Airspace Strategy for Poland

Modernizing and optimizing Poland's Airspace

Aviation in Poland

The aviation sector has a long history in Poland. The first international air route was established in the 1920s, shortly before LOT Polish Airlines launched its first operations. Since then, air traffic levels have grown significantly. In 2005, approximately 4.6m passengers travelled by air in Poland, served by five licensed operators. By 2017, passenger numbers had grown 800% to 39.9m, with services offered by 28 international airlines.

The top 10 airlines in the Polish market (source: IATA)

The top 10 airlines in the Polish market (source: IATA)

The government recognizes that aviation one of the key parts of Poland’s transport infrastructure and that the sector relies greatly on the performance of the airspace to operate efficiently and continue to grow. Demand forecasts predict that traffic levels in Polish airspace will continue to rise out to 2035, driven in a large part by the development of the new Solidarity Airport – a main feature of the Central Transport Hub (CTH) project. Irrespective of the new CTH development, airspace modernization is needed in Poland to accommodate the growth in demand at existing airports, while enhancing safety, operational resilience, environmental performance and market competitiveness.

Part 1: Why the need for an Airspace Strategy for Poland?

Overview of Polish Airspace

In 2017 there were over 340,000 commercial air transport flights travelling to and from 15 airports. Of these, 82% were international flights and 18% were Polish domestic flights (General Aviation and military flights make up the rest of the air traffic in Poland's airspace).

Polish airspace and more specifically the Warsaw Flight Information Region (Warsaw FIR) is divided into two main categories: controlled and uncontrolled. The majority of commercial flights operate in controlled airspace under the monitoring and direction of Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA), responsible for provision of air traffic control services. Operations are dominated by LOT Polish Airlines, Ryanair and Wizz Air that collectively hold 76% of the market.

Poland’s seven largest airports handle the majority of the commercial air transport. The General Aviation sector that includes mostly private pilots, light aircraft pilots, gliders and a wide range of other operators mainly use uncontrolled airspace. Airspace modernization is expected to improve access to airspace for General Aviation by enabling greater integration of different airspace user groups. The military is a significant user of both controlled and uncontrolled airspace to protect the country’s borders. In addition, Polish airspace is increasingly required to accommodate drones that will fly beyond visual line of sight, without airspace segregation.

Poland has 15 major airports. This map includes the number of passengers and flights at each airport in 2017 and the location of the new Solidarity Airport that will be constructed as part of the CTH.

Along with passengers and freight, the airports also managed 106.7m kilograms of freight travelling to, from and within Poland. Air transport is crucial for the distribution of high value to weight products. Air freight may only account for less than 1% of the tonnage of Polish trade with the rest of the world, but in value terms it makes up around 25% of the total.

Policy and Drivers for Airspace Modernization

There are seven main drivers that the policy objectives for airspace modernization in Poland aim to address, in line with the broader transport and development strategies. These are:

1. The need to deliver continuous improvements in aviation safety.

2. The need to introduce additional capacity to accommodate growing demand from airspace users.

3. The need to tackle hotspots of congestion within the current airspace network for better punctuality.

4. The need to implement internationally agreed requirements set out as part of the Single European Sky initiative.

5. The need to integrate unmanned operations into the existing airspace.

6. The need to continuously improve the resilience of the airspace network to bad weather and other forms of disruption, including mitigating the impact of disruptions in neighbouring European airspace.

7. Environment: The need to develop new policies and operational approaches to better manage the environmental impacts of aviation.

This strategy describes a range of airspace modernization initiatives that address these drivers, including:
• Replacing the fixed route structure in the upper airspace with the Free Route Airspace (FRA) concept, allowing aircraft to follow Optimized flight paths with less number of restrictions.
• Improving the Flexible Use of Airspace to provide civil and military users with efficient access to the airspace in line with the demands of their operations.
• Redesigning the busy terminal airspace to accommodate Solidarity Airport and optimize the performance of existing airports.
• Deploying new ATM systems and infrastructure that will improve the flow of traffic to better manage ground delays and pinch points across the airspace network.
• Redesigning airport arrival and departure routes so flights can climb and descend continuously, and better manage the impacts of aircraft noise.

Benefits of Airspace Modernization

Airspace modernization is expected to generate a range of benefits for a broad mix of stakeholder groups. Due to the complexity of the airspace, realizing benefits for some stakeholders may at times create dis-benefits for others. The arrangements established to coordinate and oversee airspace modernization will be required to trade-off benefits at times to optimize performance in the round.

For passengers, the benefits of the airspace modernization are clear. Fewer flight delays and service disruptions at short-notice are expected to save time and improve the passenger experience.

For Commercial Air Transport, modernization will introduce more airspace capacity, reducing the delays while maintaining high levels of safety. Modernization is also expected to improve flight efficiency, predictability, punctuality and costs per flight, enablingthe airlines to capitalize on their investments in new technology.

For airports, the greater integration of their ground operations with airborne traffic flows is expected to improve runway throughput and resilience.

For the environment, important benefits are expected from airspace modernization as aircraft can follow more fuel-efficient routes, climb sooner, descend quieter and navigate more accurately.

For General Aviation operators, modernization offers the opportunity to access more volumes of airspace.

For Military operators, modernization is expected to enable more efficient operations throughout Polish airspace, supported by greater dynamism in the reservation and release of flexible airspace structures that can be used for training and testing.

For Military operators, modernization is expected to enable more efficient operations throughout Polish airspace, supported by greater dynamism in the reservation and release of flexible airspace structures that can be used for training and testing.

For Drone operators, modernization will aim to enable safe and efficient access to airspace for unmanned aerial vehicles flying beyond visual line of sight.

For the economy and consumers, the capacity to add routes and accommodate new flights will lead to better value, more choice and enhanced global connections that can help drive the economy forward, in particular by enabling the introduction of the Solidarity Airport.

"Poland is a growing European economic power with an important strategic position as a bridge between Western Europe and the East. PANSA has shown real vision to bring airlines and other stakeholders into the strategic development of Polish airspace. Together, we can help create a strategy which will bring real benefits to Poland."
Alexandre de Juniac, Director General and CEO, IATA

Environmental Challenges

Aviation brings significant benefits to the economy and society, but these benefits come with an environmental cost, both at the local and global level. The government and aviation sector have important roles to play in ensuring that the results of airspace modernization are sustainable and enable improvements in environmental performance.

Aircraft Noise

One of the most important environmental impacts associated with the airspace at lower altitudes concerns the effects of aircraft noise.

Overall, airspace modernization is expected to see a reduction in the average noise levels per flight, but the redistribution of noise impacts between different areas may often lead to disruption for communities living under flight paths. The effects of new, more frequent or concentrated noise may increase the risks of causing general annoyance, sleep disturbance, lower levels of productivity and health impacts.

Aviation noise performance has improved significantly in recent decades driven by the introduction of quieter aircraft. However, some communities experience more noise due to the continued growth in traffic levels. In addition, the introduction of PBN routes based on satellite navigation can bring more intense levels of aircraft concentration and therefore noise.

The precision and flexibility of PBN routes also creates opportunities to deploy new operational measures that can improve the management of aircraft noise, for example by introducing multiple flight paths for noise dispersion. The ASP encourages these techniques to be deployed wherever feasible, taking into account local circumstances and preferences. Some of the operational measures to better manage aircraft noise involve trade-offs with other ASP objectives such as increasing airspace capacity and saving emissions, which will need to be factored into the collaborative process through wide spread consultation with stakeholders.

There are four main techniques to better manage aircraft noise as part of the airspace modernization process – Traffic Dispersion, Traffic Concentration, Noise Respite and Noise Redistribution.

Traffic Dispersion refers to air traffic control instructing departing traffic to follow the same general routing but fly a variety of different flight paths when measured over the ground. And to deploy similar traffic distribution measures for inbound traffic.

Traffic Concentration is the opposite of dispersion and is a consequence of the accuracy of PBN. Aircraft systems are coded to automatically follow the same routing consistently and fly very similar flight paths over the ground. The accuracy and predictability associated with satellite navigation means it is possible to make more efficient use of constrained airspace and add capacity by allowing large volumes of traffic to route through smaller areas, potentially avoiding population centres. The obvious costs of traffic concentration fall to the minority of stakeholders that are affected by more frequent and intense noise impacts.

Noise Respite involves greater planning and predictability of noise impacts. For example, the planned use of different runways at different times of day, providing communities with predictable relief from the noise impacts of departures from either runway. Another example could be alternating between multiple departure routes to a pre-planned schedule. Respite can be designed into airspace structures more easily once arrival and departure routes are upgraded to PBN standards because they can be designed with greater accuracy and flexibility.

Noise Redistribution refers to the redesign of airport arrival and departure routes at lower altitudes that allows for noise impacts to be re-distributed away from more sensitive areas. Of course, this assumes that there are adjacent areas that are less sensitive to noise that the flight paths can be moved over. The relative noise sensitivity of areas is difficult to estimate and must be carefully considered where re-distribution is the aim.

Part 2: Initiatives

Modernizing the Terminal Airspace

The terminal airspace is designed to manage high volumes of traffic climbing and descending between individual airports and the upper airspace. The result is a complex web of intersecting flight paths to and from nearby airports.

The terminal airspace in Poland includes all terminal control areas and control zones supporting the airports of Gdańsk, Krakow, Katowice, Wroclaw, Poznań, Warsaw, Modlin, Łódź, Szczecin, Rzeszów, Bydgoszcz, Lublin, Zielona Góra, Olsztyn and Radom.

Over the past few decades, many areas of the terminal airspace have been added to and adapted in response to growing demand. This approach has created some issues. In an ideal world, departures would climb quickly and continuously through the terminal airspace, and arrivals would descend continuously to the runway. In practice, however, continuous climbs and descents are interrupted by the need to provide separation for evolving traffic and reducing the number of hotspots. The high workload placed on controllers to manage crossing traffic also limits the overall capacity of the terminal airspace.

The overall goal of terminal airspace modernization is that airspace capacity should not be a constraint to growth and throughput at the new Solidarity Airport or existing airports and that any limitations would instead come from the number of runways and any restrictions on their usage.

Position of proposed CTH (Solidarity Airport)

Position of proposed CTH (Solidarity Airport)


Enabling Solidarity Airport

The development of the new Solidarity Airport as part of the Central Transport Hub (CTH) project presents the opportunity to fundamentally redesign and modernize the terminal airspace that serves the Warsaw region.

Solidarity Airport will be located between Łódź and Warsaw. The absence of major obstacles and environmentally sensitive areas is expected to enable a 24/7 operation to serve c.45m passengers per year (rising up to 100m).

The scale of the new airport and its proximity to existing operations will impact the surrounding airspace, leading to modernization concepts such as:
• The widespread use of accurate and flexible PBN routes
• Widest possible application of CDO and CCO procedures;
• Greater systemization to reduce tactical airspace management
• The use of sequencing tools to manage traffic flows and delays.

Modernizing the Upper Airspace

Aircraft often fly further than necessary in the upper airspace, following routes that are determined by a fixed structure of way points, rather than the shortest, most direct tracks to their destinations. A range of factors determine the sequence of way points that aircraft follow, including weather conditions and the location of flexible airspace structures reserved for the military.

The capacity and resilience of the upper airspace is largely determined by the ability of air traffic controllers to safely manage the flow of traffic through the limited volume of airspace. Flow restrictions are applied to sectors when the volume of traffic and complexity exceed a level that the controllers can manage safely. The restrictions cause aircraft to be delayed or re-routed onto different flight paths. The goal of free route airspace is to remove the fixed structure of way points in the upper airspace, enabling aircraft to fly as close to their preferred trajectory as possible. All navigation systems are used to route directly between the most efficient combination of free route airspace entry and exit points. Operators can plan and re-plan routes through large volumes of airspace with less number of restrictions than coming with following the established fixed structure. Flights in free route airspace remain subject to provision of air traffic services.

Implementing free route airspace

Free route airspace provides aircraft with the flexibility to flight plan and fly the shortest, quickest, most efficient routes through the upper airspace. Air traffic controllers can manage volumes of aircraft by removing the restrictions created by fixed way points.

Free route airspace is expected to generate significant benefits:

Additional Airspace Capacity created by removing fixed way points and enabling controllers to manage flights through the sectors in more efficient way.
Greater Flight Efficiency through the flexibility to flight plan and fly more direct routes at more efficient altitudes than available when following fixed way points.
Safety Enhancements generated by additional airspace capacity, reducing the risk factors associated with traffic congestion and peaks in controller workload.
Greater Resilience by the flexibility to plan and re-plan flight paths in response to adverse weather, disruption in other State’s airspace and segregated areas.
Cost savings created by optimized airline flight plans resulting in reduced fuel burn.
Environmental Improvements from a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions linked to the fuel burn savings of free route airspace

The Flexible Use of Airspace Concept

There are flexible airspace structures established in Polish airspace for essential military activities like training and weapons testing. The military reserve the airspace on a temporary basis and hand it back for civil use when it is not required. The process of temporary reservation and handing back flexible airspace structures that are shared between civil and military users is known as flexible use of airspace (FUA).

The concept of modernizing the systems and processes used to manage FUA is known as Advanced FUA (A-FUA). The goal of A-FUA is to enable airspace users to fly as closely to their preferred trajectory as possible without being constrained by areas that are segregated for Military activities. It is a key enabler for the free route airspace concept. A-FUA also allows Military users to reserve and release segregated areas more efficiently to best meet their mission and training requirements.

Improvements in the management of FUA can optimize the use of existing capacity and help to increase capacity. PANSA, the Ministry of National Defence and Polish CAA are working together to deploy A-FUA by strengthening the technology and processes used for reserving flexible airspace structures.

Flexible airspace structures are essential to maintain operational capability and meet a range of military training and development objectives. While the adoption of new technology and processes provides scope for greater dynamism in the reservation and use of segregated areas, to increase airspace capacity, national security requirements will mean some volumes of airspace will remain inaccessible to non- Military users at certain times.

A-FUA benefits

Improvements to the processes and tools that support FUA are expected to generate the following benefits in the Polish airspace:
Additional Airspace Capacity by maximizing the opportunities for civil users to fly through segregated areas, and allowing more flights through the same sectors.
Safety Enhancements through adding airspace capacity that reduces traffic congestion and peaks in controller workloads, and by better information about airspace usage that reduces infringements by civil users into segregated areas.
Greater Flight Efficiency through giving civil users flexibility to fly more direct routes through segregated areas when they are not activated, reducing track miles.
Greater Resilience by the flexibility to plan and re-plan flights through segregated areas that are not activated to avoid adverse weather and at times traffic disruption.
Environmental Improvements from reductions in fuel burn and emissions.

Part 3: Implementation

European Coordination

Many aspects of the ASP form part of the wider Single European Sky (SES) initiative and SESAR (SES ATM Research) Deployment Program. The SES initiative is sponsored by the European Commission and provides the overarching framework to upgrade the airspace and ATM network across Europe. The SESAR Deployment Program is a key strand of the SES framework that aims to implement new concepts and technologies in support of airspace modernization.

PANSA plays a key role in the development, testing and implementation of the SESAR outputs through the PCP Implementing Rule. The PCP coordinates the deployment of six core ATM functionalities (AF) that are considered essential for the modernization of airspace across Europe. It is important that the ASP supports the implementation of the functionalities required by the SESAR PCP in the timelines required.

National Approach

In addition to the European-level coordination provided by SESAR, the ASP at the national level aims at being a guidance for the aviation industry in terms of the airspace modernization and development. The ASP will be a first step in the extension of the strategic coordination for airspace modernization between Polish aviation stakeholders, and it is a document agreed between IATA and PANSA and positively recognized by the Minister responsible for civil aviation.

Air Navigation Service Providers are operating in highly regulated environment – the planning and monitoring system is established by the EU regulatory framework dedicated to the performance scheme for air navigation services and network functions. In addition, PANSA is an active player in the European and regional initiatives dedicated to the optimization of air navigation services provision, such as Baltic FAB, CANSO, A6 Alliance, Gate One, and B4 Consortium.

It is important, that the ASP establishes an overview and the strategic development directions agreed so far between PANSA and IATA. Thus, it’s main role will include:
• Providing the government and regulator with well-considered strategic industry advice on airspace modernization and ATM related matters;
• Providing an assistance to the government works dedicated to Central Transport Hub – assuming that CTH will have a pivotal role in the development of the whole aviation market in Poland;
• Providing aviation stakeholders in Poland with strategic directions for airspace modernization and a set of initiatives agreed between PANSA and IATA;
• Development of an industry position on the implementation of key airspace modernization initiatives;
• Assisting the stakeholders in the implementation of key Polish airspace dedicated initiatives.

Stakeholder Engagement and Consultation

Airspace Strategy for Poland sets out the framework on the airspace modernization initiatives in terms of the civil aviation needs. There are some important factors which will have an impact on all aviation stakeholders:
· Central Transport Hub – as a “game changer” in the Polish airports map, as well as in the Warsaw FIR airspace map;
· Forecasted air traffic growth in Polish airspace – in terms of number of passengers and movements in the airspace;
· Need to avoid the capacity crunch through generating the additional airspace capacity;
· Better canalization of the air traffic flows – having in mind that Poland is considered as a “gate” between western and eastern air traffic;
· Special attention to the R&D and innovation aspects related to ATM (especially those linked to the SESAR programme).

This edition of ASP is a first step in gathering the common approach and jointly agreed initiatives between Airspace Users and the ATM industry on the national level. It is not the complete picture of the Polish aviation – but the settlement of a solid basis for future works. Variety of stakeholders will be invited to provide their feedback and contribution to the future updates of the ASP. In particular, stakeholders may:

• Identify how best to incorporate and coordinate the adoption/integration of new and emerging technologies including integration of unmanned operations;• Develop of a whole of industry view of what communications, navigation and surveillance systems should be capable of achieving in the short, medium and long term;

• Make recommendations regarding continuing investments in, maintenance, or disposal of, key air traffic infrastructure;

• Provide contribution to reviews and make recommendations for updating of the Airspace Strategy for Poland.

Click to download the full Airspace Strategy for Poland document

In addition to PANSA, the ASP is developed and endorsed by the following organizations: