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The Barton Interpretation

Following on from the discussion on infringements and the Airspace & Safety Initiative publication regarding infringements at Manchester Barton, I have sent the following email to the airport manager at Manchester Barton EGCB. I have copied the CAA local airspace infringements team ([email protected]).

Dear XXX,

I am writing with interest and some concern, as a private pilot, following the publication of the Manchester Barton infringement update on the Airspace & Safety Initiative website.

My concern is around what I see in the article as a particularly interesting interpretation of Rule 11 of the Rules of the Air Regulations, 2015. I note that the article was written by AFISOs at Manchester Barton and will henceforth refer to it as the ‘Barton Interpretation’.

The Barton Interpretation suggests that no inbound aircraft may enter the Barton ATZ without having established two-way communication with the Barton AFISO and being passed aerodrome information in a specific radio transmission directed to that aircraft. It further states that being told to “standby” by the AFISO means an aircraft may not enter the ATZ.

Essentially the Barton Interpretation allows an AFISO to control access to the ATZ using the response “standby” (or simply non-response) as a tool to restrict access when necessary. This would appear to be at odds with a long-standing principle that an AFISO may only control aircraft on the ground and not in the air. I offer no comment on whether this apparent ability of the AFISO to control access to the ATZ is a good thing or not, merely that it appears to hinge on the Barton Interpretation of Rule 11 and contradicts accepted practice elsewhere.

For clarity I have reproduced Rule 11 below (italics):

To comply with Rule 11:
1. An aircraft must not fly, take off or land within the ATZ of an aerodrome unless the commander of the aircraft has complied with paragraphs 2, 3 or 4 as appropriate.
2. If the aerodrome has an air traffic control unit the commander must obtain the permission of that unit to enable the flight to be conducted safely within the ATZ.
3. If the aerodrome provides a flight information service the commander must obtain information from the flight information centre to enable the flight to be conducted safely within the ATZ.
4. If there is no flight information centre at the aerodrome the commander must obtain information from the air/ground communication service to enable the flight to be conducted safely within the ATZ. In addition, the commander of an aircraft flying within the ATZ of an aerodrome must — 1. cause a continuous watch to be maintained on the appropriate radio frequency notified for communications at the aerodrome; or 2. if this is not possible, cause a watch to be kept for such instructions as may be issued by visual means; and 3. if the aircraft is fitted with means of communication by radio with the ground, communicate the aircraft’s position and height to the air traffic control unit, the flight information centre or the air/ground communications service unit at the aerodrome (as the case may be) on entering the aerodrome traffic zone and immediately prior to leaving it

I believe the Barton Interpretation fails on the following points:

(a) Paragraph 3 says ‘must obtain information’ but does not say that the information must be passed specifically to that aircraft by the AFISO, which in reality means two-way radio communication and acts as a de facto clearance. At non-ATC fields of all kinds it is quite usual to ‘obtain information’ simply by listening out on the relevant frequency and it is rather a stretch to suggest that the words ‘obtain information’ mean that a pilot must engage in a two-way radio exchange with the AFISO.

(b) Paragraph 2 is explicit on the requirements at an aerodrome with ATC – a pilot must obtain permission from ATC to enter the ATZ. It is reasonable to expect that if the regulation in Paragraph 3 were intended to give an AFISO a similar ability to regulate access then it would be more explicit and more akin to Paragraph 2 – it would at least refer to establishing two-way radio communication.

(c) Paragraph 4 (concerning aerodromes with AGCS) has the same wording as Paragraph 3 and thus under the Barton Interpretation we must assume that at aerodromes with AGCS an inbound aircraft may not enter the ATZ without having been specifically passed the aerodrome information – and indeed that a response of “standby” from the AGCS operator means the aircraft may not enter. This is in clear contradiction of accepted practice at many aerodromes – often an AGCS is unmanned for periods of time, or the operator simply does not reply, and aircraft revert to making blind calls – they do not remain outside the ATZ if they get no response to their inbound call. Nor do they cancel their flight if, when on the ground, they get no response from the aerodrome AGCS (noting that Rule 11 applies to taking off and flying within an ATZ, not just arriving/landing).

Based on the three points above I believe that the Barton Interpretation of Rule 11 is untenable. I would kindly request that you amend published material and operational procedures to reflect this, or else respond with evidence and/or rationale to support it, as well as providing your take on the enormous inconsistencies elsewhere (principally at AGCS aerodromes) that become a regulatory problem if the Barton Interpretation is held to be correct.

The matter has caused a great deal of discussion among a large number of pilots who disagree with the Barton Interpretation and are operating every day in a manner that, under the Barton Interpretation, constitutes an airspace infringement. It is of some urgency since with the large number of MORs being filed at Barton pilots are being processed by the CAA as airspace infringers based on your interpretation. Airspace infringement is technically a criminal matter, and it would be unfortunate for such matters to be pursued based on a potentially erroneous interpretation of the rules.

Yours etc.

Last Edited by Graham at 07 Jan 16:14

It’ll be interesting to see what their response is.

What exactly is ATZ?

The elephant is the circulation

LeSving wrote:

What exactly is ATZ?

A uniquely UK invention.
Usually a 2.5nm or larger radius 2000ft high “non classified Aerodrome protection Airspace” which could possibly be justified in the case of proper aerodrome ATC, but is a complete joke when you consider what Graham writes above.

Regards, SD..

skydriller wrote:

A uniquely UK invention.
Usually a 2.5nm or larger radius 2000ft high “non classified Aerodrome protection Airspace” which could possibly be justified in the case of proper aerodrome ATC

Indeed, it is possibly a redundant concept.

The idea of needing specific permission/clearance/information to enter when inbound (or exit when outbound) is completely alien to me. I would never transit through an ATZ without speaking to them on the radio, although I always considered that a matter of airmanship rather than legality.

The only aspect of an ATZ that sticks in my mind, in terms of the significance of the boundary, is that one may only turn in circuit direction once inside it.


skydriller wrote:

A uniquely UK invention.

But it is not. It is defined in SERA and ICAO Annex 2 (see: SKYBrary)

EPKP - Kraków, Poland

Of course. I initially though Skydriller’s was a joke, but mybe not. Well, just because France did not implement ATZ doesn’t mean they doesn’t exist. Many European countries have them. No only the UK, but also Italy, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Croatia, Portugal… Even Germany has them (well, one at least).

Last Edited by boscomantico at 07 Jan 20:00
Mainz (EDFZ) & Egelsbach (EDFE), Germany

Excellent letter, thank you.

Once we have a reply, it would be interesting to ask the CAA what information they consider the AFISOs should pass to the pilot to enable the pilot to conduct the transit safely, and whether or not the AFISO is entitled to use his judgement to determine what information should be included, and what information should not. If the AFISO is entitled to exclude some information regarding other traffic what training he will have had to make this judgement in order to discharge his duties and what action pilots should take if they feel they have been passed all the relevant information.

boscomantico wrote:

I initially though Skydriller’s was a joke, but mybe not.

I thought LeSving’s comment was tounge-in-cheek, but I really don’t know any more. Anyway, back to regularly scheduled programming.

EPKP - Kraków, Poland

LeSving wrote:

What exactly is ATZ?

SERA: "‘aerodrome traffic zone’ means an airspace of defined dimensions established around an aerodrome for the protection of aerodrome traffic;

The problem with ATZs is that SERA doesn’t say what rules apply to an ATZ so different countries have invented their own.

E.g. in Sweden the only rule is that you are only allowed to fly in an ATZ for take-off or landing, i.e. no transits.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden
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