Loss of separation due to airspace infringement Schiphol

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On Saturday 15 July 2017 a sport aircraft entered Amsterdam Airport Schiphol airspace without permission. It flew in the vicinity of a flight controlled by air traffic control, approaching the Schiphol-Oost runway for landing. The two aircraft came closer to each other than is allowed by the separation minima. LVNL is investigating the occurrence and has reported the occurrence to the Dutch Safety Board.

What is an airspace infringement?

Internationally, an airspace infringement is defined as: “A flight into notified airspace without previously requesting and obtaining approval from the controlling authority of that airspace in accordance with international and national regulations.”

Occurrence investigation

LVNL’s primary task with regard to safety is to keep aircraft separate from one another (including aircraft combined with vehicles on the ground). Air traffic control reports all occurrences that take place in practice within LVNL, in order to learn from them and to reduce the risk of such occurrences in the future. Within LVNL, all reported occurrences are investigated in order to be able to continuously improve safety.


Situation description

A Cessna Citation approaches to make a landing on the Schiphol East runway from a southwestern direction and receives instructions from Approach control Schiphol. At the same time, a Cessna 172 sport aircraft is flying under the guidance of the Schiphol Tower controller in the Amsterdam Sector, the airspace above the city of Amsterdam. The flight is traveling from Hilversum to Texel and flies briefly above Amsterdam.

The Tower controller informs the Approach controller of this sport aircraft. Subsequently, the Tower controller is notified by Approach of the approach of the Cessna Citation to the Schiphol East runway in approximately 15 minutes.


When the Cessna Citation still has approximately 24 nautical miles (about 45 kilometers) to fly until landing, the Tower controller informs the pilot of the sport aircraft about the expected traffic for the Schiphol East runway. In so doing, the Tower controller requests the area surrounding the final approach of the Schiphol East runway to be cleared. The pilot of the sport aircraft confirms this request.

Shortly thereafter, the sport aircraft leaves the area of responsibility of the Schiphol Tower controller and signs off the frequency. At that time, the sport aircraft is located below the control area of Schiphol Approach. The maximum permitted flying height there is 1,500 feet (about 458 meters).

Unexpectedly and without permission from air traffic control, the sport aircraft climbs into the approach area of Schiphol, to a height of approximately 1,700 feet (about 518 meters). Approach control informs the Cessna Citation, which at that moment is flying at 2,000 feet (about 610 meters) above the climbing sport aircraft. The crew of the Cessna Citation reports that the sport aircraft is in sight. The Tower controller summons the pilot of the sport aircraft (he is incidentally still on the frequency) and states that the sport aircraft must descend below 1,500 feet. The pilot of the sport aircraft confirms this and indicates that he has seen the approach for the Schiphol East runway and that, due to a sick passenger, he has accidentally climbed into the area of Schiphol Approach control.

Air traffic – mostly recreational – that flies below the control area of Schiphol Approach may fly there up to a maximum height of 1,500 feet (about 450 meters). This traffic is not permitted to enter the control area of Schiphol Approach. Schiphol Approach ensures that air traffic under its control does not fly below a minimum height of 2,000 feet (about 600 meters). This ensures that a minimum vertical buffer of 500 feet (about 150 meters) between approaching air traffic for Schiphol Airport and recreational air traffic is always present.


Result of the investigation

Both planes were able to continue their flights without any problems. The crews of both airplanes had continuous visual contact. There were no following flights for the Schiphol East runway for which additional instructions were necessary.

Minimum distance

The minimum distance between the Cessna Citation and the Cessna 172 was 0.5 nautical mile (about 925 meters) horizontally and 300 feet (about 90 meters) vertically.


The event was the result of the Cessna 172 private aircraft flying without permission into the area of Schiphol Approach. The pilot of the sport aircraft has indicated that his passenger became airsick. This briefly required his attention, as a result of which the airplane unintentionally climbed into the control area of Schiphol Approach. The crews of both airplanes had continuous visual contact, so there was no danger of a collision.


Classification: major incident