DFS, the German air navigation service provider, is offering direct routings to all its customers flying above 7,500 m. Aircraft taking these shortcuts save fuel and produce fewer emissions.

In 2018, the first free route airspaces (FRA) were introduced in the DFS area of responsibility. The night of Thursday, 25 February 2021, marks the completion of another important step. Previously, DFS Free Route Airspace was limited to the night hours in the west and south of German airspace. Now, DFS Free Route Airspace is replacing the previous airway route network in this particularly congested airspace, which is controlled from the Karlsruhe UAC. This will enable shorter, and therefore fuel-saving and emission-saving, flight routes. 

Making a contribution to aviation in Europe

"With this expansion of free route airspace in the very complex German airspace, DFS is taking a significant step in improving the service we offer. In the most heavily used airspace in the heart of Europe, free route airspace will make the hoped-for contribution to improved horizontal and vertical routing and to the reduction of climate-damaging greenhouse gases," said Dirk Mahns, Chief Operating Officer at DFS about the project funded by the European Union.


Partners are the key

Dr Morten Grandt, Project Manager of DFS Free Route Airspace, emphasises that this development had to be coordinated with a large number of partners, both at national and European level. "The intensive dialogue with our national and international customers over a number of years was a key factor in the successful implementation of free route airspace. Another factor was the coordination with the Bundeswehr, the German Armed Forces, which use extensive training airspaces in the south-west and south, and with our European partners, in particular the air navigation service providers in the Functional Airspace Block Europe Central (FABEC), the EUROCONTROL Network Manager and the SESAR Deployment Manager. Without these partners, we would not have achieved this important step." 

It was a big challenge to provide direct routings in the congested core area. "While maintaining our high level of safety, we had to strike a balance between capacity, on the one hand, and route efficiency, on the other. In addition, several hubs and other large airports had to be connected and military training flights had to be guaranteed," says Steffen Liebig, Head of Karlsruhe Upper Area Control Centre. "Free route airspace has to conform with specific parameters to be able to take the various interests adequately into account. Nevertheless, we were able to deliver significant improvements in route options and provide flexible, but at the same time predictable, procedures."

FRA is being further refined

Now that free route airspace is available around the clock in the entire airspace controlled by the Karlsruhe UAC, the development of DFS Free Route Airspace continues. In future, the use of the free route airspaces in the areas of responsibility of the DFS control centres in Bremen and Munich will also be extended in terms of time. At the moment, it is still limited to night hours. In addition, DFS aims to create further cross-border FRA options in cooperation with neighbouring countries.