UK and Irish ministers agree to air space arrangement


London – Rosie Winterton, UK Minister of State for Transport and Noel Dempsey, Irish Minister of State for Transport, today announced an agreement on the first functional airspace block (FAB) in Europe. A FAB is a means of more efficiently managing airspace along operational requirements rather than national boundaries.

The agreement, announced at a meeting of EU transport ministers in Luxembourg, follows the introduction of EU legislation in April 2004. This seeks to minimize air traffic delays through improved co-operation and to promote greater capacity and efficiency across the European air traffic management system.

The UK/Ireland FAB builds on the long tradition of close co-operation
between the two countries. This partnership approach, involving the UK and Irish air navigation service providers, airlines and ministries of defense, will deliver real operational efficiencies for airlines by developing more fuel efficient routes, improving delays and enhancing safety.

Rosie Winterton, Minister for Transport, said, “Over 90% of the air traffic on the North Atlantic flies over the UK and Ireland, and this joint approach will enable us to enhance the safety and efficiency of the airspace management system to the benefit of the airline industry and passengers. By working together to design and manage airspace, we will reduce the amount of fuel that planes use resulting in improved environmental performance.”

Noel Dempsey, Irish Minister for Transport, said, “The UK and Ireland have a long tradition of cooperation in air traffic management and the establishment of the first FAB in Europe is a major step in deepening that cooperation. The new arrangements will focus on improving the capacity of the air traffic management system and in providing for optimal flight paths for airlines. For the airline customer this will help to avoid undesirable delays due to air traffic control restrictions and sub-optimal routings.”

Paul Barron, Chief Executive of NATS, the UK air navigation services provider, said, “This is an innovative and ground-breaking approach to establishing and running an effective FAB, in that from day one, both our military and airline customers will be working hand in hand with us and our IAA colleagues on the FAB management board. This combined airspace is the natural gateway between America and Europe and handles high levels of traffic; managing it jointly will bring operational efficiencies for routings and flight profiles, which will also deliver environmental benefit.”

Sir Roy McNulty, Chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, said, “The CAA has worked closely with the Irish Aviation Authority Safety Regulation Division in ensuring that the Ireland/UK FAB meets our safety and other regulatory requirements and the needs of users. We will build on this fruitful partnership in seeking other opportunities for cooperation to ensure that the combined airspace is used as safely, efficiently and expeditiously as possible.”

The FAB management board, chaired by NATS and the Irish Aviation Authority, will involve airlines and representatives of both governments. They will look at airspace design, service provision and safety. The FAB will be regulated by the CAA and the Safety regulation division Irish Aviation Authority.