What’s big in Japan
Sorry about the pun
Yep, it was terrible and I can only apologise.
In case (because) it probably didn’t make sense, this post is about some news in the Japanese aviation world – namely changes to their airspace which you may, or may not, be aware are coming.
Japanese airspace changes
Japan is reworking their entire air traffic control system and it is expected to be finalised by spring of 2025.
First up, that might seem far away, but it really isn’t, and second of all, it is very likely to be finalised by then because Japan tend to work strictly and efficiently to the timeframes they set.
The change will mean their airspace can accommodate 2 million flights per year.
Which might not seem huge, but it is huge because it’s a 10% increase on what they currently manage. By 2025 they are forecasting a rise from 60 to 270 on ground delays, increasing from an average of 8 minutes to a whopping 25 minutes (or cancellations).
So improvement is needed…
How are they going to do this?
Well, it has actually started already, with a redesign of the western en-route airspace already complete, and the eastern airspace redesign underway now (2023). Eurocontrol have been involved, helping establish the separation between upper and lower airspace.
The end result will see the four regional control centres become three.
There will be one centre covering all high-altitude travel (everything about FL335) and then two lower level east and west sectors.
There are also plans for a new digital management system which will consolidate takeoff and landing info, flight routes and weather. In other words info on congestion levels and all things impacting ops will be centralised and easily shared with airport operators and flight operators.
What you need to know (practically)
Japanese airspace is currently broken into 4 main regions:
- Sapporo ACC: 6 sectors
- Fukuoka ACC: 11 sectors
- Tokyo ACC: 22 secvtors
- Naha ACC: 3 sectors
After the redesign it will comprise of only three:
- Fukuoka UAC: Handles everything about FL335 and oceanic
- Kobe ACC: Manages the western region below FL335
- Tokyo ACC: Manages the eastern region below FL335
Basically, instead of a horizontal division of control it will be vertical, and there will be less handovers required making for easier management and more efficient routings.
Everything sounds great
It is, mostly. But in addition to the redesign, there is some other good and less good news for Japanese aviation (or rather you, operating in it) at the moment.
Starting with the good: NOPAC CHANGES
The NOPACs are 5 parallel routes between Alaska and Japan. From Feb 2023 changes have been a-happening:
- The two most southerly routes (R591 and G344) were removed. The waypoints along them remain though.
- User preferred routes became available in airspace south of A590 (where the two now removed routes were)
- Remaining route separation is 50nm RNAV 10 (between R220, R580 and A590)
More is coming:
- Two new routes are planned to be added, and A590 will be removed – leaving 4 routes. M523 will start up in 2024 (westbound)
- Separation will be reduced to 23nm PBSC/RNP4
- Which means changed to capability will come in (RCP 240, RSP 180) during Phase 1b. A590 will still be available (eastbound) for non PBCS traffic
- New route N507 will appear in mid 2024 for aircraft between FL340 and FL400
The Bad: AIRSPACE INCURSIONS
Russian and Chinese bombers flew a joint mission over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea and got very close to Japanese airspace. Very close but not in I will emphasise.
The region, particularly over the South China Sea, is volatile at the moment and there has been an increase in military traffic in the region. Chinese exercises around Taiwan have disrupted operations, while unannounced missile testing by North Korea has impacted the region close to the Japanese EEZ.
Operators should remain cautious, check notams and ensure crew remain on frequency and in contact with ATC at all times.
Here’s where we found the news: