Pilot - - Contents - David Vale by email

What has aroused read­ers' pas­sion or ire?

There is an or­gan­i­sa­tion in the UK called FASVIG (Fu­ture Airspace Strat­egy VFR Im­ple­men­ta­tion Group) and I am a ‘Cham­pion’; note the in­verted com­mas! The team I am on has in the past made stren­u­ous ef­forts to de­fine within the UK cer­tain ar­eas that are Vfr-crit­i­cal. The ob­jec­tive is to at­tempt to en­sure that NATS and the CAA con­sider these ar­eas very care­fully be­fore an as­pir­ing air­port with ex­ag­ger­ated traf­fic fig­ures tries to grab a chunk of airspace to it­self. Other or­gan­i­sa­tions, such as AOPA, are also ob­ject­ing to airspace grabs.

FASVIG con­sulted with the Ger­man DFS ear­lier this year on how they han­dle VFR traf­fic in Class D airspace. They do a lot bet­ter than us but, as usual, the end re­sult of con­sul­ta­tion re­sulted in just a pa­per be­ing pro­duced.

I fly in France fre­quently and, to the new­bie, it looks like there is a fright­en­ing amount of con­trolled airspace. Vast chunks are Class D airspace and you can imag­ine the novice pilot who has tried to tran­sit UK Class D airspace be­ing to­tally phased by the prospect of fly­ing in France. Many of us know of poor Class D UK airspace; one my par­tic­u­lar gripes is with Southamp­ton who cun­ningly deny you a tran­sit by ask­ing you to standby un­til you get to the point where you need to di­vert around their Class D airspace. I have never been de­nied a Class D tran­sit in France al­though, yes, some­times I have been asked to as­cend/de­scend or route slightly dif­fer­ently within the airspace. It is also not un­com­mon to be routed close to IFR traf­fic with an in­for­mal Class C sep­a­ra­tion. It works. Air Traf­fic Con­trollers give the same ser­vice to all no mat­ter what you are fly­ing.

So the fun­da­men­tal so­lu­tion in the UK is to en­sure, like France, that Class D is open to all, all the time for those who have ra­dio. What do we gain? Firstly, im­proved safety: faster air­craft are mostly ra­dio-equipped so they get sep­a­rated into a more con­trolled environmen­t. Sec­ondly, air­craft are not fun­nelled into cor­ri­dors and can route more di­rectly to their desti­na­tion (‘Open Skies’ ring a bell?) Thirdly, ATC can cope: they do so ad­mirably in France in con­gested ar­eas of GA traf­fic, com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary e.g. Provence and along the coast. They even give you a Traf­fic ser­vice not some pid­dling Ba­sic Ser­vice that is Ba­sic by na­ture and Ba­sic in prac­tice.

So the NATS/CAA re­sponse is to now ask us to file on­line a pre-clear­ance for Class D airspace. Pa­thetic, get real.

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