Menu Sign In Contact FAQ
Banner
Welcome to our forums

Flying VFR on top, when TRAs are active

Two weeks ago, I returned from Esbjerg (EKEB) in Denmark to my home base in Germany. As the weather in northern Germany was quite bad, I decided to fly over the weather. The tops were around 7.000 ft, so I thought that it wouldn’t be any problem for the Dimona and us to deal with such a scenario. In my opnion, it’s always safer to be on-top, compared to finding a way below, when there is a lot of shower activity. After take-off in Esbjerg, we quickly found ourselves a way to get VFR on top. No issues so far and we reached FL85 in no time. Danish ATC was superb, as always and did understand our tactic immediately.

Then the German border came quite fast and Danish ATC sends us off to Langen Information. After calling Langen, a bored and demotivated lady responded to my initial call. Alright… this lady hasn’t her day. Anyways, I passed my flight details and got a squawk. Then… nothing happens. Danish ATC gave me at least always some more information like: “no further traffic” and some awareness of military activity in some zones. Nothing of that with Langen and the frequency was empty. Then Skydemon warned me of an upcoming German TRA 201E (part of TRA Friesland, starting at FL80). Ups… I didn’t thought of that one. Never mind, the tops of the clouds were around 6.000 ft, so descending below FL80 was not a problem. Nonetheless, I asked Langen for its status. Something Danish, Norwegian or Swedish ATC would tell you automatically, but the Germans won’t tell you anything until you bust it. The lady was annoyed about my request and said in an unfriendly manner “I have to ask” and didn’t respond for a few minutes. Now, what to do? I decided to make an orbit at the border and descend below FL80, before continuing on course towards Bremerhaven.

Finally, the lady from Langen Information responded to my request. “The military does not use the TRA right now, but you need to be below it in xx minutes.” Well ok, I decided to remain below the TRA. Unfortunately, the cloud tops were climbing quite fast around Nordholz and I had to climb again to stay legal for cloud separation. So I asked Langen if they could arrange a clearance, as I was now below TRA 201C. But the response was quite clear: “No, there is nothing I can do for you.” Excuse me? For what do I call Langen after all? Just for fun?! No way… so I respond and explained my situation, but I got again a cold response from Langen: “Sorry, there is nothing I can do for you.” I interpreted it in my head like: “F*ck off, I don’t care if you get VFR into IMC, I’m not gonna coordinate with the military for you.”

To be honest… I was able to remain legal at FL79 for cloud separation, but it was close. After we managed to be south of the TRA, I started to climb again immediately. However, there was another TRA on my path starting at FL80, so I asked for its status. “Activity starts in xx minutes.” Alright, so also not an option to go through, but at least the TRA 202 (Weser) can be circumnavigated, so I made a slight diversion. The TRA 201 (Friesland) however, cannot be circumnavigated above FL80 when coming from Denmark.

Finally, the TRA 203 (Münsterland) was not active and clouds began to open again (as briefed before the flight), so I made a nice descend between the scattered clouds and we could reach our destination without any further issues.

What did I learn from this flight?

  • Plan your flight always outside possible active TRAs, not just outside active regular restricted areas (in Germany: ED-Rs), which are red. TRAs are however blue and therefore not such an eye-catcher in Skydemon, when planning a flight.
  • Don’t rely on Langen Information. They let you happily bust any airspace and warn you when it’s already too late, even when the frequencies are empty. Ask for status by yourself and don’t think they gonna coordinate with the military. Something Copenhagen does for you, even when TRAs are active!
  • When flying from/to Denmark, all VFR flights need to be planned below FL80. There seems to be no legal possibility to penetrate active TRA’s without military clearance.

The big question remains: How can a simple GA-pilot like me, obtain a clearance for a active TRA in Germany? Which military controller can I ask? Apperently, Langen Information is not going to do the job for you and they also don’t have any clue of any military frequency. In my experience, they always try to avert any coordination with military controllers. If you ask to coordinate a crossing trough the CTR of Ramstein for example, they will tell you that they are not responsible for that. Well DFS, thanks a lot for nothing!

Last Edited by Frans at 31 Aug 23:04
EDKM, LSZC

Frans wrote:

even when the frequencies are empty.

While this sounds like pretty darn horrible ‘service’, it may well be that she was working several frequencies, so what appears as a really quiet day to you may not be so quiet after all for her. At least over here, if a controller doesn’t get back to you very quickly, that’s the (mostly correct) assumption.

It was a weekday with pretty bad weather for VFR conditions in northern Germany. I bed that the lady didn’t had much work to do. Langen Information is just a FIS-frequency with FIS specialists. They are not real ATCOs in Germany and they have only VFR-traffic on the frequency. IFR-traffic is on Bremen Radar in northern Germany with real ATCOs.

Last Edited by Frans at 31 Aug 22:57
EDKM, LSZC

Speaking as an IFR pilot, I am not sure to what extent ATC is able to clear you into those areas, depending on agreements with their military counterparts so it is quite possible that FIS/Radar is unable to negotiate tactical clearances.

When I flew IFR in Germany yesterday (Frankfurt area towards Belgium), ATC vectored me around the military areas and the usual shortcuts automatically given on weekends on both the German and Belgian sides were unavailable.

Overall, at least in the western part of Germany, there was a lot of military traffic on the radar frequencies, mainly non-German military.

EGTF, EGLK, United Kingdom

Interesting post Frans.

Yes; one gets these people who don’t really want to be helpful. I’ve posted some funny videos here, with hilarious sound tracks I wonder if they ever get back to the controller in question? Probably not; most ATCOs seem to live on facebook

I am not sure to what extent ATC is able to clear you into those areas

If you are “Eurocontrol IFR” (basically, IFR in CAS) then you file and fly, and ATC is supposed to take care of you. Each country is supposed to send temp-invalid routings to IFPS. That’s why when “Eurocontrol IFR” one doesn’t generally need to do enroute notams. If using VORs then you might, however.

But once you drop out of CAS, all bets are off, and what happens depends on the country and where and when and who…

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Hi Frans,

as you have seen in our case flying towards Denmark, even if you are IFR, ATC will usually not offer any clearance into active TRAs. This is despite the term TRA actually meaning that clearances by civil ATC ARE possible. But ATC planners never really cared about the exact definitions of these types of “restricted” areas.

It seems that there is no routine process for German ATC (or FIS) to obtain clearances from the military for active TRAs. It’s a pity because as you say, especially in the north of Germany, it can restrict your long-range IFR flights quite a bit on weekdays.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

In France, IFR flights shortcuts in military TRA are usually NO by ATC, VFR flights in TRA are usually yes (but lazy FIS may send you to call ATC, or you have to ask to change frequency yourself but that needs more AIP/SUP/NOTAMS digging)

PS: I would not mind busting a bit of VMC cloud separation in Golf/Echo temporarily (if it makes my life easier and keep that for myself) if I have no ATC help and can do my own lookout while dealing with weather & airspace avoidance but I would religiously maintain my “airspace separation” which is far more important to PIC/ATC who want traffic separation, I am talking as “UK pilot”, this can appear to shocking for some I doubt you did much visual lookout outside for traffic while debating with FIS on TRA airspace access anyway, this scenario will always happen when you are VFR and ask for climbs above tops or extra airspace access due to weather, it’s PIC problem not ATC problem and you have to pick between airspace or clouds, the wrong thing to do is to go for unplanned descent or unplanned entry into clouds…

Last Edited by Ibra at 01 Sep 06:48
Paris/Essex, France, , United Kingdom

Quote Don’t rely on Langen Information. They let you happily bust any airspace and warn you when it’s already too late, even when the frequencies are empty. Ask for status by yourself and don’t think they gonna coordinate with the military.

In my view & experience it is a bit harsh to bash whole FIS because of that lady maybe having a bad day (which is no excuse of course). My experience with FIS is mostly very positive.

On the other hand, I’m with you to plan ahead of your flight by yourself and not expecting a ‘full service’ as we rather know it from i.e. French FIS.
So, harshly phrased, it appears you missed to check the airspace status and putting the blame onto FIS instead of onto yourself?

With regard to the status of military airspaces, you will find the schedule on the DFS website

https://secais.dfs.de/pilotservice/service/aup/aup_edit_map.jsp?lang=en

For example, the status of the ED-R 201 for today is as follows:

ED-R201A

From 01 Sep 2021 06:30 until 01 Sep 2021 08:00 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

From 01 Sep 2021 11:30 until 01 Sep 2021 13:00 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

ED-R201B

From 01 Sep 2021 06:30 until 01 Sep 2021 08:00 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

From 01 Sep 2021 11:30 until 01 Sep 2021 13:00 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

ED-R201C

From 01 Sep 2021 06:30 until 01 Sep 2021 09:30 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

From 01 Sep 2021 11:30 until 01 Sep 2021 13:00 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

ED-R201D

From 01 Sep 2021 07:30 until 01 Sep 2021 09:30 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

From 01 Sep 2021 11:15 until 01 Sep 2021 14:30 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

ED-R201E

From 01 Sep 2021 07:30 until 01 Sep 2021 09:30 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

From 01 Sep 2021 11:15 until 01 Sep 2021 14:30 at Lower Limit F080 to Upper Limit F245

Last Edited by Marcel at 01 Sep 07:44
LFSB, LSZF, Switzerland

Frans wrote:

How can a simple GA-pilot like me, obtain a clearance for a active TRA in Germany?

I never thought about that this might confuse anyone, because I find it in fact very easy in Germany in comparison with other countries, like France. And we have few TRAs only.

But I think the information you got from FIS was quite good, even stating that you may cross the TRA until a specific time. When that time is, the TRA is being used by the military and crossing will be impossible. So it’s of no use to ask for any permission. Handover to military stations is not common in Germany, despite the American zones (which are few only and small).

I handle it the other way round. I plan my flights such that I assume that all TRAs are in fact active, which is typically not a big issue in Germany. When airborne I ask if crossing is possible, and most of the times it is. In fact, the only “big” TRA in Germany are those up north. FIS can’t do nothing about them, only ask their status and pass it over.

I, too, had the experience to have some “bored” person (it’s not a controller) speaking on FIS up in the North, not so further in the South. And no, it’s not their responsibility to keep you out of controlled airspace, although I often get information about airspaces without asking, if there is a possibility that I might bust one.

Germany

Out of curiosity I looked it up in the German MIL AIP which is found here It is in part Enroute 5.2. Most important this one:

7.3.7 To ensure that the training goals can be accomplished,
exercise air traffic in the TRA shall be given priority.
When the actual military utilization begins, the reserved TRA
or TRA-parts must have been cleared of civil air traffic and
military transport air traffic by the competent ATC units.

7.4.3 While TRA is used, the competent ATC units will on principle
not clear civil aircraft or military transport aircraft for transit
flights.

So to return to your question: It is impossible to receive a crossing whenever a TRA is used by MIL service. But in Germany you don’t have the situation that it was impossible to fly around any of the TRAs.

Last Edited by UdoR at 01 Sep 08:40
Germany
37 Posts
Sign in to add your message

Back to Top