SAS Operates Test Free Route Flights in Kaliningrad ACC Airspace
On 15 January 2021, Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) operated four test flights in the high seas portion of Kaliningrad ACC area of responsibility, which were planned and handled as FRA operations.
According to the airline, the FRA procedure allowed total fuel savings of 715 kg for the four flights. The test operations were the result of mutual efforts by the Main Air Traffic Management Centre, State ATM Corporation North-West Air Navigation branch, and Kaliningrad ACC as part of the FRA implementation project in the Russian Federation.
On 2 October 2020, a kick-off meeting chaired by State ATM Corporation Deputy Director General Yuri Tokarev marked the beginning of the free route implementation experiment in a portion of Kaliningrad FIR airspace over the high seas. The purpose of the experiment is to allow airspace users to operate via the shortest possible routes without reference to the fixed ATS route network. This is supposed to enhance the cost-efficiency of flight trajectories and hence the attractiveness of the airspace where the Russian Federation is responsible for the provision of air navigation services. Since November 2020, the Main ATM Centre has been working together with air operators to conduct ‘paper’ trials consisting in the airline filing a ‘TST’ flight plan for a free route flight under current operating conditions (wind pattern, temperature aloft, etc.) along with the flight plan for a real flight. An analysis of data collected as part of the trials showed that the flight planning and air traffic control systems installed at Kaliningrad ACC were accepting and processing test flight plans correctly and that all required information on the flights was being fully displayed on ATCO screens. The results obtained have allowed the Main ATM Centre to reach out to airlines with a proposal to operate an actual free route test flight. The proposal was supported by Scandinavia’s leading air carrier, SAS.
Free route operations will be fully implemented over the high seas in Kaliningrad ACC airspace after the experiment has been completed and the results of the ongoing test flights have been summarized, as well as after the publication of relevant information in the Russian Federation AIP. Further integration with adjacent FRA areas (Vilnius, Warsaw, and Malmö ACCs) and the implementation of cross-border FRA could be considered as the next phase of FRA deployment in Kaliningrad ACC, since the free route model being implemented is compliant with EUROCONTROL standards applicable in the region. The free route implementation experiment is also under way in the high seas airspace of the Oceanic and North-2 sectors of Magadan ACC. The implementation of FRA projects is closely supervised by State ATM Corporation Director General Igor Moiseenko.