Intense traffic takes place not only around us – on the streets, on the roads, but also above us – in the air. Whilst preparing to celebrate the International Civil Aviation Day on December 7th, let's have a closer look at the distant airspace. Although there are far fewer participants in the travel by air, there is no shortage of action and surprises up there. Below are 10 fun facts about air travel, aircraft rush hours, and things that happen in the sky, that you probably have never thought of before.
There are 47 routes in the Lithuanian airspace, situated in different directions. The airway consists of an air corridor 10 nautical miles or 18.52 km wide and approximately 300 m high. The longest route stretches from the Baltic Sea towards Ignalina, it is about 420 km long, and takes half an hour of flight. On the shortest route, aircraft fly over the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, from Lavoriškės, through Vilnius, to the Lithuanian-Polish border at Lazdijai. This route is only 170 km long, but it features the most heavy traffic.
Since 2016, with the introduction of the airspace of optional routes, the growing number of companies are using the optional routes, planning only the points of entry into and departure from the Lithuanian airspace. But fixed routes also remain relevant – there are airlines that actively use them.
About a quarter, or 25 percent, of the aircraft using the Lithuanian airspace land or take off at national airports, hence their flights are called terminal flights. In 2019, most aircraft flew from Lithuania to the United Kingdom from January to November (3,152 flights), Latvia (2,849 flights), Germany (2,517 flights), Poland (2,443 flights) and Denmark (1,818 flights). The remaining 75 percent aircraft are transit and have destinations in other states. During this period, the transit through Lithuania to Russia (44,168 flights), Germany (29,151 flights), Finland (14,404 flights), Latvia (13,902 flights) and China (7,771 flights) was the most common.
The most intense time of the year for aircraft to fly over the Lithuanian skies is mid-summer. In July 2019, the Lithuanian airspace serviced 27.4 thousand of flights. On July 27, the air traffic control centres of the state-owned air traffic company Oro Navigacija recorded the highest number of flights served in the company's history – 968 aircraft per day. In 2018, total 266 thousand aircraft used the airspace of Lithuania – it is by one tenth more than in 2017.
When more cars hit the streets, drivers complain of rush hours, jams and slow traffic. Does the Lithuanian airspace also has peak hours? Higher aircraft flows at the airports of the country are observed in the morning, around lunch and in the evening. Transit flights also have their peak hours. Aircraft fly from major European airports through Lithuania all the time, every hour, thus air traffic control centres operate 24 hours a day.
Heavy traffic usually causes traffic congestion. What happens in case of heavy traffic? How are air traffic congestions regulated? Although accurate flight schedules have been planned, sometimes it happens for several aircraft to arrive at the airport at similar times. Airspace is divided into air traffic control sectors and there is an air traffic controller responsible for each of them. In case of heavy air traffic he is assisted by another, assistant flight controller. Each sector has a fixed number of aircraft that can be serviced per hour. As the number of aircraft approaches the sector's maximum allowable limit, air traffic controllers can regulate the number of aircrafts allowed to their assigned sector or re-route the aircraft, or allocate aircraft to use other flight altitudes, thereby distributing aircraft flows. It is important to note that air traffic controllers take all the measures and successfully organise the traffic to avoid aircraft congestion and delays.
The state enterprise Oro Navigacija is responsible for safe and seamless air traffic in Lithuania. The company owns 5 air traffic control centres with around 88 air traffic controllers in total and dozens of other professionals. Air traffic controllers, who are often confused with pilots, do not actually fly or land aircraft. Their responsibilities in airspace include giving the authorisation for take-off or landing at one of the 4 airports in the country, assessing flight safety, obstacles in the air and on the runway. Air traffic controllers also oversee transit flights through Lithuania and regulate aircraft traffic, entry and exit to/from Lithuanian airspace.
There is no shortage of challenges in the daily routines of air traffic controllers. Although strict procedures and routes are clearly set out in their work, sudden changes in weather conditions and other circumstances require immediate response and a solution. For example, flying an aircraft in a thunderstorm cloud is dangerous and, once the cloud is noticed, it requires the aircraft to change direction and bypass it. The clouds are moving, the altitudes of the storm focal points are different, therefore, prompt arrangements between the pilot and the controller as to where the aircraft should fly, what altitudes it should use, etc. is of high importance. Even turbulence requires a quick response and promptness. When the airplane enters the turbulence area, it experiences bumpiness and the pilots ask to change the flight altitude. In such cases, or in the event of unexpected circumstances, failures, and dangerous, the human factor comes into play and prompt vital decisions have to be made in providing all possible assistance to pilots to reach the aerodrome successfully.
Pilots from different parts of the world flying aircraft are required to maintain the contact with the air traffic control centre of any country. To ensure high quality, fast and clear communication between air traffic controllers and pilots in the sky, the standard English with exclusive phraseology, consisting of certain English words, is used throughout the world. Aviation phraseology is designed in such a way that everyone who needs it can understand it clearly, briefly and without any interpretation. The speech is shortened and concise to save air time during rush hours or in sectors with a large number of aircraft. After all, if everyone speaks English with a specific dialect, they may misunderstand one another, leading to mistakes, and, in turn, to negative consequences. Specific words in English seem to be hardly understandable to the general public, but they imply certain actions or have a special meaning. For example, in movies, you would often hear an airplane pilot telling “roger”, and voice-over often translates that word as the name Rodger. In fact, the word has another meaning in aviation – “I received all the latest information and understood it”. Outsiders, listening to the conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers joke that they are talking bird language, but in fact, they understand each other perfectly and very quickly.
Airspace maintenance is not limited to the work of air traffic controllers. The state-owned air traffic company Oro Navigacija, responsible for airborne traffic, also provides communication, navigation and surveillance, aeronautical information and search and rescue coordination services. The company manages as many as 10 communications, navigation and air traffic management systems to ensure order and flight safety every day, so we may rest assured about the safety of intensive traffic above our heads, or when boarding a plane.
The aviation company of Lithuanian airlines founded on the eve of independence, became the State Flight Service of the Republic of Lithuania under the Ministry of Transport and Communications on 8 October 1991. It was a starting point in the company's history. The company was entrusted with the state surveillance of the airspace of the Republic of Lithuania, its direct management and coordination of air transport operations. On 1 July 1994, during the reorganisation of the Public Air Traffic Control Service of the Republic of Lithuania and the State Inspectorate for Civil Aviation, a special purpose state company Civil Aviation Authority of the Republic of Lithuania was established. Subsequently, as a result of the reorganisation, two separate organisations were set up – the budgetary institution Civil Aviation Administration and the state enterprise Oro Navigacija, operating under this name since 1 July 2001 and successfully overseeing the Lithuanian airspace to this day.
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Balio Karvelio Str. 25, LT-02184 Vilnius
Company code: 210060460
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Tel.: +370 706 94 502,
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