Today, on May 25th the North European Free Route Airspace Programme, NEFRA celebrates its successful completion. The Programme launched in 2013 by six North European states pledged establishment of seamless cross border Free Route operations between Danish/Swedish and North European functional airspace blocks (FABs). The ambitious plans have now become the reality through series of operational and technical enhancements allowing operators to plan and fly the most efficient trajectories above FL285 irrespective of FAB borders.
The final NEFRA's milestone was successfully accomplished on May 25th by connecting the Free Route Airspace (FRA) in Norway with the seamless FRA area already available across Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, and Sweden. This has expanded the area where aircraft operators can fly their preferred trajectories as if in one airspace, marking completion of the four-year Programme.
The NEFRA Programme has been a cooperative effort by technical and operational experts from six air navigation service providers in neighbouring Danish/Swedish and North European FABs - Avinor, EANS, Finavia (now ANS Finland), LGS, LFV, and Naviair. It originated from regional FAB-wide FRA initiatives in DK/SE FAB and NEFAB, setting cross border free route operations as the ultimate goal for ensuring the most cost effective and fuel efficient flights in the whole area.
The activity has required number of upgrades of ATM functionalities enabling cross border FRA operations, and demanded for common flight planning procedures and training of air traffic controllers.
"The project has been a joint effort in support of a common goal. The key to our success has been a crystal-clear commitment to the project from all six air navigation service providers, states, and regulators, together with a very well balanced mixture of expertise among the local Implementation Managers driving the project throughout the implementation. It has been a pleasure to lead this project with such a strong commitment and I am very happy how this has contributed to more efficient air traffic in this region," says Anders Andersson, Chairman of NEFRA Implementation Managers' Group."
For the benefit of airspace users
The rationale of the FRA is to foster shorter routes and more efficient use of airspace. The NEFRA concept goes further by allowing operators to select their preferred trajectories across six states without any requirement for flying via mandatory waypoints on the FIR boundaries. Aircraft operators can thereby plan and operate the most efficient trajectories where all variables such as distance, time, unit rates, and winds may be considered.
This development is the next step in optimizing flight operations in a large volume of airspace, expected to provide operational, environmental and cost benefits for airspace users.
The NEFRA is a stepping stone to multi-State and multi-FAB Free Route Airspace pursued by nine air navigation service providers in the Borealis Alliance. In a few years, the Borealis Free Route Airspace programme will see FRA implemented across nine states in Northern Europe through building interfaces to connect the NEFRA area further with UK-Ireland FAB and Iceland. This will further extend the freedom of flight planning in the North European airspace, catering for less fragmented and more efficient ATM in Europe.