MUAC Free Route Airspace

On 6 December 2018 Eurocontrol has implemented phase 2 of the Maastricht UAC Free Route Airspace (FRA). This article covers the most important aspects you need to understand in order to make optimal use of it.


The Maastricht UAC Free Route Airspace

FRA - what is it?

Free Route Airspace is airspace in which you can plan direct flight between certain dedicated points instead of planning your flight along ATS routes. In general this enables the airspace user to create a shorter route, resulting in a shorter flight time, less fuel usage and less greenhouse gas emissions. Hence a Free Route Airspace can help reduce the impact of aviation on the environment while at the same time it increases efficiency and airspace capacity.

 

FRA - how does it work?

For each FRA dedicated points are described and these can have one or more of the properties below. Please keep in mind that the properties below are the ones being used in the MUAC FRA. There can be slight variations on these in other FRAs. Detailed information about a certain FRA should always be checked in the AIP of the country managing that FRA.

Property Description Usage
E FRA Horizontal Entry Point For lateral entry to the MUAC FRA only
X FRA Horizontal Exit Point For lateral exit from the MUAC FRA only
A FRA Arrival Connecting Point For vertical exit from the MUAC FRA only
D FRA Departure Connecting Point For vertical entry to the MUAC FRA only
I FRA Intermediate Point To connect dedicated points in the FRA. In several case the use of a certain Intermediate Point is necessary to make the route valid.

FRA dedicated points are listed in the AIP ENR §4.1 and AIP ENR §4.4. Find the dedicated points listed in the AIP for Belgium and Luxembourg and check if and for what purpose the points 'ARVOL' and 'NIK' can be used in the MUAC FRA.

 

ARVOL is not a dedicated MUAC FRA point and hence cannot be used for DCT routing in the FRA. NIK is a dedicated MUAC FRA point and can be used as Intermediate (I), Departure Connecting (D) and Arrival Connecting (A) Point for DCT routing in the FRA.

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The image above shows some of the possibilities regarding flight planning in a Free Route Airspace. Please keep in mind the guidelines and rules below when planning a (part of a) flight in Free Route Airspace.

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DCT segments can be planned according to the following table.
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DCT segments going partially outside and afterwards back inside the horizontal or vertical limits of the FRA cannot be planned.
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Not every route that is planned according to the rules above will automatically be valid. There can be additional restrictions, described in the Route Availability Document (RAD), to make sure creatively planned direct routes don't create additional problems for air traffic management. Before filing a flightplan it is always strongly recommended - in real life it is obligatory - to check the validity of your route using the IFPUV validation tool, available here (click on 'Structured Editor' in the lower right corner).

Open the IFPUV validation tool and check if you can make a valid flightplan from Brussels (EBBR) to Paris CDG (LFPG) using this route. If your entered flightplan is valid you will see the message 'NO ERRORS' when clicking on the 'VALIDATE' button. If you are experiencing difficulties with flightplan validation, we advise to post your issue on Discord or on the forum. A solution, if available, will be posted there and that way others can learn from it as well.

 

MUAC FRA - what does it look like?

The charts below show the Free Route Airspace managed by Maastricht UAC. The FRA is represented by the green area and it is vertically limited between FL245 and FL660. The dedicated FRA points are shown in green and only these can be used to plan direct flight in the FRA according to the properties and restrictions for each point.

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MUAC FRA Index Chart
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MUAC FRA Index Chart (RAD restrictions included)
The MUAC FRA is currently in phase 2, which means it is only available at night (00:00 - 06:00 CET) and during the weekend (SAT 00:00 - MON 06:00 CET).

 

MUAC FRA - implementation phases

The implementation of a Free Route Airspace in busy airspaces like Maastricht UAC has quite an impact on air traffic management. That's why it is being implemented in three major phases.

Phase Start Status
Phase 1 07 DEC 2017 ATS route network + RAD Appendix 4 DCTs: available H24
MUAC FRA: available at night (00:00 - 06:00 CET)
Phase 2 06 DEC 2018 ATS route network + RAD Appendix 4 DCTs: available H24
MUAC FRA: available at night (00:00 - 06:00 CET) and during the weekend (SAT 00:00 - MON 06:00 CET)
Phase 3 2019-2020 ATS route network + RAD Appendix 4 DCTs removed
MUAC FRA: available H24

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Other Free Route Airspaces

The MUAC FRA is not the first one in Europe. Several other FRAs are already fully implemented. Europe is the first region with a full FRA concept, although similar alternatives exist in some other parts of the world. The final implementation of the full FRA concept is estimated to be finished before the end of 2022. The Eurocontrol FRA implementation projection charts give a good idea of how the European airspace will evolve over the coming years.

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FRA implementation end of 2018
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FRA implementation end of 2019
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FRA implementation end of 2020
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FRA implementation end of 2021
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FRA implementation end of 2022
For exact details (vertical limits, dedicated points, flightlevel orientation, ...) on a certain Free Route Airspace you should always refer to the AIP of the country managing that FRA. FRA related information should be available in ENR §1.10, ENR §4.1 and ENR §4.2. There might be additional pages as well though. A handy source for this is the European AIS Database (free subscription required). In this database you can access the AIP information of most European countries.

 


Examples

Below are three examples of flights going through the airspace managed by MUAC. In each example a comparison is made between a route making use of the MUAC FRA and a route not making use of it.

Below are two routes for a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Billund and both of them are valid at the time of writing this article. The second route, which is making use of the MUAC FRA (highlighted part), can only be used when the MUAC FRA is available (see implementation phases).

Route ID Distance % GC distance Route
Route 1 431.8 NM 110.1% CLN P44 SOMVA UP155 ANDIK UN873 TUSKA DCT GELBA
Route 2 413.6 NM 105.4% CLN P44 SOMVA DCT MAVAS DCT LEGPI UN873 TUSKA DCT GELBA

After analysing the position of the origin and destination airport relative to the MUAC FRA it is quite probable that the flight will enter the FRA at cruise level and descend below it before reaching the lateral border. This means we are looking for a Horizontal Entry Point (E) and an Arrival Connecting Point (A). SOMVA (E) and LEGPI (A) seem to be convenient points for our route. SOMVA DCT LEGPI is not allowed though according to the IFPUV validation tool. One error codes is returned and after checking it in detail we learn that the Intermediate Point MAVAS needs to be added in between. This restriction can also be seen on the MUAC FRA Index Chart with RAD restrictions (see above).

Route 1
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Route 2
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The FRA route is about 20 miles shorter. As a result the flight time is reduced with 2 minutes. Approximately 75 kg fuel is saved and about 240 kg CO2 equivalents less are emitted.

 

Below are two routes for a Brussels Airlines flight from Stockholm Bromma to Brussels and both of them are valid at the time of writing this article. The second route, which is making use of the MUAC FRA (highlighted part), can only be used when the MUAC FRA is available (see implementation phases).

Route ID Distance % GC distance Route
Route 1 706.3 NM 103.1% DKR N872 DEMIR UN872 LILSI UZ310 WOODY
Route 2 704.0 NM 102.7% DKR N872 ELPAX Z703 KESUR DCT OMORU UZ310 WOODY

After analysing the position of the origin and destination airport relative to the MUAC FRA it is clear that the flight will enter the FRA at cruise level and descend below it before reaching the lateral border. This means we are looking for a Horizontal Entry Point (E) and an Arrival Connecting Point (A). KESUR (E) and OMORU (A) seem to be convenient points for our route and with this direct route no additional Intermediate Points have to be added. Validation is successful immediately.

Route 1
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Route 2
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The difference between both routes is neglectable. Flight times, fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions will be similar. Nevertheless it's still a good exercice because in the future (start of phase 3) the first route will not be valid anymore and will have to be replaced by a route making use of the MUAC FRA like the second one.

 

Below are two routes for a Wizzair flight from Charleroi to Warsaw and both of them are valid at the time of writing this article. The second route, which is making use of the MUAC FRA (highlighted part), can only be used when the MUAC FRA is available (see implementation phases).

Route ID Distance % GC distance Route
Route 1 650.3 NM 103.4% SPI UY862 PODEN Y862 KENUM UZ907 ELDAR Z727 ANAVI UZ727 EXOBA UZ717 DLE UL980 HLZ DCT SUBIX L980 ADVAB P150 BIMPA
Route 2 644.3 NM 102.5% SPI UY862 PODEN Y862 KENUM UZ907 ELDAR Z727 ANAVI DCT POVEL DCT SUBIX L980 ADVAB P150 BIMPA

After analysing the position of the origin and destination airport relative to the MUAC FRA it is clear that the flight will enter the FRA from below and leave it on cruise level. This means we are looking for a Departure Connecting Point (D) and a Horizontal Exit Point (X). SPI (D) and SUBIX (X) seem to be convenient points for our route. SPI DCT SUBIX is not allowed though according to the IFPUV validation tool. Several error codes are returned and after checking them in detail we learn that the route needs to be adapted to the route above in order to become valid.

Route 1
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Route 2
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The FRA route is about 6 miles shorter. As a result the flight time is reduced with 1 minute. Approximately 35 kg fuel is saved and about 120 kg CO2 equivalents less are emitted.

 


References

Below you can find some additional documentation on Free Route Airspace. Should you have any questions or remarks about it, don't hesitate to contact us on Discord or by using the CONTACT FORM!