Functional Airspace Blocks: building a European Sky

Challenging simulations for a fabulous idea.

Back in 2004, as part of the implementation of the Single European Sky, the European Commission established the requirement for the creation of the Functional Airspace Blocks. EUROCONTROL Network Manager worked closely with all the Functional Airspace Blocks from a very early stage, even before their official establishment.

What is a Functional Airspace Block?

A Functional Airspace Block (FAB) is as an airspace block based on operational requirements and established regardless of state boundaries. It aims at creating a common airspace through which more efficient air navigation services are provided in a larger airspace. There are currently nine FABs established in Europe.

What are the benefits of FABs?

For airlines and their passengers the FABs are expected to deliver shorter and more efficient routes leading to savings of hundreds of millions of euros, millions of flown miles and tonnes of fuel. The air navigation service providers will be able to make better use of the available airspace by sharing more common cross-border sectors, managing more efficiently the military areas and, eventually, further reducing the air navigation costs.

Why is EUROCONTROL with its Experimental Centre involved in the FABs?

As these airspace blocks are by nature covering a large volume of airspace that includes a high number of control centres, EUROCONTROL, with its large and flexible world-class simulators, is a natural partner to conduct real-time simulations covering the vast geographical area of a FAB with civil and military actors, each with their own control system.

How did the Experimental Centre contribute to the FAB projects?

Over the past almost 20 years, EUROCONTROL invested considerable resources to assist the service providers with the establishment and design of functional airspace blocks. This materialised in the conduct of a series of impressive large-scale real-time simulations for DANUBE*, FABEC** and NEFAB*** FABs; some of those simulations included up to 6 civil and 2 military control centres, involving more than 60 air traffic controllers. The Experimental Centre strongly supported the creation of the CEATS****, later FAB CE*****, with the foundation of a dedicated research and simulation centre in Budapest, Hungary.  This centre was a replica of the EEC infrastructure and was subsequently taken over by HungaroControl.  It is still providing simulation services in support of FAB CE and regional projects in the area.

The fifth FAB that benefited from EUROCONTROL’s simulation services is BLUE MED******, with the setting up of a simulation centre in Rome (ENAV), initially supporting free flight operations in the Mediterranean area, later working for BLUE MED.

* DANUBE: Bulgaria and Romania

** FABEC: Europe Central – Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland

*** NEFAB: North European FAB: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Norway

**** CEATS: Central European Air Traffic Services

***** FABCE: FAB Central Europe: Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

****** BLUE MED: Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus, (with Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, Jordan as observers)

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What is a Functional Airspace Block?

A Functional Airspace Block (FAB) is as an airspace block based on operational requirements and established regardless of state boundaries. It aims at creating a common airspace through which more efficient air navigation services are provided in a larger airspace. There are currently nine FABs established in Europe.

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What are the benefits of FABs?

For airlines and their passengers the FABs are expected to deliver shorter and more efficient routes leading to savings of hundreds of millions of euros, millions of flown miles and tonnes of fuel. The air navigation service providers will be able to make better use of the available airspace by sharing more common cross-border sectors, managing more efficiently the military areas and, eventually, further reducing the air navigation costs.

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Why is EUROCONTROL with its Experimental Centre involved in the FABs?

As these airspace blocks are by nature covering a large volume of airspace that includes a high number of control centres, EUROCONTROL, with its large and flexible world-class simulators, is a natural partner to conduct real-time simulations covering the vast geographical area of a FAB with civil and military actors, each with their own control system.

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How did the Experimental Centre contribute to the FAB projects?

Over the past almost 20 years, EUROCONTROL invested considerable resources to assist the service providers with the establishment and design of functional airspace blocks. This materialised in the conduct of a series of impressive large-scale real-time simulations for DANUBE*, FABEC** and NEFAB*** FABs; some of those simulations included up to 6 civil and 2 military control centres, involving more than 60 air traffic controllers. The Experimental Centre strongly supported CEATS****, later FAB CE, with the creation of a dedicated research and simulation centre in Budapest, which replicated the EEC infrastructure.  This centre was subsequently taken over by HungaroControl and is still providing simulation services in support of FAB CE and regional projects in the area.

The fifth FAB that benefited from EUROCONTROL’s simulation services is BLUE MED*****, with the setting up of a simulation centre in Rome (ENAV), initially supporting free flight operations in the Mediterranean area, later working for BLUE MED.