From Thursday, 25 February, DFS Free Route Airspace (FRA) will be available around the clock in the entire area of responsibility of the DFS Karlsruhe Upper Area Control Centre (UAC). DFS, the German air navigation service provider, is offering direct routings to all its customers flying above 7,500 m. Aircraft taking these shortcuts save fuel and produce fewer emissions.
In 2018, the first free route airspaces (FRA) were introduced in the DFS area of responsibility. The night of Thursday, 25 February 2021, marks the completion of another important step. Previously, DFS Free Route Airspace was limited to the night hours in the west and south of German airspace. Now, DFS Free Route Airspace is replacing the previous airway route network in this particularly congested airspace, which is controlled from the Karlsruhe UAC. This will enable shorter, and therefore fuel-saving and emission-saving, flight routes.
Making a contribution to aviation in Europe
"With this expansion of free route airspace in the very complex German airspace, DFS is taking a significant step in improving the service we offer. In the most heavily used airspace in the heart of Europe, free route airspace will make the hoped-for contribution to improved horizontal and vertical routing and to the reduction of climate-damaging greenhouse gases," said Dirk Mahns, Chief Operating Officer at DFS about the project funded by the European Union.
Partners are the key
Dr Morten Grandt, Project Manager of DFS Free Route Airspace, emphasises that this development had to be coordinated with a large number of partners, both at national and European level. "The intensive dialogue with our national and international customers over a number of years was a key factor in the successful implementation of free route airspace. Another factor was the coordination with the Bundeswehr, the German Armed Forces, which use extensive training airspaces in the south-west and south, and with our European partners, in particular the air navigation service providers in the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC), the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and the SESAR Deployment Manager. Without these partners, we would not have achieved this important step.
It was a big challenge to provide direct routings in the congested core area. "While maintaining our high level of safety, we had to strike a balance between capacity, on the one hand, and route efficiency, on the other. In addition, several hubs and other large airports had to be connected and military training flights had to be guaranteed," says Steffen Liebig, Head of Karlsruhe Upper Area Control Centre. "Free route airspace has to conform with specific parameters to be able to take the various interests adequately into account. Nevertheless, we were able to deliver significant improvements in route options and provide flexible, but at the same time predictable, procedures."
FRA is being further refined
Now that free route airspace is available around the clock in the entire airspace controlled by the Karlsruhe UAC, the development of DFS Free Route Airspace continues. In future, the use of the free route airspaces in the areas of responsibility of the DFS control centres in Bremen and Munich will also be extended in terms of time. At the moment, it is still limited to night hours. In addition, DFS aims to create further cross-border FRA options in cooperation with neighbouring countries.
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DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, the German air navigation service provider, is a State-owned company under private law with 5,600 employees as at 31 December 2020. DFS ensures the safe and punctual flow of air traffic over Germany. Before 2020, around 2,200 air traffic controllers guided up to 10,000 flights in German airspace every day, more than 3 million movements every year. The company operates control centres in Langen, Bremen, Karlsruhe and Munich as well as control towers at the 16 designated international airports in Germany. The subsidiary DFS Aviation Services GmbH markets and sells products and services related to air navigation services, and provides air traffic control at nine regional airports in Germany and at London Gatwick Airport and Edinburgh Airport in the UK. R. Eisenschmidt GmbH is another DFS subsidiary which markets publications and products for General Aviation. Kaufbeuren ATM Training (KAT) is responsible for training military air traffic services personnel. DFS has been working on the integration of drones into air traffic since 2016 and has set up a joint venture, Droniq GmbH, with Deutsche Telekom.