Along with the CAA and NATS, Airspace4All Ltd will identify best practices used in other states to regulate access to CAS and Regulated Airspace and make recommendations as to how selected best practice could improve future VFR access. Many other states structure and manage their airspace in different ways to the UK but most achieve balanced integration for all aviation sectors. Whilst some practices may not be relevant to the UK there is much to be learnt; but there is a culture within UK aviation and regulation that its airspace is superior, that more airspace regulation is better and there is strong corporate resistance to such change. This workstream addresses these issues and paves the way for change.
Along with CAA and NATS representatives Airspace4All visited France and Germany to see how airspace is managed there and to identify examples of best practice that could be applicable within the UK Airspace Modernisation Strategy. The reports for these visits have been published and are available through this website. To try and gain a more balanced, non-European, view “paper visits” are also being conducted in Canada and New Zealand and those reports, which will be based around the same set of questions posed during the physical visits in Europe, will be available here during the third quarter of 2019.
These visits highlighted a greater use of certain classes of airspace (notably Class E) in both France and Germany. There is Class E airspace in use in the UK and to see how this use has developed and is currently performing Airspace4All is carrying out a detailed analysis of UK Class E to inform future debate. Also, to put the examples of best practice in other states into context, Airspace4All has carried out a detailed analysis of the Manchester CTA/CTR. The results of all of this analysis will be published, towards the end of 2019, in a “best practice” paper which may include recommendations for how a UK Containment “toolkit” may help in future airspace design.
Airspace modernisation necessitates all GA pilots to be able to use VHF communications to integrate safely with the commercial sector and associated ATS. This is an essential component of airspace management and airspace infringement protection; without it, airspace cannot be managed effectively. For the reasons described below, many UK glider pilots do not hold the necessary licence to communicate with ATS units. Airspace4All has therefore partnered with the British Gliding Association (BGA) to help deliver a training and testing regime relevant to gliding operations to facilitate glider pilot access and uptake of the Flight Radio Telephony Operators Licence (FRTOL).
Almost all UK gliders are equipped with 8.33 VHF Com radios, the community having recently invested between £6m and £7m to enable spectrum to be released for the future expansion of the wider aviation sector. A set of 5 common 8.33 channels are allocated for glider use at airfields and air-to-air and these channels can be utilised without a FRTOL. Because glider pilot training takes place at uncontrolled airfields or sites with no ATS VHF facility, formal RTF skills are not developed during flight training and glider pilots are generally unfamiliar with the procedures and phraseology that are needed to obtain a licence. Historically there has been no clear incentive for glider pilots to obtain a licence and no formal mechanism to train or qualify for the FRTOL, but without one they are not allowed to use ATS channels.
Analysis of the issues suggests that:
- Standard glider pilot training does not prepare students for the FRTOL examinations (theoretical and practical) and so few take them during training.
- Glider pilots do not need a FRTOL licence to operate on glider frequencies.
- Glider pilots would need a special training package to overcome their lack of exposure to RTF procedures and develop the appropriate skills. Presently none exists.
- The FRTOL theoretical exam is appropriate as it stands.
- The FRTOL practical examination is a computer and audio-based test set around a powered aircraft flight scenario which is neither appropriate nor relevant to a glider pilot candidate.
- Costs for training, examination and FRTOL issue are a disincentive.
To enable airspace modernisation to be fully effective all glider pilots should hold an FRTOL and be confident and competent to communicate with ATS units – and encouraged to do so. A process to provide relevant, low cost training and examination is needed to implement this process.
This programme seeks to address the lack of FRTOL by developing a relevant training and testing regime and delivering it through the BGA and BGA clubs (to which all glider pilots must belong). There are 8,800 glider pilots in the UK of whom some 4,000 are qualified to fly cross country with an additional 160 pilots qualifying each year. The BGA estimates that half (some 2,000) of its cross-country qualified glider pilots do not hold a FRTOL.
In conjunction with the BGA and associated FRTOL examiners, this programme aims to develop and deliver appropriate RTF training to these pilots. It would establish and run training sessions at regional centres, using existing FRTOL examiners, leading to the present standard theoretical communications examination. It would work with the CAA to develop and agree a gliding-relevant scenario for the FRTOL practical examination, utilising the existing test routes and software and the same examination standards.
The project would also take forward special RTF phraseology for use by gliders to enable pilots to be clear on their intentions when communicating with ATS. There is a gap in present RTF phraseology that was recognised in France where, from 2014, an AIC introduced specific phraseology in order that ATS controllers can understand: when gliders will be following a specific track; when they may need to change course and; to what extent and when they expect to have to stop and climb in thermal. Following senior CAA support, the BGA submitted a proposal in 2016 to introduce a similar arrangement in the UK but this has not been progressed. It will be taken forward by this project. As well as providing a safety tool for ATS controllers it would provide an incentive for glider pilots to undertake the courses and examinations in order to obtain a licence to communicate effectively with ATS.