 dead-reckoning techniques, which is error prone. We know that winds can change in the middle of flight. Besides improving pilot navigation, the use of GPS should be included in the PPL syllabus and easy to use GPS devices fitted to most hire planes. VOR reception coverage is not comprehensive enough at lower altitudes. In addition in America, one could ask for VFR Flight Following and ATC would manage your flight for you if they have the capacity, including giving you vectors to fly all the way from A to B. Consequently the pilot can get away with navigating less around any busy area, yet it is also in the controller's interest to make VFR traffic known against IFR traffic. In the UK, such a luxury is rare.

*Less infringements happen when pilots are equipped with modern tools and techniques to help them navigate better. *

TODAY: Various good GPS devices, computer software, and mobile products are being actively promoted and supported by ANSPs to improve airspace awareness. Some flight schools teaching use of GPS. Other flight schools still too old-fashioned to embrace more modern navigation techniques. FIS has improved slightly but more still needs to be done.

I wonder how many infringements happen in the New York region every year, which handles more aircraft than the South of England. I would guess everyone is taking a flight following service or transitting through the zone while talking to one central facility which manages and co-ordinates all its traffic. Alternatively they are flying VFR corridors defined using clearly marked ground reference features, such as a river, a major road, or electric pylons.

I do find airspace in the south of the UK to be horribly complex. It is asking for airspace incursions.

Compare the New York TAC to the London TMA.

Clear, sensibly sized airspace. Clear frequencies to talk to at each point on the chart.

EGTK Oxford

I would have contributed at least 5 last week during my IFR in low level G adventure

I have to ask why...

You can read a map Achim, the UK VFR maps are entirely non-ambiguous as to airspace class (unlike the Jepps which sometimes I cannot decipher) and its vertical extent, so anybody running the "real" VFR chart as a GPS moving map cannot possibly bust CAS other than through inattention (e.g. talking to a passenger; I've done that).

All the other factors e.g. CAS structure are second order effects. Simple airspace will reduce CAS busts but only for pilots who are already either lost or have forgotten to keep an eye on the moving map.

Obviously planning the route on the proper VFR chart is a great starting point; then one busts CAS only by deviating from the planned route (laterally or vertically).

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I think the UK airspace design is ok, if you are used to it. I flew around fine when I was there, but after moving to Germany, I find my workload is MUCH higher when I fly back in the UK, simply in terms of navigation workload to ensure I remain outside CAS.

This higher workload can't be good because I am definitely more stressed. I am sure if I have to go back to Blighty I will get used to it again, but it certainly isn't the easiest.

I do think there are some very good points about flying in the UK though... but that's for another thread.

EDHS, Germany

You can read a map Achim, the UK VFR maps are entirely non-ambiguous as to airspace class

Yes, that is correct. But...

Obviously planning the route on the proper VFR chart is a great starting point;

One tends to plan the route so zero enroute cooperation is required -- completely in G for the UK. Then you get crossing permissions and suddenly you are deviating from the route. One shortcut might put you somewhere else where the next permission is needed almost immediately.

Now do that in difficult weather (IFR in G) and it can get very difficult. You end up flying somewhere you are not fully prepared for and you have to stay ahead of the aircraft, sort out clearances in time, be prepared to react when you don't get them. To make it even more difficult, add some weather you have to circumnavigate (CBs, TCUs).

The North of the UK was sane airspace wise but I didn't dare doing this from Leeds to Shoreham. You need to be very much on top of the situation. You don't want to CFIT just to not bust an airspace.

IFR in G/E would be significantly easier in Germany than it is in the UK. Very simple airspace layout and not a lot airspace that requires clearances. France on the other hand is next to impossible in theory but in reality FIS handle the airspaces for you. Still, I will most likely never again fly VFR in France during weekdays.

OK... I almost never plan to ask for Class D transits when doing UK VFR hacking. The time saving is not worth the extra radio work, for me. So I indeed plan a route to be flown with no support whatever.

Leeds-Shoreham is no problem. One can route around the LTMA at 2400ft (EGKA-MAY- etc and then up the east coast or EGKA-MID-CPT etc) or at 5400ft (EGKA-GWC-EGBJ/etc).

France can be seriously hard to plan, away from the Class E FL065-FL115 routes which are easy.

Italy is horrid.

But all of this is "just reading the map" after all.

So I think most CAS busts have an altogether different cause than straight airspace complexity. Anybody who gets a PPL ought to be able to read the map; if they can't they should ask for a refund of their £10k.

I think the research has not been done properly, over all these years. It's no good for example asking pilots why they think they busted, unless one also asks those who didn't bust (the vast majority) how they fly. But the latter - a comprehensive survey of GA preflight and navigation methods - requires a lot more legwork, and probably nobody wants to fund it...

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The UK airspace is overly complicated. How come Canadian and US airlines can function in what is efffectively an inverted wedding cake design (even New York's Class B is somewhat symmetrical) and the UK system is random polygons? Not being critical, i'm actually asking?

Great Oakley, U.K. & KTKI, USA
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