Another heatwave is on the way and with rising temperatures and clear skies comes an increase in General Aviation traffic. Every summer, we see many light aircraft taking to the skies and enjoying for the most part, an uneventful flight in UK airspace. However, this does coincide with an increase in the number of infringements of controlled airspace and this has not been helped by the changing operating hours of some areas during the Covid-19 pandemic, as airports and airlines try to match operating hours and flying schedules with changing levels of demand.
NATS Southampton (Solent Radar) has a history of managing one of the most infringed controlled airspace areas in the UK and although this has improved slightly over the last 18 months, we still have far too many.
Due to the impact of Covid-19, the actual operating hours of the Controlled Airspace around Southampton Airport – namely the Solent CTA (Control Areas) and Southampton CTR (Control Zone) – have varied considerably, which has understandably caused some confusion amongst General Aviation pilots using aerodromes in the vicinity, such as Lee-on-Solent, Popham, Blackbushe, Goodwood, Shoreham, Bembridge, Sandown, Old Sarum, Compton Abbas, White Waltham and Fairoaks.
NOTAMs are of course issued by the Airport Authority and us, pertaining to the airport operating hours and our own ATC coverage, but we know that it can be confusing with numerous changes and subsequent notifications.
However, from 13 July until at least 30 August, a more consistent program is planned with the controlled airspace around Southampton Airport active from 0700-1900 daily (except Saturday 0700-1500 – all times local). Of course, any change to these times will be subject to NOTAM as per normal procedure so pilots should always check NOTAMs and maintain a listening watch on 120.230 MHz when flying in the vicinity.
We are hopeful that these set hours will help reduce the number of infringements and we’d urge the GA community to help us help you and be vigilant as everyone enjoys the wonderful weather that is forecast for the coming weeks.
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