This page will be evolving according the experience we will gather with time. Some additional examples of route planning will be added as well in a near future.
A conference on Free Route Airspace and flight planning will be hold in first quarter of 2022. Exact date and time will be provided later on, keep posted!
In the mean time, as France FRA is new to everybody, the training team will show leniency for your training and exams. Should you have any question regarding this, contact the training team : firstname.lastname@example.org
In the EU official documents, a Free Route Airspace is defined as such :
« Free route airspace (‘FRA’) [...] is a specified airspace within which airspace users may freely plan a route between defined entry and exit points. Subject to airspace availability, airspace users must have the possibility to choose a route via intermediate, published or unpublished, waypoints without reference to the ATS route network. Within that airspace, flights remain subject to air traffic control. »
In other words, a FRA is a piece of airspace in three dimensions (laterally and vertically bounded), within which one can freely plan its flight trajectory from an entry point to an exit point. The trajectory can use intermediate turning points. Available entry and exit points shall be published in the country AIP. In those free route airspace, former ATS routes are withdrawn.
More details on the European enforcement of these FRA and their expected benefit can be found in the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/116.
Free Route Airspace is using a subset of usual navigation points (FIX, VOR, NDB). Each point has one or more roles in regard to the Free Route Airspace, which define how plannable they are.
5 roles are defined :
Those roles are defined within french AIP, ENR 4.1 and ENR 4.4 - "Remarks" column - sections. They are printed as well on the Upper Airspace chart in the ENR 6.2 section.
To access french AIP, click on the link available in right menu of this page, and navigate to "AIP" > "eAIP France".
As previously stated, ATS routes do not exist anymore within FRA - with some exceptions. As such, flight planning is only possible using "DCT" links between the aforementioned turning points.
Inside a given Free Route Airspace, the flight trajectory will match one of the following scenarios :
* Number of intermediate turning points is ranging from 0 to many. This depends on the pilot's choice as well as flight level changes.
Take note that ideally, a pilot can plan its trajectory freely within a FRA. However restrictions can apply regarding mandatory points to plan. Those restrictions are mainly defined in the RAD (Route Availability Document) published by Eurocontrol. This document is updated each AIRAC cycle. Within french FRA, you will mostly be forced to plan some specific intermediate points, to better organize traffic flows within the airspace.
The Initial Flight plan Processing System - IFPS - from Eurocontrol checks and validates flight plan within the Eurocontrol area in Europe. This tool will help you to verify if your planned trajectory is compliant with the restrictions in the RAD. Indeed, the RAD itself is quite a complex document hardly readable by humans as it is more and more intended to be processed by software.
To access IFPS, click the link in the right menu of this page. Once on the NOP web-page, navigate bottom of the right column. Click on "Free Text Editor" or "Structured Editor" from the "Flight Planning" section. You will then access to the flight plan validator.
FRA application in France is described in AIC n°11/21, published by SIA.
From the 2nd of December 2021, three distinct Free Route Airspace are in force in France.
Those three airspace are defined from FL195 to FL660.
As shown in the picture below, those 3 airspace are spread within Bordeaux (LFBB), Brest (LFRR), Paris (LFFF) and Marseilles (LFMM) FIR and ACC.
Slight subtle detail, LFFRANW airspace is split into two parts (dashed line on the picture). The north-west one has its floor set at FL245 and not FL195, to account for interface with the English lower airspace and airspace delegations.
All upper ATS routes (FL195/FL660) have been withdrawn within the three french Free Route Airspace - except for 2 airways in the North-West FRA. The Upper Airspace chart from french AIP clearly depicts the new situation.
In some countries with Free Route Airspace, planning a flight within their FRA is almost really free. In France however, planning a flight through the FRA is subject to many constraints, mainly due to military airspace, ATC sectorisation, etc. Simply speaking, french FRA are using the "White List" principle. One cannot fly into french FRA except by flying along prescribed trajectories, defined in the RAD.
A few details on the 3 french airspace :
Here is a visual representation of all plannable trajectories within the french FRA, as of the 2nd of December 2021 :
Blue trajectories are those with an even flight level (mainly northbound), while the green trajectories are using odd flight level (mainly southbound).
It is important to note that semi-circular rule applies within french FRA. In France UIR, northbound trajectories shall use an even flight level, and southbound trajectories shall use an odd flight level. This rule is written in the ENR 18.104.22.168.4 section of the french AIP.
FABEC (Functional Airspace Block Europe Central) of which France is member, did a statistic study on the expected FRA benefits for air traffic. Based on a typical day of 2019 traffic (pre-COVID), cumulative gain in terms of flown distance is estimated at :
In theory, planning a flight in a Free Route Airspace is quite simple. In France however, airspace complexity makes this truth wrong and sets some restrictions on flight planning.
Those restrictions are defined in the RAD.
Without going too deep inside RAD details, RAD is a complex document listing all European restrictions on flight planning. For FRA flight planning, two parts of the RAD are of interest.
Pan Europe Annex describes with which sequence of turning points a FRA can be planned.
However, all available direct routing are not listed in this annex. Appendix 4 lists as well potential directs applicable in Europe. However, for french FRA, appendix 4 is of limited use.
This appendix lists all restrictions regarding airport connectivity. Among others restrictions, it describes how to join airports that are below or in the vicinity of Free Route Airspace to/from these Free Route Airspace. This is done using the Departure (D) and Arrival (A) connectivity points.
You will probably need other parts of the RAD as well to fully plan your flight. Hopefully, IFPS gives most of the time comprehensive errors pointing to specific restrictions within RAD to help you fix your trajectory!
You will find hereafter some routes samples covering the different cases we mentioned above. For each example route, the FRA section of the trajectory is written in bold. Each point and its role are then detailed.
Brest - Paris Orly
LFRB ROSPO DCT KORER UN482 NIMER LFPO
FRA points :
Toulouse - Paris Orly
LFBO FISTO DCT PERIG DCT DIBAG DCT TUDRA DCT BEVOL UT158 AMB LFPO
FRA points :
Lyon - Brest
LFLL BELEP UP860 TIS DCT VALKU DCT PECNO DCT LMG DCT MANAK UT183 TIRAV UN490 TERPO UM616 KORER DCT ARE LFRB
FRA points :
Paris CDG - Bordeaux
LFPG AGOPA DCT ARKIP DCT ARMAL DCT ARTAX DCT BEBIX DCT LMG LFBD
FRA points :