Following consultation with the aviation industry and other stakeholders, in June 2011 the Civil Aviation Authority published its Future Airspace Strategy to 2030 (FAS).  The FAS vision is to establish “safe, efficient airspace that has the capacity to meet reasonable demand, balances the needs of all airspace users and mitigates the impact of aviation on the environment”.

Initially an Industry Implementation Group (FASIIG) was formed to develop and agree a ‘FAS Implementation Master Plan’ to deliver a set of tangible benefits for commercial aviation within the 2015-2020 timeframe.  This group aims to make CAT IFR operations within controlled airspace more efficient and its work is fully aligned with the European ATM Master Plan developed by the SESAR Joint Undertaking.

Recognising that CAT IFR operations are but part of the UK aviation sector the CAA set up a NATMAC sub-group to review Class G airspace with its work and recommendations focussed almost entirely on safety issues.  Its report, Class G Airspace For The 21st Century, forms part of the Future Airspace Strategy but does not deal at all with the efficiency of operations for non-CAT airspace users.

The next largest airspace user group after CAT IFR operations in CAS is that conducting VFR operations in all airspace so the CAA established a FAS VFR Implementation Group (FASVIG) to develop and agree a VFR Deployment Plan, mirroring the FASIIG Deployment Plan and through that to deliver the vision of the FAS to VFR airspace users. FASVIG is a collaboration between organisations concerned with VFR operations, including business and general aviation, the flight training industry, sporting and recreational aviation, NATS, airlines, airports, MOD and the CAA.  Its objective is to develop and agree a ‘FAS VFR Deployment Plan’ which will deliver a set of tangible benefits for VFR operations within the 2015-2020 timeframe and so establish a sustainable future for VFR operations within the UKFIR. The programme also supports the government objective to make the UK the best place in the World for general aviation.

Purpose of the document                    

This document sets out proposals for developing the FAS VFR Deployment Plan including how the participants will organise their work and what the core objectives should be.   It describes changes that will improve VFR operations in all airspace and includes requirements for airspace and procedures related to commercial aviation where they support a more efficient airspace system overall.  The programme’s scope includes the modernisation of airspace structures, policy changes to deliver improvements to airspace access and changes to regulations and procedures that enable more efficient VFR operations.

The nature of VFR operations is diverse so to reduce time and resources, collaboration between the various interest groups will be through a set of joint working groups each with appropriate representation.

This document sets out proposals for developing the FAS VFR Implementation Deployment Plan for consideration by FASVIG. Specifically, this document:

  • Outlines how FASVIG will be organised to implement FAS for VFR, how it will manage work and how changes will be implemented.
  • Proposes a set of ‘packages of change’ which deliver operational improvements and benefits.
  • Describes how changes that lead to demonstrable benefits will be prioritised and implemented.
  • Sets out near-term priorities, including which FASVIG Working Groups will be responsible for which activities.
  • Highlights an initial set of risks associated with implementing FAS for VFR operations.

Principles for implementation

The FAS defined three strategic drivers for modernising the UK airspace:

  • Safety: a continuous improvement in safety as new technologies and concepts are introduced.
  • Capacity: ensuring UK airspace can meet reasonable demand as the profile of airspace use by different user groups develops.  The impact of improvements on each segment must be fully considered and an appropriate balance achieved.
  • Environment:  contribute to minimising aviation’s environmental impact.

To achieve these goals for VFR operations the FASVIG will consider changes centred around three key package groupings:

  • Modernising airspace structures to support VFR operations.
  • Access to airspace where it is significant for VFR operations or is under-utilised.
  • VFR efficiency enablers to facilitate safe and efficient operations.

These goals will directly support the FAS by delivering its vision across all airspace users.