Episode 7

Published on:

12th Jul 2023

How Local Airspace Infringement Teams work

One of our infringement specialists talks to Chris Sellen, a member of the Wessex Local Airspace Infringement Team (LAIT) based at Popham, about the team’s work to help reduce infringements in the local area.

If you are planning on flying in the Solent area guidance and information from the Wessex LAIT is available online at airspacesafety.com/solent

There are 12 Local Airspace Infringement Teams set up to cover infringement hot-spots in the UK. Each is focussed on helping to reduce airspace infringements through local initiatives and targeted actions.

This is the first episode in a mini-series looking at different aspects of this work.

More information and guidance to help avoid infringements is available on the Airspace & Safety Initiative website.


Voiceover 0:11

Welcome to the General Aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority

David Pratt 0:22

Welcome to this general aviation podcast from the UK Civil Aviation Authority. My name is David Pratt from the communications team. And I'm here to introduce this episode of our Local Airspace Infringement Team podcast mini-series - focusing on Wessex. If you're thinking of flying in this area, there's some great resources from the team on the Airspace and Safety Initiative website at airspacesafety.com/solent. We recorded this episode in the aeirodromes's briefing room, so forgive us any background noise, and I'll hand you over to one of our infringement specialists talking to a member of the Wessex LAIT.

Emily Findlay 0:58

My name is Emily and I'm an airspace infringement specialist for the Civil Aviation Authority. Today I'm in Popham, a busy GA airfield located in Hampshire to talk about Local Airspace Infringement Teams. I'm joined by Chris Sellen a long standing member of the Wessex LAIT and experienced GA pilot and air/ground operator here at Popham. So Chris, what is a LAIT and when did you get involved?

Chris Sellen 1:23

The LAIT, well, first of all it stands for Local Airspace Infringement Team and I think the emphasis is on the word local. I got involved about eight years ago when what was then Southampton late started up. And I've been a member ever since. I was invited initially by a long standing instructor who was very important in the infringement world, he invited me along. But then I also realised that as I was a trustee of a group, I kept getting a lot of calls from the CAA saying, has this pilot been flying near the airspace and infringing this that and the other. I then later became an air to ground operator at Popham and I'd also get calls from Southampton radar from time to time saying, can I identify a particular aircraft which has done an infringement. So I felt it incumbent on me to try and do something about it and when the LAIT came along I thought this might be the perfect way to do it.

Emily Findlay 2:24

The Wessex LAIT covers infringement strategy relating to Bournemouth, Southampton, Solent and Farnborough controlled airspace. Who is involved, what are the main issues that you've had to focus on? And what made the area an infringement hotspot?

Chris Sellen 2:38

Well, exactly those, those three airfields are very, very close together. And I think that's the key thing. They share an awful lot of airspace, they also are quite separate in their airspaces as well. The people who are on the LAIT tend to be everybody from the operational side of the airfield, including the Air Traffic Controllers, including the people who actually run the ground operations and so on, as well as flying schools, instructors, and administrators. So we've got all sorts of different people on there. We've also got the military, of course, who have got a big presence in the south of England, so they are a major contributor as well.

Emily Findlay 3:21

We are there to support the discussions, provide statistics on local infringements, and can involve other CAA teams, like the airspace classification team and other capability areas. Our airspace infringement team focuses on education, safety promotion, and infringement prevention, which forms part of our mid air collision avoidance strategy. Each LAIT plays a valuable part in developing guidance and local initiatives. What have you seen that you found most helpful?

Chris Sellen 3:50

One of the things that I found that the LAIT suffered from initially was a lack of information about what the infringements were, where they were, who was doing it and so on, and so forth. And the CAA were able to come up with the help of NATS, and their various statistical models, to come up with that information. Without that information, we couldn't have made some of the recommendations, and sources of information available to people. So yeah, the whole thing has been really, really helpful. And I think we've come a long way in the last eight years.

Emily Findlay 4:22

So a lot of discussions are held at the LAIT, what sort of local initiatives have come out that help pilots not to infringe?

Chris Sellen 4:30

One the key ones isn't actually local, its national, and that is a website called the Airspace & Safety Initiative. And it's a great website, which has got lots of information on it. Locally, and especially in the Wessex LAIT, we've had particular initiatives like the top tips, which sounds a bit trite, but top tips is a series of 10 tips for pilots that will help them to avoid getting themselves into trouble by infringing and these change from year to year as the emphasis on infringement changes as well, and some of the hotspots move around. One of the things in the Wessex area that we find that there are things called hotspots, which is where infringements happen more and more. And trying to identify where they are ,and make people aware of them, make people aware of the dangers they might fall into in some of these hotspots, is quite major. And we produce documents that can be shared with flying clubs, in their newsletters, and so on and so forth, that will allow this to happen. Also, as well as top tips, there's an initiative that came out or one of the Northern LAITS, which was Take Two, which was an initiative to encourage pilots to stay two nautical miles from airspace, or 200 feet below it, or above it sometimes when you think about it. So these are some of the local initiatives that have been encouraged and I think have worked really well.

Emily Findlay 6:03

And many members are happy to share and learn from each other's experiences. What has been your experience with infringements? And how has that helped you contribute to the LAIT?

Chris Sellen 6:14

Well, interestingly, about three years after the LAIT started, I myself was involved in an infringement. Basically, it was a situation where there was a whole chain of silly things happening, like, I decided to go flying after a hard day's work; I decided to go flying without my iPad, so I couldn't have my electronic flight bag with me; I decided to go flying after a conversation with someone about going really high. You can name a whole series of things which built up into a chain, which ended up with me infringing part of an airway. Now, the whole problem with that, of course, is that how can I sit on an infringement team when I'm an infringer. The whole thing was initially sort of anathema to me, and I did offer to resign from the LAIT. I realised that afterwards that that what I could actually bring to the party was the fact that, you know, put my hand up, I was an infringer, I'd done it. And I also understood why I've done it and some of the causal factors behind it. So I was really pleased that the LAIT let me carry on being a member as it were, and was able to participate in the discussions that came from that. It was all about human factors. It was all about threat and error management. And it was all about me being a better pilot and trying to share that experience with people.

Emily Findlay 7:36

Thank you, Chris, for being so honest. And it was such a powerful message. You're not only a GA pilot, you're also an air/ground operator here at Popham too. How does that help?

Chris Sellen 7:46

Well, yes, I am, operate the radio and give information to pilots. And it's great fun, and I do get paid a little bit for it as well. But one of the important things we do here specifically at Popham,this applies to a lot of other airfields as well, we give as much information we can to help pilots in their navigation, in that planning, and so on. And one of the things that we're very keen on making sure that they they use is the listening squawk, or Frequency Monitoring Code. We've got one here at Southampton. There's one nearby at Farnborough and Bournemouth has its own as well. So they're very important in the local area. So adding this information into the pilots information bank, as it were, is really quite good. Also, I see it as our role as, if you like the lowest rung of the air traffic control ladder, to be able to help pilots make the best use of their radios as well. A lot of them are very unsure about using the radio and getting the right terminology and we do, from time to time, correct them and also give them a little bit of a guidance. So that when they're out there, talking to real air traffic controllers, they're not as frightened as perhaps they could be. And they do actually get the right syntax and make themselves understood. I see that as pretty important in my role.

Emily Findlay 9:12

What makes a LAIT so important for us is that it brings pilots, local clubs, training organisations, air navigation service providers and airport and airline representatives together; not just to focus on local airspace infringement issues, but to share knowledge and experience to help improve the safety. Chris, stepping aside from your role as a member of the LAIT, how has your team's work helped Popham and any pilots that fly out of here?

Chris Sellen 9:38

Well, the important thing that I know about the problem area is that it is a crowded area with airspace all over the place. And it's really useful to know that there are a few teams out there who are discussing how best to reduce infringements, how best to help pilots make the best use of information. Coming out of the LAITs is all sorts of work from initiatives and discussions, which are fed into websites like the Aerospace Safety Initiative, well worth a look at. This has got things like hotspot narratives and suggestions for pilots, checklists, and so on. And if it weren't for the LAITS, these things simply wouldn't be available. So it's been really really useful. I know that guys here at Popham, use it a lot and continue to use it.

I'd like to end by asking what advice you would give to any pilots planning to fly in the Wessex area?

The thing about this part of the world is that it is full of airspace, and even plotting a route through the airspace can be pretty challenging, especially if you're not used to complex routings. But what I would say is make the best use of all the information that is available, not just on your chart, not just on your electronic flight bag, but also what people say around you, what people say in the clubhouse, what air to ground people actually say to you, and just take all that in. And don't be afraid of planning a route. Don't be afraid of talking to air traffic control. They're there to help you.

Emily Findlay:

Thanks, Chris. If you want to find out any more, we have a list of LAITS on the Airspace & Safety Initiative website at airspacesafety.com. And if anyone is interested in attending, you can email lait@caa.co.uk. And we will pass your details on to the chair.

Chris Sellen:

Well, that's absolutely right, Emily, and one thing I would say is that the LAIT is open to anyone. It's not just people involved in the air traffic control at some of these bigger places. It's not just me, I'm a simple GA pilot. And in fact, it would be really good to get more GA pilots involved in the LAIT. You can just come along and join in the discussion, its just understanding a little bit more about the way the airspace works, and the way that we can help out in terms of reducing the number of infringements in the UK.

David Pratt:

Thanks for listening. The next episode we'll look at the work of the London LAIT, where Emily will be talking to members from Heathrow about the airport's perspective on the work. In the meantime, if you'd like to get in touch with your local LAIT email lait, that's LAIT@caa.co.uk. And if you have any comments on this podcast, or ideas of what else you'd like to hear covered, please email gapodcast@caa.co.uk.


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CAA on General Aviation
The General Aviation podcast brings you the latest guidance from the UK Civil Aviation Authority with information for all types of General Aviation (GA) operating in the UK. Including updates and discussions on our current projects and areas of work.

You’ll hear interviews with representatives from our GA teams, experts on their particular fields, sharing details of their work and regulatory updates as well as highlighting opportunities for members of the UK GA community to get involved.

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UK Civil Aviation Authority .

The UK's aviation regulator