Free Route concept (FRA)


The objective of this area is to extend FRA concept to the whole SW FAB airspace in order to improve the navigation conditions for the airspace users.


Since the implementation of the FRA project in Lisboa FIR in 2009, the SW FAB has established the extension of the FRA concept as its first priority action in the Operational domain.


The implementation of the FRA concept in the SW FAB has a long-term perspective, coherent with the operational benefits it offers to Airspace users. In this sense, that implementation has been split into different phases and thus, it will be possible to deliver early benefits as soon as different phases are implemented.


In line with FABs definition (article 2 point 25 of Regulation 549/2004), SW FAB has planned a further 3-phased extension of free route:


  • Free route extension to FABEC (SW FAB FRA Phase I): SW FAB main traffic flows study demonstrated that 20% of traffic is interchanged with Brest ACC being that majority of traffic flows continue via Lisboa FIR. Taking into consideration those main traffic flows, SW FAB and FABEC have seen the opportunity to jointly collaborate, irrespective of FAB boundaries, to ensure optimum use of airspace. In terms of flight efficiency this project will permit to improve significantly dynamic flow and capacity management measures, and, as such, was highly recognised by all Airspace users. Taking into consideration the nature and traffic flow characterisation, it is possible to create DCT segments of around 700NM.


iFRA project


  • Free route extension to Santa Maria Oceanic airspace(SW FAB FRA Phase II):In coordination with the NAT SPG, NAT IMG and NAT SOG, in February 2016 it was created the NAT Free Route Operations Implementation Project Team to implement Free Routes concept of operations within the NAT region. This became effective, for the NAT SUPPs in October 2017, and for the Doc 007 in January 2018 allowing Free Route procedures in Santa Maria Oceanic FIR. Next, as a second phase, and taking advantage of the FRA concept in both Portuguese FIR’s (Lisboa + Santa Maria) it will be studied the possibility to permit CROSS_BORDER_DCT between both airspaces with the improvement of airspace utilisation in line with point 2 of Flight Efficiency Plan.


  • SW FAB FRA Phase III: In order to offer more flexibility to flight planning to oceanic traffic over the SAT region, FRA concept will be extended to Canarias Airspace as well as to the Eastern part of the SW FAB airspace (Central and East Operational airblock) to complete the horizontal scope of the free route strategy of the SW FAB initiative. Night use airways will be turned into DCT segments, some of which may have availability extension to day-time, subject to restricted or dangerous areas activity and limited to some cruising levels.  


All these free route projects will be made in different consecutive phases, and taking into consideration the strong relationship between them the development and implementation will be carried out in a progressive way until 2021 which will permit to create the largest FRA in the ECAC area.