Route per State Overflown (RSO) distance tool - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Are the air carriers technically prepared to perform direct routes in FRA? Are they consistently taking advantage of the benefits FRA offers?

Airspace users are now faced with a freedom of choice that has not existed during the past 50 years of airspace design and operation.  The move from route to airspace availability is offering significant opportunities and the airspace users are gradually adapting their flight planning systems to fully exploit the full potential of the concept. However it remains their decision as to whether they change their operation and realise the benefits now being offered.

Importantly, FRA provides the foundation and flexibility for meeting the demands of future airspace users over the next 50 years, such as civil and military RPAS, hypersonic transport, spaceplane operations to sub-orbit, wireless network balloons and airships.

Are there any parts of the airspace that are experiencing or could experience more issues as a result of FRA implementation? What has been or is being done about that?

FRA is now planned at Maastricht UAC, by DFS in Germany and NATS, UK  during the next five years, proof that the ANSPs concerned do not see any major issues that may prevent them from implementing the concept in one of the busiest pieces of airspace in the world.  The Network Manager works with those ANSPs to develop and implement appropriate solutions to further enhance operational performance.

Can I use the RSO distance tool with a computer running on Mac OS X or Windows 10?

Unfortunately, the RSO Distance Tool is not compatible with Mac OS X or Windows 10.

Direct routes may also mean reduced flight times and therefore potentially higher aircraft utilization? Is not this going to cause more traffic at airports? Are airports prepared?

Yes there is the possibility of users conducting more rotations as the result of time saved using FRA, but the scale of this change will be relatively small in comparison with the overall need to improve flight efficiency and capacity of the European ATM system across Europe due to the increase in traffic and this is not related to FRA, but to the continuous development of air transport in Europe.

Do air carriers need any specific approval to conduct direct routes? Are there any special operational requirements?

No approval is required, current navigation capability fits with FRA operations.

Have ANSPs developed strategies to mitigate the potentially more difficult detection of conflicts that comes with FRA implementation?

Over the last 15 years ATC systems across Europe have been modernised to include conflict detection tools while using aircraft trajectories calculated by the ground system which are updated in real time as a flight progresses.  The good news is that in an FRA environment these trajectories are likely to be more stable than today’s operation and as a consequence will help improve predictability.  The tools help controllers identify conflicts well in advance of them occurring and are well suited for FRA operations.  Indeed one might say that the investments made in these new systems provide an additional return by enabling free route operations and a consequence an improvement in the quality of service provided by ANSPs. At the same time, the implementation of Free Route Airspace generates a much better spread of conflicts compared to the concentration of conflicts generated by the fixed route network.

How advanced is the status of FRA implementation in Europe?

Implementation is now ramping up.  More than 30 States have implementation plans for Free Route ranging from the initial step of implementing direct routes to the implementation of the full concept which permits airspace users to flight plan and fly a route according to their own business model.  It is expected that by the end of 2019 most of the European airspace would have implemented Free Route Airspace with all the airspace having this type of operations by 2021/2022.  This good progress is a result of the very close cooperation between the Network Manager, the ANSPs, the military partners and the airspace users. The Network Manager provides support to ANSPs in the form of airspace design, concept of operations, advice on aeronautical publication and finally the pre-validation of each new FRA environment to ensure airspace users are able to flight plan according to the concept.

I would like to make an estimate for a flight in one of the future months but I can’t find these unit rates on the website of EUROCONTROL.

Unfortunately, we can’t provide the unit rates of future months. The best estimate would be to use the last month available on the EUROCONTROL website.

Is there a risk for airspace around airports to become over crowded? What is being done in this respect?

This is not specifically FRA related – improvements have to be made in all aspects of ATM to accommodate future demand.  Nevertheless, specific airspace design solutions have been developed and documented by the Network Manager to ensure organised traffic flows around the airports. Airspace in TMAs will still be structured with dedicated arrival/departure routes.

What is the status of FRA implementation in other regions of the world? Are there any lessons learnt from the European experience?

Europe is the first region in the world having implemented a full FRA concept. However flight efficiency initiatives in various forms exist in other parts of the world i.e. North America and Australia.

Lessons learnt from the implementation so far have included the following:

  • Implementation on an incremental basis, starting with State implementation followed by cross border operations over a  region, when all neighbours are ready, is the best option for achieving full benefits.
  • Close coordination between airspace users, ANSP and the Network Manager has guaranteed the success of the implementation so far in terms of time and cost.
  • Most implementations have already exceeded that required by the SES regulation in 2022.
When I open the RSO Distance Tool, I have to enter a login and password. Where can I find this?

You normally do not need a login and password to use the tool. This is a common problem with the RSO Distance Tool. Fortunately, it can be resolved by right clicking on the icon of the application and selecting ‘run as administrator’. If everything goes well, the application should open without any problems.

When I tried to make an estimate of a specific route, I receive an error screen informing me that the unit rates are missing.

In that case, you go to the link below and download the unit rates in a txt format for the month of the flight.