Brussels, BelgiumThe Borealis Alliance
Free Route Airspace (FRA) is one of the top priorities for airspace users within Europe and will mark a major step towards the Single European Sky (SES). The implementation of FRA allows airspace users to plan and fly their preferred route across the entire airspace managed by Borealis members saving time, fuel and money. It is a key element of ATM Functionality 3 (AF3 – Flexible Airspace Management and Free Route) defined in the Pilot Common Project for SESAR Deployment.
Formed in 2012, the Borealis Alliance is an Alliance of the Air Navigation Service Providers of nine North European countries: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Norway, Sweden and UK, seven of which are EU Member States.
The Borealis is undertaking a programme to implement FRA across northern Europe, stretching from the eastern boundary of the North Atlantic to the western boundary of Russian airspace in the North of Europe. The nine members of the Borealis Alliance control more than 10,000 flights a day, that’s over 3.8 million flights a year, across 12.5 million km2 of North European airspace. That is 38% of all flights in Europe.
Implementing FRA across such a huge expanse of airspace is unprecedented. It is testament to the strong partnership and trust that has been developed within the Borealis Alliance, a voluntary collaboration, which captures the spirit of the SES initiative. The success of the programme so far and the planned developments through to 2021 provide a considerable contribution to the implementation of the SES and SESAR.
The Borealis FRA programme is the synchronised implementation of FRA at FAB and also inter-FAB level and is aligned to the FRA Concept of Operation (Conops) that is described in the Network Manager’s European Route Network Improvement Plan.
The programme will see FRA implemented across the airspace controlled by the nine members of the Alliance. Indeed, FRA has already been implemented across NEFAB and DK-SE FAB. The programme also extends beyond the boundaries of the EU, fostering close relations, interoperability and mutual benefit with neighbouring countries namely Norway and Iceland.
The main beneficiaries of implementing FRA in airspace controlled by the Borealis Alliance will be the airspace users. Shorter routes will lead to lower fuel consumption and lower operating costs for the airlines, which will also reduce the impact of aviation on the environment.
- Contribution to reducing ATM costs
- Contribution to reducing the impact of air transport on the environment
- Early implementation
- Potential to be replicated over the ATM network
- Innovative aspects
- Promoting partnerships
Contribution to reducing ATM costs
By working together the overall ATM cost for implementing FRA will be significantly lower than it would have been if each ANSP introduced FRA separately. The benefits to airspace users will also be greater. Total ATM costs to airspace users will be reduced as users will be able to fly more direct or faster routes, depending on their individual business requirements.
Contribution to reducing the impact of air transport on the environment
One of the key objectives of FRA is to reduce the route length flow in a given volume of airspace. The vast expanse of FRA covered by the members of the Borealis Alliance will result in significant reductions of flight time and fuel burn. Estimations of the benefits, based on the simulations undertaken for the NEFRA (NEFAB plus DK-SE FAB) indicated the following benefits for flights and the environment, on a per annum basis:
- Number of flights: 3,796,000
- Route length reduction: 3,990,000Nm
- Reduced fuel consumption: 22,500 tonnes
- Reduced fuel cost: €15,427,000 (IATA reference prices 4th April 2014)
- Reduced CO2 emission: 71,000 tonnes
- Reduced NOx emission: 300 tonnes
The additional upside of the reduced impact on the environment is that this also reduces the operating cost for airlines, through reduced fuel costs and other reduced direct operating costs, such as aircraft maintenance and crew costs.
Early implementation ("First mover")
Individual Members of the Borealis Alliance have pioneered the implementation of FRA in Europe. In 2009 LFV and IAA were among the first ANSPs to implement FRA. At a FAB level, in November 2011, the DK-SE FAB was the first FAB to implement FRA throughout their area of responsibility. In November 2015, this expanded within the Borealis Alliance to include FRA in the majority of both the NEFAB and DK-SE FABs. The Borealis FRA programme will extend the coverage over the coming years to include the UK, Irish and Icelandic airspace. The Borealis Alliance implementation of FRA is already the first example of inter-FAB FRA and by 2021 the programme will cover nine States from three FABs and Iceland.
Another important aspect of the Borealis FRA programme is the establishment of a "9 State NSA (National Supervisory Authority) Group", a ground-breaking cooperation between safety regulators in Europe to support seamless implementation of Borealis FRA. The "9 States NSA Group" coordinates the safety requirements for the Borealis FRA programme, which will allow the ANSPs to fulfil a consistent set of regulatory requirements. This initiative is a major enabler for the harmonised implementation of the Single European Sky.
Potential to be replicated over the ATM network
The implementation of FRA is a key element of the Single European Sky and is required to be implemented by 2022 throughout Europe. The Borealis implementation of FRA is extensive and can act as a model of how industrial partnerships across numerous FABs can work together on a voluntary basis to implement new and consistent concept of operation, technology and procedures for a common goal. FRA is now implemented, at least partially, in many ACCs across Europe and there is huge potential for other States and FABs to replicate what the Borealis Alliance has achieved in northern Europe throughout the rest of the continent.
The regulatory approach with the establishment of "9 State NSA Group" should also be replicated across Europe and act as a case study of the successful regulatory collaboration.
The Borealis Alliance has shown great innovation in the FRA programme. It is the first cross-border, inter-FAB, voluntary collaboration of its kind within Europe and is a true representation of what the Single European Sky is all about. To gather nine ANSPs to work together, on a voluntary basis, to implement a seamless and integrated FRA for the benefit of Europe's airspace users shows great innovation. This has required an innovative governance structure to support ANSPs and to drive FRA implementation throughout the region. It has become clear in recent years that it is challenging to encourage States to work closely together, partly through the fear of losing the sovereignty and control of their airspace. The Borealis Alliance is the prime example of how ANSPs and NSAs can work together to drive forward the implementation of the Single European Sky.
The Borealis Alliance provides air traffic services for over 3.8 million flights a year, across 12.5 million km2 of north European airspace, forming Europe's major transatlantic gateway – this is a high profile, high impact partnership. The members of the Borealis Alliance choose to work together to improve the way airspace is managed for the benefit of airline and business aviation customers. This alliance of nine ANSPs has the primary objective to "facilitate cooperation between the Members, on commercially-recognised business partnering principles that make a contribution to the operational and financial performance of members' air traffic services by making a contribution to the achievement of Single European Sky and ICAO performance targets." The Borealis Alliance provides a benchmark for industrial partnerships within the ATM industry.
Contribution to change management
When completed, the Borealis FRA will cover nearly 12.5 million km2 of Northern European airspace.
Implementing Free Route across such a huge expanse of airspace is unprecedented. It is testament to the strong partnership and trust that has been developed within the Borealis Alliance. It has set a precedent for how ANSPs can work together in service of their customers and Europe as a whole. The success of the programme so far, and the planned developments through to 2021, provides a major contribution to the implementation of the Single European Sky and SESAR.
Promoting SES and SESAR beyond the Union's boundaries
The partners of the Borealis Alliance include seven EU Member States. The alliance also extends beyond the boundaries of the EU to include Norway and Iceland. The implementation of FRA already includes Norway and between 2016 and 2020 this will be extended further to include Iceland, showing that the Borealis FRA programme is promoting SES and SESAR beyond the Union's boundaries.