What is NEFAB?

The legislation concerning the ‘Single European Sky’ requires the participating States to organise this work in the most efficient way possible, by ensuring improved cooperation and coordination between government agencies.

One of the measures is the establishment of  ’functional airspace blocks’ (FAB) that cover the airspace over several States. One of the goals of the Single European Sky is to replace the current fragmented airspace structure over Europe with nine functional airspace blocks by the end of 2012. (As shown on the map.)

NEFAB map imageWhat is a functional airspace block (FAB)?

A FAB covers a limited geographical area – an airspace block – in which the States are responsible for formalising their cooperation in order to create a seamless airspace across national boundaries. The States’ organisation of activities relating to the management and control of air traffic is an important part of the strengthened cooperation and potential integration of activities.

The goal is to achieve efficiency gains, improve safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions per flight. A FAB must be established through cooperation between several countries, where the authorities and the providers of air traffic services (‘the service providers’) form a partnership. Close cooperation, coordination and, if relevant, integration between service providers in order to achieve the goals must be facilitated by means of agreements between the States, between the national aviation authorities and between the service providers.

Extensive documentation must be provided before a FAB can be established. The plans for the cooperation are made available for the affected parties for their information and for comment. This consultation process is organised by the European Commission. Once a FAB has been formally established, the European Commission will assess whether it meets the formal criteria set out in the legislation concerning the Single European Sky.

Cooperation on the creation of airspace blocks in the Nordic and Baltic countries – NEFAB

The Nordic and Baltic countries are currently involved in several separate initiatives aimed at establishing functional airspace blocks.

Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Norway have established a functional airspace block to cover the four States’ airspace, called  NEFAB (North European Functional Airspace Block). The venture was initiated through collaboration between the service providers that are engaged in such activities in the Nordic and Baltic countries, on a study regarding the basis for airspace cooperation (functional airspace block). The preparations have progressed through different phases and the number of participating States has diminished along the way. Nevertheless, a feasibility study in August 2011 showed that a FAB covering the airspace of the four States in question will be beneficial and that it meets the formal requirements of the Single European Sky legislation.

This was the basis for the negotiations between the four States on a formal agreement to establish NEFAB. The agreement was signed in Tallinn on 4 June 2012 and it came into force on 23 December 2012 In parallel with the preparations at Government level, the national aviation authorities and service providers have prepared separate agreements to regulate their cooperation. The agreement between the States has been approved by the national assemblies of Finland, Latvia and Norway, while approval by the Government is sufficient in Estonia.

Whilst the legislation on the Single European Sky is in principle limited to activities concerning civilian air traffic, the legislation makes cooperation between civilian and military authorities mandatory. This is reflected in the agreement on NEFAB, and military authorities will be closely involved in the cooperation within the FAB.

Originally, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland were also part of the NEFAB initiative, but they chose to withdraw from the collaboration during the process. Denmark and Sweden are cooperating on a functional airspace block that covers the two States’ airspace. This FAB cooperation was formalised in July 2010. Iceland is currently not involved in a FAB initiative, while Lithuania is participating in a separate FAB initiative with Poland.

The service providers in the four States that are participating in NEFAB have entered into a cooperation agreement with service providers in Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. The cooperation is intended to ensure good coordination of measures to make airspace organisation and air traffic operation more efficient. The national aviation authorities in the seven States in question have also entered into a cooperation agreement in order, amongst other things, to contribute to realising this goal.