ENAIRE updating its control system to transition toward a flexible airspace


ENAIRE’s Automated Air Traffic Control system, SACTA, in terms of airspace reservations, was fed data from the AIP, ENAIRE’s reference publication on aeronautical information, and NOTAM aviation notices, which were integrated into air control displays. Now, the latest update will add information on airspace use plans in anticipation of rolling out free route air navigation, which relies on a flexible airspace.

The “Free-Route Airspace” (FRA) is a designated volume of airspace where users can plan flight routes freely between specified points with few restrictions and without having to follow airways or predefined direct routes. This allows the routes and fuel used to be shortened, reducing atmospheric CO2 emissions.

In Spain, this Free Route system is called HISPAFRA and represents animportant state project that implements and complies with the contents of Implementing Regulation (EU) No 116/2021, specifically with regard to the flexible management of airspace and free route and the implementation of the free route concept. As a State project, different organisations are involved in HISPAFRA: the Civil Aviation General Directorate (DGAC), the Spanish AirForce, the National Aviation Safety Agency (AESA) and ENAIRE.

The European Commission wants the use of airspace to be more flexible inorder to improve air navigation by combining civil and military uses in certain areas. In compliance with European law, the reservation or segregation of airspace should be temporary and be managed through civil-military coordination. Depending on the time and the coordination schedule, information is sent through the publications on plans for airspace use that include the closure of routes, activities and other associated restrictions.

Eurocontrol estimates that, once fully implemented in Europe, the move will save 500,000 nautical miles, 3,000 tonnes of fuel, 10,000 tonnes of CO2 and three million euros in fuel costs.

On a related topic, ENAIRE’s ICARO system, used to manage how flight plans are presented, has also been upgraded to automatically process and generate aviation notices for special areas with information received from EUROCONTROL.

ENAIRE’s efforts to further these activities on the flexible use of airspace
place the company at the forefront of air navigation service providers.

By phasing in automated information management in its ICARO and SACTA systems, ENAIRE can manage airspace as a whole, which translates into a qualitative leap in terms of efficiency, safety and situational awareness in the air traffic management environment. The resulting benefits include:

  • improved flight efficiency by reducing distances, time and fuel consumption
  • streamlined civil-military cooperation in real time both locally and Europe-wide
  • reduced need to segregate airspace
  • establishment of a coherent infrastructure in terms of the route network and its associated sectorisation
  • improved air control capacity
  • fewer air traffic delays
  • development of efficient tools to segregate traffic