Considering the fact that most people are fairly knowledgeable on the topic of prohibited airspace and/or controlled airspaces, we would expect that the number of airspace violations to be just a handful. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. From the years 1992 to 1993 there was a significant increase in the number of controlled airspace violations, and even though the numbers have decrease ever since, there are still at least one aircraft violating a controlled airspace.
First of all, however, let’s begin with the introduction to what controlled airspace is, just to recap what some of us already know and to give some insight to those that does not. Airspace is the area in the atmosphere above a country that is controlled by the country itself. Controlled airspace defines the different classifications of an airspace along with the different sizes of each class of airspace. There are 5 controlled airspaces: class A,B,C,D, and E.
Class A airspace refers to the airspace above 18000ft and over the waters of a country. In class A airspace, pilots must fly under IFR unless told otherwise. Class B airspace is the space between the surface of the ground up to 10000ft above it. Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) are required to control the comes and goes of the aircrafts in this region. Class B airspace also allows student pilots to fly with an endorsement.
Class C airspace refers to the airspace between the surface of the ground up to 4000 ft above it, while class D airspace is the airspace 2500 ft above airport elevation. Both require two way radio communications with the ATC to prevent incidents from occurring. Last, but not least, class E airspace can be observed when all its descriptions does not fit for any other classes. Class E airspace begins at 700 ft above ground level and is used to transition between terminals of an airport.
Second of all, we can finally talk of reports of airspace violations. A study made by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (BASI) back in 1997 was done to identify the human and system factors that lead to airspace violations. The study took place for 2 and a half months in which there were 62 incidents reported from Air services Australia.
It was shown that there were 3 forms of error made that resulted in the violation of controlled airspace. One form is where the pilot of the aircraft unintentionally entered the airspace without clearance, another form included pilots who did not know of the whereabouts of this airspace or did not know that it was active, the last form is those pilots who were knowledgeable on these airspaces and attempted to maneuver the aircraft as not to enter the airspace however, did just that.
The most common of these 3 forms is the last one which has been deduced to be due to navigational errors, resulting in the violation of airspace. BASI recommends that improving navigation trainings would reduce the amount of occurrence in this last form of violation as pilots would be able to prevent entering the airspace in advance.
BASI has also stated that “it can be expected that no amount of navigation training can guarantee that navigation errors will not occur from time to time”. This statement deems to be true as there are still a number of airspace violation reports occurring every now and then. With all this in mind, we can say that by giving ample time between entering an airspace and maneuvering, this gives the pilot a chance to avoid the airspace from a further distance and so preventing entering the airspace without clearance.
The second most common form of violation is the first form where the pilots unintentionally enter the controlled airspace without clearance. This may sound as if they waltzed into the airspace without knowing that these airspaces are present such as the second form, however, violations are classified into this form when the pilots have requested clearance, but did not have enough time to receive clearance.
Due to this, the pilots had no choice but to enter the airspace without any clearance. This is classified as human error as the pilot should have foreseen the amount of time needed to request clearance and do so with extra time added in order to prevent such violations from occurring. Hence why the BASI has recommended a number of suggestions where more navigation training should be done for all pilots, pilots must maintain the distance between them and the airspace boundary that they do not intend on entering, and for pilots to request clearance giving enough time to the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) before entering the airspace.
If all pilots were to follow all the rules and keep a sharper eye on such details (time, distance, etc.), these violations could be prevented and the number of recorded airspace violation would reduce overtime. For pilots alike who are looking to learn more about airspace we are able to provide online webinars and classes to cover more about the topic. Contact us for more information, and don’t forget to subscribe to our Instagram page as well, @14daypilot. Join 14DAYPILOT Flight Academy, we make you fly in 14 days!