Preventing airspace infringements in the vicinity of Manchester LLR (updated 7 September 2021)
This infringement update is an amendment to the second in a series of narratives focusing on identified infringement ‘hot-spots’ in the UK. It has been written by members of the Northwest LAIT: NATS Manchester; ATCSL, Liverpool; Barton Aerodrome; and Liverpool Flight School.
The Low-level Route (LLR) is a 4nm wide corridor of Class D airspace within which aircraft may fly VFR without individual ATC clearance subject to specified conditions.
Aircraft may be flown as VFR within the LLR (day or night) without individual ATC clearance, subject to the aircraft being flown:
in accordance with the Visual Flight Rules (SERA.5005);
in a flight visibility of 5km or more;
at an indicated airspeed of 140 kts or less;
if the aircraft is transponder & radio equipped, squawk 7366 and monitor Manchester Radar 118.580 MHz.
If an aircraft is non-transponder equipped, the pilot can still fly in the Low-Level Route without an ATC clearance (subject to the above conditions), but the pilot must monitor Manchester Radar, 118.580MHz.
If an aircraft is non-transponder and non-radio equipped, the pilot can also still fly in the Low-Level Route without an ATC clearance providing they comply with the above conditions.
No ATC service is provided to aircraft flying within the LLR in accordance with the above conditions and all such aircraft are responsible for providing their own separation against all other aircraft in the Low-Level Route at all times.
If a pilot is unable to comply with the above conditions, they must contact Manchester Radar for an individual ATC clearance to fly within the Manchester CTR/LLR, or Liverpool Approach if wishing to fly within the Liverpool CTR.
The previous 7364 squawk procedure for aircraft flying SVFR is no longer valid, since the above conditions are now only applicable to aircraft flying VFR. All SVFR flight will require an individual ATC clearance, and is unlikely to be granted within the confines of the Low-Level Route unless absolutely necessary.
Pilots should not request a Basic service in the Low-Level Route as this is not available inside Class D controlled airspace – if Manchester Radar are able to issue an individual clearance, a Radar Control Service will be provided.
Pilots should be aware of the possibility of wake turbulence when flying within the Manchester Low Level Route, particularly when flying in the vicinity of the Liverpool and Manchester extended runway centrelines. Pilots operating in the Low Level Route in accordance with the above conditions will not be passed wake turbulence warnings.
The infringement teams associated with this airspace have noted the risk areas:
Entering and Leaving the LLR
The majority of airspace infringements occur in three areas:
The northern end of the LLR near the VRPs at Wigan Lakes and Leigh Flash due to pilots starting their descent to enter the LLR too late or due to starting the climb to a higher altitude too early;
The southern end of the LLR near the VRPs at Winsford Flash and Oulton Park, again due to pilots starting their descent to enter the LLR too late or due to starting the climb to a higher altitude too early; and
the eastern edge of the LLR near the VRPs of Stretton and Thelwall Viaduct. These infringements tend to be due to aircraft starting a climb too early to reach the altitude to carry out an overhead join at Barton aerodrome or by turning the corner to Class G airspace too early using Stretton as a turning point. In the case of the disused aerodrome at Stretton, the VRP is towards the western end of the site and outside controlled airspace; the aerodrome extends a further 0.65nm into the Manchester Class D Control Zone (CTR). As such, pilots are advised to remain to the west of the western perimeter of the aerodrome to avoid inadvertently infringing controlled airspace.
The LLR Area North of the M56 Motorway
The M56 crosses the LLR west to east at the approximate mid-point:
To the east of the northern half of the LLR lies Class G airspace from surface to below 2,000 feet amsl. Above that lies the Manchester Control Area (CTA) to 3,500 feet amsl, with the Class A Manchester TMA extending upwards from 3,500 feet amsl.
To the west of the LLR lies the Liverpool CTR from surface to 2,500 feet amsl and then the Class D Manchester CTA to 3,500 feet amsl, with the Class A Manchester TMA extending upwards from 3,500 feet amsl.
Pilots departing Barton and routing to the west, are reminded that once they reach the eastern edge of the LLR, to continue westbound without a clearance, as far as the western edge of the LLR, they must be at or below 1,300 feet Manchester QNH. It is vital that pilots understand that three-dimensional structure to avoid being in conflict with Commercial Air Transport aircraft.
To deconflict Liverpool IFR inbounds to Runway 27 from the Manchester departures from Runway 23L/R the 2 units operate a “tunnel system”. This means that when Runway 23L/R is in use at Manchester, Liverpool cannot just route their inbound traffic straight for final approach. Instead Liverpool need to pass to the west of the aerodrome and descend below 4000 feet before turning downwind descending further to 2000 feet before the western edge of the LLR.
Manchester departures from Runway 23L/R will climb above the Liverpool traffic
Liverpool cannot vector aircraft east of the eastern edge of the LLR and, therefore, when required to sequence their inbound traffic one method available is to vector traffic towards the northeast of Liverpool’s Class D airspace, which sits above the northern portion of the LLR. The Liverpool traffic must be at 2000 feet to safely pass beneath the Manchester departures whilst aircraft within the LLR can be at 1300 feet and just 700 feet below.
Therefore, any aircraft initiating an early climb above 1300 feet before they have left the northern edge of the LLR pose a serious risk to the Liverpool traffic; in addition, there is an increased risk of experiencing wake turbulence issues. When the Liverpool radar controller observes aircraft climbing early and infringing above the northern portion of the LLR, they are unable to take avoiding action by climbing as this will result in confliction with the Manchester departures, instead the only option available is to make an avoiding action turn. With the resultant delay in flight crew initiation compounded by the rate of turns, the potential for a loss of separation event is increased.
Manchester area chart
To prevent an airspace infringement, as part of their pre-flight planning and in-flight execution, pilots are strongly encouraged to:
Use a Moving Map and where able, outside the LLR, Take 2
Use the FMC. In the LLR pilots MUST (if suitably equipped) squawk SSR code 7366 and maintain a listening watch on Manchester Radar frequency 118.580 MHz. Squawking 7000 is no longer permitted.
Elsewhere, pilots operating in the vicinity of, but intending to remain outside Manchester’s controlled airspace bounded by the following co-ordinates:
533723N 0023744W – 534459N 0020433W – 533650N 0015216W – 532510N 0014456W – 530412N 0015647W – 530253N 0023751W – 533723N 0023744W
should squawk 7366 and maintain a listening watch on Manchester Radar frequency 118.580 MHz
If aircraft are fitted with Mode S transponders the Manchester Radar controller will be able to see your callsign on their radar display and will be able to call you if they observe anything untoward. Obtain the Manchester QNH by listening to that given to other aircraft on 118.580 MHz, from the Arrival ATIS (128.180 MHz), Departure ATIS (121.980 MHz), or the MCT VOR (113.550 MHz); on VOLMET North (128.600 MHz), or by asking an adjacent ATS unit. Aircraft should not hesitate to establish contact with Manchester Radar if they require any assistance or are unsure of their position. Note that the FMC procedures in Manchester’s UK AIP entry at AD 2.22 (paragraph 8) are in the process of being changed to reflect the advice here.
Plan. As part of your plan, build in your climb and descent points when routing in the vicinity of multiple CTAs with differing base altitudes – this is especially pertinent when approaching/leaving the LLR. Know what the VRPs look like and what airspace lies above them or close by. Beware when flying through the LLR as some VRPs are not easy to see, especially when trees are in full foliage.
Avoid flying on the Regional Pressure Setting (RPS) in the vicinity of Manchester and Liverpool CTAs. When flying on the RPS, as it is the forecast lowest QNH for a region, you will probably be higher in relation to the Manchester or Liverpool QNH – and therefore possibly inside controlled airspace without a clearance to do so. If you are receiving a FIS from London Flight Information Service, ask the FISO for the relevant QNH rather than remaining on the Barnsley RPS.
Obtain an air traffic service. Know which ATS unit can provide a LARS. To the south of the Manchester/Liverpool controlled airspace it is Shawbury Radar (133.150MHz) and to the north it is Warton Radar (129.530 MHz).
To transit through the Liverpool CTR, a well-trodden route is to cross CAS from Oulton Park – Runcorn Bridge to Kirby or vice versa. Liverpool ATC will aim to clear the pilot to cross controlled airspace by their requested route as much as possible. However, as traffic levels increase during certain times of the day, traffic may be asked to orbit south of the M56 motorway (northbound transits) or north of the M62 motorway (southbound transits) until the Runway 27 approach is clear and the transit traffic can safely pass behind the inbound traffic. As a consequence, during busy inbound traffic periods, transits may initially be asked to position and route through the LLR and once north / south of the final approach be given a clearance to enter controlled airspace and proceed on their requested/cleared route.
Think MAM TOR. This is a useful mnemonic created by the CFI at Liverpool Flying School, who is an active member of the Northwest LAIT:
Manchester QNH – Get from the ATIS;
Altitude – fly not above 1,300 feet on the Manchester QNH;
Map Navigation – is your route planned?;
Transponder – squawk 7366 whilst monitoring Manchester Radar;
Open Eyes! – keep a good lookout as lots of traffic use the LLR in both directions, not always with a transponder or radio;
Ready – to Aviate, Navigate and Communicate.