SEEN Free Route Airspace extended to Slovakia

The South East Europe Night Free Route Airspace (SEEN FRA) was enlarged on 6 December 2018 to include Slovakia’s airspace for night-time flights. The Slovakian air navigation service provider, LPS SR, has joined the initiative begun by fellow ANSPs BULATSA (Bulgaria), HungaroControl (Hungary) and ROMATSA (Romania). 

Aircraft operators may now choose their own trajectories through the airspace of these four states from 00.01am until 06.00am local time.

From April 2019, Slovakia plans to allow FRA in its airspace for a longer period of the day. On 27 November 2019, the three states which began the initiative plan to extend the availability of cross-border operations for the whole day, with the launch of the SEE FRA project: South East Europe Free Route Airspace.

Commenting on the 6 December 2018 achievement, Ján Marko, head of LPS SR’s ATM Planning and Procedures Department, said: “The main enabler and driver of the airspace changes at European level is EUROCONTROL, particularly the Network Manager. Thanks to the involvement and good will of all stakeholders - namely EUROCONTROL Member States and the EUROCONTROL Agency - aircraft operators will be able to fly optimised profiles and use less fuel, so reducing aviation’s environmental footprint.

What is free route airspace?

Free route airspace (FRA) allows airspace users to fly a preferred trajectory between a defined entry and exit point, subject to air traffic control, rather than fly existing airways.

FRA projects implemented since 2014 have saved airspace users an estimated €500 million savings in fuel costs alone.

The European Commission is fully behind FRA: their regulation 716/2014 has a deadline of 2022 for implementing FRA Europe-wide above Flight Level 305.

The Network Manager (NM) developed a concept of operations a decade ago, along with technical specifications, civil-military requirements and guidance for ANSPs. FRA has been developed in collaboration with civil and military experts in airspace design, ECAC member states, ANSPs, airspace users, flight planning organisations and the relevant international bodies.

All the studies done to date – and there have been many – have shown that FRA not only makes for considerable savings in fuel and emissions, but also delivers a decrease in controller workload, with a reduction in evaluation and coordination tasks; fewer radio transmissions and enhanced traffic predictability.

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