The airspace above London and the South East is some of the busiest and most complex in the world, so it might come as a surprise to know that a core part of the way air traffic is managed in this airspace currently still relies on pen and paper…

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Over the past few weeks we have highlighted the issues associated with airspace infringements including the significant impact they can have on controller workload, the necessary avoiding action, delays and cost that can result to other pilots following an incident.

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It’s been four months since we launched Airspace Explorer, our flight tracking and airspace education app that’s available for free on iPad, and our first major update has just gone live.

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The Government recently published its response to the consultation it ran on the safe use of drones in the UK. The headline announcement is the plan to introduce mandatory registration for drones over 250 grams in weight, as well as mandatory competency testing to support it.

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Airspace infringements by General Aviation pilots entering controlled airspace remain the biggest risk to the air traffic operation and they are becoming a daily occurrence in the summer months. An infringement occurs when an aircraft enters a volume of airspace without gaining permission, and they can have a huge impact on the system causing aircraft to be diverted, put into holds or held on the ground.

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I haven’t met any aviators who don’t think Pre-Flight Planning is important, although I have met quite a few who have been caught out by not doing enough of it at some point in their flying life – including myself.

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The closure of Gatwick airport’s runway on Sunday, as a result of a drone flying in the way of arriving aircraft, has prompted further debate about how we deal with the growing number of drones in the skies….

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Frequency Monitor Codes (FMCs) have now been in use in the UK for over 10 years and they’ve collected a range of names during that time such as Listening Squawks and Monitor Codes but they are all actually referring to the same thing.

Pilots are encouraged to use a FMC when they are flying outside controlled airspace, but close to controlled airspace boundaries, in order to increase situational awareness and help to combat infringements.

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Sunday’s incident at Gatwick, where a drone spotted on the airport’s final approach path caused the runway to be closed for two separate periods, has understandably received a lot of press coverage. The incident caused significant knock-on effects for air traffic control, beyond just stopping arrivals while the runway was closed and caused serious disruption in the sky above southern England.

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I was delighted last week to see Eamonn Brennan elected to run Eurocontrol, the Europe-wide coordinating body for air traffic control. He takes over in 2018 and is no doubt already working out what his priorities will need to be – because there are a lot.

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