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Uncontrolled Airspace [Example]

Within uncontrolled airspace in the UK, aircraft may operate free of the control of an ATC unit. However all aircraft are required at all times to conduct their activities with regard to the CAA Regulations.

When cruising in uncontrolled airspace pilots are advised to monitor continuously the emergency frequency 121.5, and 122.8

Quadrantal Rule

When cruising above 3000ft in Uncontrolled airspace, aircraft should comply with the quadrantal rule. The altimiter should be set to 1013mb and the cruising level is selected according to the magnetic track unless the aircraft is holding according to published procedures or is otherwise instructed by Air Traffic Control.

Magnetic Track
Cruising Level
360° to 089°
FL50, 70, 90 etc. up to FL190
090° to 179°
FL35, 55, 75 etc. up to FL175
180° to 269°
FL40, 60, 80 etc. up to FL180
270° to 359°
FL45, 65, 85 etc. up to FL185

Unless otherwise stated, the Transition Altitude is 3000ft. FL35 is only available when the local QNH is greater than 1013mb.


There are 4 types of ATC service available to aircraft outside of controlled airspace:

  • Alerting Service
  • Basic Service
  • Traffic Service (Radar)
  • Deconfliction Service (Radar)

Alerting Service:

An alerting service is provided to notify appropriate organisations regarding aircraft in need of search and rescue aid, and assist such organisations as required.

Basic Service:

A Basic Service is a non-radar service provided, either separately or in conjunction with other services, for the purposes of supplying information useful for the safe and efficient conduct of flights. Under a Basic Service the following conditions apply:

  • Provision of the service includes information about weather, changes of serviceability of facilities, conditions at aerodromes and any other information pertinent to safety.
  • The controller may attempt to identify the flight for monitoring and co-ordinationpurposes only. Such identification does not imply that a radar service is being provided or that the controller will continuously monitor the flight. Pilots must be left in no doubt that they are not receiving a radar service.
  • Controllers are not responsible for separating or sequencing aircraft.

Traffic Service:

A Traffic Service is an air traffic radar service in which the controller shall inform the pilot of the bearing, distance and, if known, the level of the conflicting traffic. No avoiding action shall be offered. The pilot is wholly responsible for maintaining separation from other aircraft whether or not the controller has passed
traffic information. Under a Traffic Service the following conditions apply:

  • The service may be requested under any flight rules or meteorological conditions.
  • The controller shall only update details of conflicting traffic, after the initial warning, at the pilot’s request or if the controller considers that the conflicting traffic continues to constitute a definite hazard.
  • The controller may provide radar vectors for the purpose of tactical planning or at the request of the pilot. However, vectors shall not be provided to maintain separation from other aircraft, which remains the responsibility of the pilot. There is no requirement for a pilot to accept vectors.
  • The controller will be advised before a pilot changes level, level band or route.
  • Should a pilot request avoiding action, this shall be treated as a request for a change of radar service.

Deconfliction Service:

A Deconfliction Service is an air traffic radar service in which the controller shall provide advice necessary to maintain prescribed separation between aircraft participating in the advisory service, and in which he shall pass to the pilot the bearing, distance and, if known, level of conflicting non-participating traffic, together with advice on action necessary to resolve the confliction. Where time does not permit this procedure to be adopted, the controller shall pass advice on avoiding action followed by information on the conflicting traffic. Even though the service is an advisory one, controllers shall pass the 'advice' in the form of instructions. Under a Deconfliction Service the following conditions apply:

  • The service may be requested under any flight rules or meteorological conditions.
  • Controllers can expect the pilot to accept vectors or level allocations which may require flight in IMC. Controllers should be aware that pilots may not be qualified to fly in IMC. Should this situation arise the controller will be informed by the pilot.
  • There is no legal requirement for a pilot flying outside controlled airspace to comply with instructions because of the advisory nature of the service. However, should a pilot choose not to comply with advisory avoiding action then he will become responsible for his own separation and any avoiding action that may subsequently prove necessary.
  • The controller will be advised before a pilot changes heading or level.
  • Controllers shall pass avoiding action instructions to resolve a confliction with nonparticipating traffic and, wherever possible, shall seek to achieve separation which is not less than 5 nm or 3000 feet, except when specified otherwise by the CAA. However, it is recognised that in the event of the sudden appearance of unknown traffic, and when unknown aircraft make unpredictable changes in flight path, it is not always possible to achieve these minima.
  • Controllers shall continue to provide information on conflicting traffic until the confliction is resolved.

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