NEW Jan 2013: Did you know that for a couple of years now, pilots who have had an airspace infringement in NATS-controlled airspace the UK have been asked by NATS to fill out a survey against a number of questions about the incident? This has allowed data to be collected to provide information and guidance on where resources can be targetted to help reduce future problems for all. With nearly 400 responses by the end of 2012, here is some of the stats and analysis, causal factors, and pilot lessons learned stats - Analysis of Pilots Surveys Release 1
Unless you know a lot about the data collection, you may end up making a different assumption about the results compared to other readers. The survey does not contain data from ALL infringements. It is a NATS survey of infringers of NATS controlled airspace, obviously when the infringer could be tracked and identified, and even then, filling in the survey by the pilot is voluntary, although it must be said, most G.A. pilots have been extremely cooperative when asked. It also is unlikely to contain any data from the serious cases which progressed well down the prosecution route. So be aware of that background, and it has been extremely useful in helping NATS to target the next round of education material and we know a lot of key messages that lead to infringements - perhaps we don't know them all, but trends are definitely emerging, which we'll go into soon.
Do you have any best of breed tips of your own to spread around? One that Goodwood has taught in the past has been to amend the 'FREDA' check to include a positive identification of exact position, thereby concentrating the mind on 'where exactly am I?' every 5 to 10 minutes in case distractions are beginning to, well, distract!
NATS Infringement to end of April 2013
Those three red ones for each of the past 3 full years (2010-12) - any thoughts on what almost all have in common? Answer: No transponder / no MODE C
Infringements to end of April 2013 By Unit
Given that 'unknown traffic' inside Controlled Airspace (ie: an infringer) which gets within 5 miles or 5000' of controlled traffic forces action to protect the latter, guess how much per minute extra it will cost if a 747 has to break off an approach and 'go around'? If you want to know, look at this new poster from the CAA.
Now consider how long 'extra' the 747 will be airborne. Then considerthat the figure was the direct cost - what about the rest? For example you could be on that 747 and trying to get home in time for something important, or catching a train, or transfering to another flight with minimum time to spare.
If you have looked at the graphs above, remember that's only the situation for airspace controlled by NATS employees - there are other airports in the UK with controlled airspace not included there - and what about the temporary restrictions? Think how cheated the organisers and 1000s of paying spectators at some 2006 events felt when their Red Arrows displays were cancelled due to 'infringers' into the display restricted areas? - and all those infringers needed to do was to check notams or even call 0500-354802 to get a freephone warning.
It's no secret that that the good news of only 3 high risk infringements in 2008 was exceeded in 2009, but the following years have been better. Why? Well it's as difficult to point to one reason, but look at all the initiatives nowadays, and new techniques and tools, whether it's listening squawks, AWARE GPS units, the GASCo Safety Evenings including the message, more pilots using 'Mode C' nowadays (which initially might have increased totals but reduced the risk of any infringement), and lots of help from magazines along with lots of GA pilots understanding the problem and flying accordingly.<br> <br> If you do suddenly realise you are infringing, call that unit as soon as you can (if you are talking to someone else, tell them you are changing). Once the infringed unit are speaking to you, they can usually restart more or less normal operations again even with you in their airspace - if you just keep quiet, this could delay them a lot longer or increase the risk of further problems. If you can't quickly find their frequency, tell the unit you are talking to at the time, or if you are not on any particular frequency, 121.5 will get everything sorted very quickly.<br>
You only have to be an occasional user of Farnborough LARS (N, E, W) around London to hear a pilot being warned of an airspace boundary about to be infringed unless the pilot takes rapid action such as a descent or major change of course. Here is the report compiled from April 2008 to March 2009 giving the data for cases where the Farnborough LARS controller felt concerned enough to issue a warning of an imminent infringement.
Whilst a small numbre of pilots would no doubt insist that they were about to take appropriate action anyway, there must be quite a number of grateful pilots out there who are glad they used the LARS service: Farnborough LARS Infringement Advice Statistics
The CAA collects and analyses statistics for different types of airspace through official reports in accordance with the CAA’s Mandatory Occurrence Report Scheme (MORS).
The latest report, which, in some cases gives figures all the way back to the 1990s can be found here: CAA MOR Report Statistics. This report includes data on infringements which result in an AIRPROX (for definition, see http://www.airproxboard.org.uk/).
Care should be taken when interpreting older figures as changes to working practices from the middle of the last decade means that infringements are much more likely to be reported in recent years whether they caused airproxes or not. If you wish to understand this analysis better, the report is produced by CAA DAP, who can provide further information on request.