14 Aug 2019
The unique nature of the airspace in Southern Spain
Spain has three FIR (Flight Information Region), which is a volume of airspace that is divided for safer and more efficient air navigation management. This gives us the Madrid FIR, Barcelona FIR and Canary Islands FIR. In the case of the Madrid FIR, due to its large size, the southern part of it is delegated to ENAIRE's Control Centre in Seville, from where we control the 179,000 km2 that make up the Southern Region.
ENAIRE has eight communications centres, 21 facilities that support air navigation, and five state-of-the-art radar systems to track every movement inside the airspace that is managed from our Control Centre in Seville. The Southern Region divides the airspace into seven route sectors to handle all aircraft movements over Andalusia, Badajoz, part of Ciudad Real, Albacete, Murcia and Ceuta, as well as over the Bay of Cádiz, part of the Western Mediterranean and a corridor that connects to Melilla.
Within these sectors, there are special areas that give the Southern Region its unique nature. This special use of airspace, which coexists with the traffic management that is provided by ENAIRE controllers, contains the following unique volumes:
The protection area over the Doñana National Park. Doñana, which is one of the most important protected spaces in Andalusia and the largest ecological reserve in Europe, has an environmental area called LER154, where only aircraft with special authorisations are allowed to fly. The natural spaces inside it are protected up to an altitude that goes from sea level to almost 2 km (6,000 ft AMSL). To this end, radar surveillance is provided in one of the sectors: Southern Approach (ASV), located in the south-west of Andalusia. ENAIRE's air controllers manoeuvre the traffic to prevent instrument (commercial) flights from entering this area. They also inform the pilots of aircraft that are guided by visual flight rules of the obligation to respect the flight limits that are in effect over this park.
It is not uncommon to hear during a turnover... "and inside Doñana is the duck counting plane".
The Marshlands of Huelva also have a special strip for their protection. This area, called LER93, has vertical limits at the same altitude as those of Doñana to protect the area between El Rompido, Punta Umbría and the city of Huelva.
Both cases are examples of the commitment of ENAIRE, and all its professionals, to environmental conservation in keeping with the performance of our activity.
The area of Eastern Andalusia also has special-use Deltas, one of them being the ATLAS experimental flight centre in Villacarrillo (Jaén).This 600-metre long runway is used to test the most advanced unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology. This area was chosen to host the DOMUS project, a consortium led by ENAIRE that features the most advanced demonstration of U-space operation. By virtue of being a "Temporarily Segregated Airspace", with an altitude of up to one and a half kilometres, it does not pose a problem for the Seville Control Centre, as it is below or away from the main airways.
To guarantee the safety of operations, flights to test new aircraft designs or substantial airworthiness modifications to already existing designs are carried out over the sea. Because of this, the Alboran Sea, an area designated LED169, has witnessed tests of almost the entire Airbus range, and more recently, of the Swiss Pilatus PC24 aeroplane and the new Bombardier AWACS aircraft.
There are also airspace reservations and temporarily restricted areas due to a "Special Event" or another category. One example is the recent airshow of the Armed Forces on 1 June in Seville, which caused two airspace areas covering the city of Seville to be activated on 21 and 28 May for various air and land activities. It also coincided with the publication of several NOTAMs for more specific areas, such as the military music festival being held in the Plaza de España in the city of Seville. This requires special coordination among ENAIRE's air controllers to manage air traffic that is flying over or to/from an airport near said airspace reservation.
The good weather in this area makes the airspace managed by ENAIRE's Seville Control Centre a usual setting for important military exercises, including TLP, Eagle Eye, Dardo, Dynamic Mariner, Flotex and others. In these cases, civil-military coordination takes on greater importance in order to ensure the safety of civilian operations while enforcing the requirements of military preparations. To do this, ENAIRE works with the Air Staff to make the best possible use of a limited resource: our airspace.
Environmental zones, drones, trials, military tests... these unique features characterise the management of the airspace in the south of the Peninsula, where all ENAIRE professionals work to provide safety and efficiency.