Upon the formulation of a United Nations backed Libyan Government and with the security situation improving across Libya, European industry, across the entire industrial commercial landscape, will have an opportunity to return to Libya, as soon as possible, to help support the Libyan Government and ultimately the security and wellbeing of the country.
The investment of European commercial industry into Libya will not be possible without an early prioritisation for European air carriers to be permitted to return to Libya, therefore the immediate implementation of safe airspace management, co-ordinated with the improvements to key Libyan airports, sits at the top of the pyramid of any future commercial and infrastructure investment into the country.
The Consultancy (Oasisairbridge)
The principle of the Oasisairbridge approach is to provide a single point of contact to help bring together up to 23 Libyan departments to produce an airspace roadmap to quickly enable the return of European air traffic into Libya. This initiative of setting up a consultancy has been formulated through discussion between UK and Italian companies and Governments. It is anticipated that the Consultancy would be initially financed by the Libyan Investment Authority from the monies held in the UK. Long term funding may come from the revenue generated by overflights within Libya which would be facilitated by the consultancy. Once the airspace roadmap has been completed and the temporary airspace management systems and equipment have been installed in Libya an Airspace Masterplan and a procurement plan will be developed by the consultancy.
It is anticipated that Oasisairbridge consultancy would be directly contracted by the Libyan Ministry of Transport to co-ordinate the subcontracting of the Aviation Roadmap, the Airspace Masterplan, the Procurement plan and collect the overflight revenues on behalf of the Libya Ministry of Transport. In this scenario the Libyan Investment Authority would not be required to invest into the consultancy. The consultancy would be paid by the Ministry of Transport as a “Contractor” and “Prime Contractor”
In either scenario – Oasisairbridge would be the prime management interface to all the Libyan Airspace stakeholders, with the support of the British and Italian Governments and European airlines and Air Traffic Management companies, and the European Regulator.
The consultancy would provide the following services to facilitate the re-establishment of international air services to international regulatory standards:
• Safety assessment of airports, equipment and airspace
• Creation of Airspace Master Plan and associated Concept of Operations
• Certification or new airports, systems and airspace with international regulators
• Co-ordination and tenders for the supply of these services
• Implementation of billing and collection services for airspace overflights
Libyan airspace is currently controlled from an air traffic operations centre on Malta, and occasionally from a control centre in Tripoli, due to the original systems within Tripoli having been damaged. Airspace management is provided at an operational minimum standard which does not meet the required standard practices and regulations required under the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) International Standards. In addition, aircraft are not managed using radar data, which is a more efficient and safer method, due to the complete lack of functioning equipment within Libya. Generally, aircraft call the Maltese Centre prior to take off, to let the Air Traffic Controllers know the aircraft intends to fly in Libyan airspace, including details of their destination airport and what time they expect to land. The receiving airport, in Libya, is then informed of the aircraft details and approximate landing time. This basic level of information is made available to other airspace users such that with current low volumes of air traffic they are able to adequately separate themselves from each other.
European air carriers are currently not permitted to fly into Libya due to the lack of airspace management and the un-regulated state of the airports. This decision is governed by International regulations established by ICAO and also the UK and European regulators. It will also be important for Libyan airports to quickly move to certified ICAO standards in order to ensure that domestic airlines operating in Libya can fly in to EU airports without restrictions.
Mitiga and Misrata airports are relatively intact but are located in built up areas and therefore the commercial airlines have an increased risk of rocket attack so the European airlines refuse to fly there (and can’t get insurance to do so); this is why Tripoli and Benghazi are the favoured airports, being in relative open country. Both Tripoli and Benghazi Airport require rebuilding.
Libya has only ever required limited civilian, cargo and military airspace needs for the past few decades and therefore Air Traffic Management (ATM) has lacked proper investment for a substantial period of time. The facilities which were in place to meet those limited needs have either been destroyed in conflict or are no longer fit for purpose. Some headway was made a number of years ago with Gadaffi’s desire to turn Tripoli into a Hub airport but those systems were procured randomly, not fully integrated into the infrastructure and not considered as part of the wider airspace needs.
Airspace is split into two sectors:
1) Upper airspace where aircraft remain at altitude and fly over a managed airspace area (region) without landing or taking off, this is sometimes referred to as FIR (Flight Information Region) and
2) Lower airspace, also known as the CTA / TMA / CTR (Control Area, Terminal Area, Control Zone), where aircraft fly when approaching or departing airports (or for aircraft which have a low flight ceiling (such as rotary wing)).
Airspace is also divided into two categories:
3) Area Control (typically National or regional) airspace which is controlled from a national facility (such as Swanwick facility in the UK) and
4) Airport airspace control, which typically exists within a 10-15 mile radius of the airport and is controlled by the approach control and airport tower control facilities.
To determine the allowable capacity of airspace the airspace designer has to consider, for example: the geographical architecture of the various airports, the capability of the systems which the air traffic controllers use, the skill and number of available air traffic controllers, the capability of the ground based communication systems which must be compatible with the aircraft systems, back up and redundancy systems, area emergency services capability, ATM written procedures (for passenger aircraft and cargo aircraft), avoidance areas, flight plans, agreements with neighbouring countries to receive and release aircraft, rotary wing needs and military needs.
Additionally; consideration must also be given to airport capacity for the airports located within the airspace – as aircraft wake vortex, airport emergency service capability, aircraft taxiway plans, aircraft parking, meteorological information, passenger handling throughput, customs procedures for aircraft and passengers, runway lighting, automated landing procedures, runway inspections and more all contribute to the flow of aircraft in the airspace and therefore the capacity which the airspace can handle.
Combining the capability of all the ATM systems, infrastructure and skilled individuals
determines what the allowable airspace capacity is. Flight charts and plans, CAA regulatory approvals, ICAO approvals, and redundancy systems have to be designed and maintained.
Tripoli airport, as an example, is the largest airport in Libya, geographically located in the West of Libya. Tripoli operates a single runway airport and is not located near other international or national airports. (Gatwick is located near Heathrow). Single runway operation airports have restrictions. Tripoli doesn’t have refuelling or maintenance facilities therefore aircraft can’t sit in a holding pattern for too long waiting to land if the runway is blocked and they don’t have an alternative for the aircraft to land at. Therefore the nature of the Tripoli Airport places restrictions on the number of aircraft operating in the lower airspace (CTA/ CTR) In designing developing and maintaining Libyan airspace, to meet the immediate and medium term needs of the country, many factors will have to be considered and a number of different Libyan organisations will have to be involved. Most of these organisations either don’t exist or those that do, don’t have any funding.
Immediate Stage One (First twelve months)
Through placing a temporary modern deployable active and/or passive surveillance system container (shipping container) in Tripoli (or anywhere in Libya – even on top of a building/ hotel – provided there is connection to power and data over a telephone line), will enable a quick and temporary safety and operational improvement to enable the most basic form of area air traffic control for a limited number of aircraft to operate in area airspace.
If the modern deployable system is placed at an airfield it is easier to upgrade to a radar-based system, (once the airfield radar is installed). Having a radar at the airfield provides the airfield air traffic controllers the ability to see the aircraft on a display as they approach the airfield.
This is a much safer and more efficient approach when the volume of aircraft increases. Additionally a temporary deployable Air Traffic Control tower, placed at a suitable airport or airports, will enable a limited amount of aircraft to land and take off at that airport. Following the deployment of temporary systems, basic procedures which enable aircraft to move from the upper airspace into the lower airspace and vice versa will need to be written. Procedures and flight plans need to be written for handing aircraft over from area control to tower control. As importantly, procedures and flight plans need to be agreed between different airspace areas for handing over aircraft from one area to another. These procedures are called Local Operating Agreements and are normally published in the MATS Part 1 (Manual of Air Traffic Services) and need to be agreed and in place between different area control. Libya’s airspace neighbours would be Tunisia, Malta, Egypt, etc. All procedures are designed depending upon the skill, capability, workload, operating charts, flight plans and systems which have been put in place or are planned to be put in place.
Stage Two (Second twelve months and beyond)
As Libya will have an immediate increase in aircraft movements due to its need to produce oil to generate wealth the number of flights entering and departing Libya to satisfy the oil industry will place a heavy burden on the limited number of air traffic controllers and the temporary systems and limited procedures in place. As Libya requires the return of commerce and industry into Libya, mainly from Europe, the increase in air traffic could be quite substantial and if the correct systems are not in place with the required regulatory approvals being granted, revised and re- granted as the demand increases, the airspace will become saturated, in-efficient, unsafe, unable to handle the demand and as a result could be closed. Libya is unique in that it relies heavily on imports – Cargo aircraft require different procedures and processes to passenger aircraft and military aircraft.
An Airspace Masterplan will have to be drafted. Typically, an Airspace Masterplan is written for a twenty year forward looking period. The Masterplan is written every five years for the future twenty year period and is amended depending on the future projected demands upon all air travel.
The Airspace Masterplan would start with a Concept of Operations (CONOPS), this would lead into an Operational Requirement (OR) followed by a Airspace Design Phase (ADP). From here the SIDS and STARS are developed. Once developed the airspace design will require simulated testing, to check its validity. Given the provision of information an initial airspace design would take approximately six months to complete but this would be a basic design which will need further work, almost immediately, ahead of the need to increase capacity to control and manage aircraft entering the airspace.
Once the Airspace design has been completed the infrastructure, training, safety measures – all of the needs required to implement the design, need to be procured and put in place for the airspace to become operational. The time this would take depends on the complexity of the airspace needs, the airspace capacity required and the ability for the various stakeholders to meet the required procurement plan which would have to be developed alongside the Airspace Masterplan. Initially, the Airspace design would be limited in the amount of aircraft it can handle, and then increase the volume within time, however, irrespective of the amount of flights into, out of and across Libya, some procedures, systems and infrastructure will need to be put in place. (Emergency services, Procedures, avoidance areas etc).
Likely military needs over the next twenty years require consideration when designing airspace and formulating the Airspace Masterplan. Rotary aircraft and military aircraft (as well as light aircraft) must be considered at the outset of any airspace design otherwise airspace can be closed if a rotary aircraft were to fly where passenger and cargo aircraft operate. Should a military airspace proposal not be forthcoming from the Libyans then a military operating methodology can be proposed. This avoids having to redesign and possibly suspend the civilian airspace to enable military aircraft to fly.
The following organisations will be required to help input into the Airspace Masterplan:
– The Libyan CAA
– The Libyan Air Navigation Service Provider (national airspace control and airport tower
control) – which does not currently exist.
– The National Airlines and other Airlines expecting to fly over and into Libya
– The Libyan Military (Rotary wing and Fixed wing)
– The Libyan Airport Authorities
– The Libyan General Aviation Authority (Training)
– The Aeronautical Service Provider (Charts, procedures, publishing schedules)
– The CAA regulator (UK?)
– ICAO and other regulators (Europe)
– The Regional Met Office
– Airspace and Infrastructure engineering department (ILS, Radar, systems, runway lighting
and airspace navigation facilities – tower and national facility-)
– Emergency services
– Passenger handling, customs, security department
– Aircraft handling (passenger), customs, security department, catering
– Cargo Aircraft handling (Cargo), customs, security department
– Fuel/ oil facilities providers.
– Maintenance capabilities/ providers.
– Billing facilities for overflights – department and providers.
– Department for safety
– Egypt CAA, Tunisia CAA, Malta CAA
… and others.
Air Traffic Controllers
An efficient, highly trained airspace/ air traffic controller can handle between 15 – 20 aircraft at any one time, using the latest modern equipment, operating from a modern contained facility. Using Radar based technology enables the controller to see the aircraft – the placement of Radars around the country at certain points provides better visibility for the air traffic controllers and helps aircraft keep away from declared avoidance areas (such as oil refineries, military establishments, other airports and areas with are deemed restricted by the CAA or the airlines – high security risk areas). The less chance of a breach into an avoidance area, the less the insurance premiums for the Airlines. Libya has few airspace controllers, most are elderly. It takes unto two years to train an airspace controller. Prior to training airspace controllers the systems they will need to operate have to be selected and put in place. Navigating the aircraft around the sky, including the airlines ability to book flight plans, depends on the provision of up to date charts detailing avoidance areas, agreed radio frequencies (the availability of ground based radio stations for effective communication) as well as appropriate and correct flight procedures. The systems which are used to aid the Air traffic controller must be compatible with the systems on the aircraft. The airspace systems need to be put in place first and the airlines need to procure aircraft with compatible systems or transfer existing aircraft from routes which already have the correct systems installed. Aircraft flying routes from one regional area airspace must be fitted with the correct systems to enable them to fly into another airspace (overflights from Europe may be utilise different equipment to flights arriving into Libya from Tunisia).
Aircraft and ATM systems
The systems used by the aircraft and the airspace can change over time. This change in systems will be dependent upon the navigation performance requirements. GNSS and EGNOS are basic systems, controlled by Satellites. Airspace coverage may require VOR (VHF omni directional ranging systems) in order for ground based systems navigation infrastructure and is used for both aircraft navigation and for the airspace controller to accurately track aircraft. Some aircraft and airspace utilise RNAV (1) and others utilise RNAV(5). Some modern aircraft are factory fitted with the latest technology which means they do not require any back-up systems, however, these aircraft are expensive and airlines will be reluctant to introduce new latest technology aircraft into a new airspace where demand is not yet proven. Fitting the latest technology systems into the airspace would be a later part of an Airspace Masterplan, depending on the expected capacity from overflights and arrivals and departures, as well as the number of operational airports and avoidance areas. It would be too costly and time consuming to put the latest systems on the ground in the early stages of the airspace design, particularly in Libya where the airport architecture (number and location of the various airports) is still being considered.
Airports and Airspace
Airspace design must take into account the location of and requirements of the airports residing within the airspace area. Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirte and all of the oilfield airports need to work well within the area airspace together, as part of a single design, with the required flight plans and avoidance areas. As more of Libya’s 147 airfields come on line the airspace management will become more complex and therefore the initial design and interoperability between the stakeholders needs to be as seamless as possible, including the provision of budgets to pay for the procurement of goods and services to meet the Airspace design needs, as well as the required training.
Generating Revenue from Airspace
Airspace can provide for a means of generating revenue. Aircraft pay a fee for flying into and over airspace. Airlines like to fly in the most direct route possible to save on fuel, recognising insurance premiums may be high for the aircraft to fly over territory which is deemed as high risk. Aircraft must have the correct air navigation specification to fly into different airspace. The Airspace Masterplan ought to consider Tripoli as a Hub Airfield within 20 years. Cargo aircraft pay an airspace fee which is calculated differently to passenger aircraft which pay a premium. This premium is paid on the basis that the area to which they are flying over has sufficient accident and emergency capabilities and plans to deal with emergencies. Libya has little if no capability in this regard.
Airlines prebook flight plans which initiate the billing of the fee, calculated against aircraft type, size and the number of passengers, weight and length of time in the airspace. In the UK the average charge is approximately 82GBP per mile. Investing in capable airspace is often a good decision, not just for the national GDP but also as a means for further developing the countries airports and airspace infrastructure from the revenues raised from overflights.