In my capacity as chairman of LAGAUA I attended a meeting of the CAA Local Airspace Infringement Team (LAIT) at LJLA on 30 April 2018.
The meeting was chaired by the chairman of the CAA Airspace Infringement Team who holds a PPL. The chairman explained that there are a number of local infringement teams around the country and the meetings of the north west team move around the area with meetings held at Liverpool, Manchester, and Shawbury.
There was a large turn out at the meetings with representatives from Ravenair Flying School, LFS, Lomac and the Helicentre attending. There was also attendees from Liverpool and Manchester ATC, Barton and Cheshire Flyers as well as a couple of other reps from the CAA and the operations manager from LJLA and other LJLA officials. ATC at Hawarden sent their apologies but submitted a written report and unfortunately nobody from the RAF attended. A base captain from Easyjet also sent apologies but said he could be contacted to answer any questions should the need arise.
The CAA chairman explained that there was a problem locally with aircraft infringing the Liverpool and Manchester CTR’s, the Barton ATZ, and the Hawarden RMZ. Barton ATZ was the most infringed ATZ in the country and there had been 115 infringements of the Hawarden RMZ last year. Infringements of Barton ATZ accounted for 25% of ATZ infringements around the country. The majority of the infringements were “height busts” in controlled airspace or into controlled airspace and in particular height busts associated with use of the low level route involving pilots either climbing too early before they have exited the corridor or descending too late on entering the corridor. The chairman made the point, which was confirmed by the reps from Manchester ATC that Manchester utilise every inch of their controlled airspace both laterally and vertically and that any infringement of their airspace will almost certainly result in disruption to their arrivals or departures.
On the positive side there had been a 35% reduction of infringements of the Manchester CTR over the last 12 months.
- The CAA were taking steps to reduce infringements.Transponder frequency monitoring codes, of which there are now approx 25, were seen as important and more would be introduced. Pilots flying close to zone boundaries were urged to monitor the appropriate frequency and to select the appropriate TX monitoring code. However it was stressed that using a TX monitoring code is not a replacement for obtaining a flight info service.
- Liverpool ATC are introducing for a trial period what they call “defensive controlling”. ATC will warn any aircraft approaching the zone boundary without an inbound clearance to change course before the infringement occurs. Liverpool ATC asked that if this happens to you and it was already your intention to change course not to take offence as the controller is unable to mind read.
- The CAA has produced a frequency monitoring TX code chart. It was stressed that this chart is designed for pre-flight planning and not for use in flight. The CAA’s aim is to educate pilots and not to prosecute for zone infringements save where the infringement is very serious or the pilot is a repeat offender. Instead the pilot will be offered the opportunity of attending an Airspace Infringement Awareness Course which is run by GASCO for the CAA. The pilot has to pay the course fee.
- In extreme cases the CAA will use their power to suspend or revoke licences and will prosecute through the criminal courts for offences under the ANO.
Pilots were advised that it was good practice to use GPS or flight planning and navigation software such as skydemon and that the use of such systems greatly aids in the reduction of infringements. The chairman of the Infringement Team said that he could not emphasise this too much and he urged all pilots to use these systems. He pointed out the skydemon light, which is a flight planning package, is available free of charge.
It was mentioned that the roll out of 833khz frequencies was continuing and likely to grow at some pace. In our area frequencies for Hawarden and Warton had changed and more would be coming. Pilots were urged to keep uptodate with all frequency changes and to check before flying.
Hawarden will be closed from 27.7.18 to 12.8.18 for runway strengthening to cater for the arrival of the “Super Beluga”. Liverpool ATC will see if the Hawarden RMZ can be withdrawn for that period!
The low level route was a problem and in particular the northern and southern ends and the area around the Stretton VRP.
At the northern and southern ends of the low level route infringements were as a result of aircraft descending too late on approaching the low route and busting the 1300 feet altitude limit and aircraft climbing too soon before exiting the corridor.
There were also problems with lateral infringements as a result of pilots cutting the corner at the northern end of the low level route and turning too soon to the west and with pilots exiting the low level route at Stretton towards Barton and violating the Manchester CTZ.
There was a particular problem with the Stretton VRP. Very surprisingly the location of the VRP is shown in slightly different positions on the northern and southern half million maps. The true position is that the centre of the disused airfield is on the boundary of the Manchester CTZ and accordingly pilots routing to the eastern edge of the airfield are infringing the zone. The Chairman said that he had written to the chart provider informing them of the error and hopefully it would be corrected on the next edition of the maps.
The chairman asked the view of those at the meeting as to whether the Stretton VRP should be removed entirely as it appeared to serve very little purpose and was causing more problems than it solved. Originally it had been created at the request of Manchester ATC but now most pilots routed via the Thelwall viaduct when going to Barton which kept you clear of Manchester’s CTZ. For those routing up or down the low level route a far better VRP is junction 11 of the M56 which is in the middle of the corridor and only a short distance from Stretton.
The view of the meeting was that the Stretton VRP should be removed as it was causing far more problems than it solved and it served very little purpose to retain it.
All in all it was a very constructive and interesting meeting. The message from the CAA was that they will only prosecute infringers as a last resort and that they want to educate pilots to avoid infringing ATZ’s and zones. The key to reducing infringements is good pre-flight planning on the ground and in the air using GPS and products such as skydemon. If you do accidentally infringe then hold your hands up immediately and you will invariably be treated sympathetically unless that is you are a repeat offender!