[UPDATED] Today the AIP for the reclassification of the London CTR was published, marking 56 days 28 days until the change comes into effect.

For those who may have missed the news, in May we announced that the CAA had approved our request to reclassify the London Control Zone – the airspace around Heathrow Airport – from class A to class D airspace.

With the upcoming introduction of SERA – the standardised European Rules of the Air – VFR and SVFR traffic will be barred from entering Class A airspace at the end of the year. In order to maintain access for the GA community, while ensuring a safe and efficient environment for commercial air traffic, NATS has sponsored the change to Class D.

The outer and inner area of the new Class D London CTR

The outer and inner area of the new Class D London CTR

The change will occur on 18 September and from today you can read about all the details, but in the meantime here are the…

Top five things you need to know:

1. On 18 September 2014 the London CTR will change from Class A to Class D airspace, matching the other major London airports.

2. You will always need to ask for ATC clearance to enter the control zone.

3. The London CTR is the busiest piece of airspace in the UK. NATS may be able to offer you an ATC traffic service, but it will always be subject to workload and clearance.

4. Access to the airspace immediately around Heathrow Airport – referred to as the ‘Inner Area’ – will be restricted via PPR (Prior Permission Required) by telephone. Unless you really need to fly inside the ‘Inner Area’, you should plan to route around it.

5. The London CTR will be a Transponder Mandatory Zone (TMZ) with Mode S required.

If you have any questions about the changes or why they’re happening, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answers for you.


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julia mcclelland

With the introduction of SERA, I understand the reason for the airspace classification change. However, we now introduce something new called an `inner area`. How does that comply with SERA and standardise the rules? Is it a recognised term and used in other European countries?



Terry Logg

You mention SERA will prohibit VFR traffic entering Class A airspace – has this not always been the case?



Jonathan Smith (NATS General Aviation Lead)

The Inner Area is already in use within the London Control Zone and provides us a method of ensuring that we can avoid excessive airborne holding, and reduce delays to both Heathrow movements and helicopter operators wishing to use landing sites within the London CTR. Re-classification to Class D means that while we do not need to provide standard separation between IFR and VFR traffic, we do still need to ensure we have robust procedures for the safe integration of all traffic within some of the busiest airspace in the country.



Darrell Brindley

In answer to Terry Log, you are correct, however I believe under SERA Special VFR is now classed as a type of VFR flight and therefore would be prohibited from the Heathrow CTR unless the airspace was changed.



julia mcclelland

Thank you for your comments, Jonathan. I understand your reasoning entirely.
What I am still unclear about, however, is how this term `inner area` helps to standardise ATC phraseology. I repeat- is this term a recognised ATC phrase which is in use throughout EASA or is it UK, indeed Heathrow, specific?



Jonathan Smith, NATS General Aviation Lead

Julia, you make a good point. I suppose we have simply attached a name to a volume of airspace that has some additional procedures associated with it. Many segments or portions of Class D airspace are differentiated like this. Perhaps other similar examples would be the Dunstable Downs area in the Luton CTR? I feel it makes it simpler to interpret for the user than just burying a set of additional requirements in a textual description.




Thank you for your comments, Jonathan.
As an airborne user of your services, what I expect from ‘standardisation’ is one set of rules which apply throughout EASA – otherwise it is not ‘standardisation’.
What we appear to have here with the reclassification of the Heathrow control zone is an attempt to maintain the status quo whilst pretending to comply with European legislation.
It does not help my understanding or use of the airspace without having to learn a new set of Heathrow specific procedures.




Colin, don’t many CTRs have ‘idiosyncracies’ such as local flying areas, low level transit lanes, standard VFR departure routes? Is this any different?



julia mcclelland

You hit the nail straight on the head, but It is because of these “idiosyncracies” that I understood “standardisation” was being introduced.
However, my experience of EASA standardisation suggests we are merely replacing one set of rules with another set of “idiosyncratic” rules. Hence my comments.
It is happening throughout EASA land and I was hoping NATS might be able to lead the way and show how to do it sensibly..



Helen Hansen-Hjul

NATS, thank you for the update, perhaps you would be so kind as to now answer the excellent question Julia put to you on 01st August last year (2014) as there is no reply showing on this blog..her query was
“…how this term `inner area` helps to standardise ATC phraseology. I repeat- is this term a recognised ATC phrase which is in use throughout EASA or is it UK, indeed Heathrow, specific?”
Thank you


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