The end of lockdown and the arrival of blue skies has permitted many general aviation (GA) pilots to get airborne for a flight or to continue training after months of being on the ground. There may be some who thought that a one-hour flight was all they needed to refresh their skills, while others have realised that a bit more familiarisation wouldn’t go amiss.
But unfortunately, there’s no getting away from the fact that since GA flying has recommenced, we have seen the number of reported airspace infringements of controlled airspace increase.
Despite what people say, there is no such thing as a ‘simple infringement’. Any infringement has a significant impact on the air traffic controller (ATCO) dealing with it; ATCOs are required to provide a minimum separation between known aircraft and the unknown (infringing) aircraft, and on a busy day a controller can feel like they are experiencing infringements all the time. The safety implications, delays and disruption that can be caused to other airspace users can also be substantial.
The downturn in commercial air traffic because of Covid-19 restrictions has meant airspace is quieter and more accessible than usual, with some airports even revising and shortening their opening hours. In these circumstances, the associated controlled airspace has been re-classified to Class G for when airports have been closed and the information published via NOTAM, including the suggested procedure to be followed by pilots operating in the locality. This has allowed pilots to access what is normally Class D airspace without the requirement of clearances. However, as more airports return to normal operating hours, the airspace has returned to the Class D with a return to standard procedures – something that we urge GA pilots to be aware of.
We also recommend that private pilots refresh their knowledge of electronic flight planning software, the functionality of the GPS and review the guidance material provided by various GA organisations, such as the CAA and Airspace Safety.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the various aspects of infringements, and highlighting specific areas of concern, as well as including some of the methods that can be used to minimise and/or remove the risk. We are all in this together.
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