The unauthorised entry of an aircraft into controlled or temporarily restricted airspace, or an active Danger Area, is known as an ‘infringement’. Infringements can have both safety and commercial implications. 2017 saw 1,131 reported airspace infringements, corresponding to an average of approximately three occurrences per day. In general, the severity of these events is low. None of the reports were classified as high severity, and none resulted in a collision. However, 7% of infringements led to a Loss of Separation and 0.3% to an AIRPROX.
These occurrences are normally promptly resolved by the intervention of air traffic control and pilots. Approximately 55% of reported infringements in 2017 occurred in Aerodrome Traffic Zones, Control Areas or Control Zones - generally airspace that immediately surrounds an aerodrome. Our data shows that at least 65% of the identified infringements were attributable to light General Aviation aircraft and 15% of identified infringements were commercial aircraft or specialised operations. The remaining 20% of infringement reports have not had the aircraft identified to enable categorisation.
We will continue or education work to provide pilots with quick, easy access to the key information they need, including pre-flight preparation. We also address the topic through focused efforts via dedicated working groups and liaison with industry. We have generated technical standards for simple mapping and conspicuity devices for pilots and are actively promoting their use – see CAP 1391.
We will also take enforcement action where required (see CAP 1404). While our primary focus is to improve the safety of airspace users by educating and promoting actions that can prevent these occurrences we do conduct investigations that may culminate in a suspension or revocation of the pilot’s licence, or even prosecution of the infringing pilot. In 2017, we investigated 72 occurrences, with three confirmed prosecutions and six cautions.