Provision of ATS over Foreign Territories

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Provision of ATS over Foreign Territories

57TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE, Accra, Ghana, 19-23 March 2018

WP No. 163

Provision of ATS over Foreign Territories

Presented by PLC


For several reasons ATC is sometimes responsible for airspace of two or more countries.

For ATCOs working this airspace, it is essential to be aware of all regulations and in particular differences in procedures and legal liabilities between the neighbouring countries.


1.1 For several reasons (traffic flow, geographical situation, infrastructure, and state contract) ANSPs in certain cases are providing a service not only in their home country, but also over the territory of neighbouring states, within delegated airspace or airspace for which air traffic control services have been delegated to another organization.

1.2 In this working paper, we take a closer look on what has to be observed or which actions have to be taken by the ATCO working airspace overhead a foreign territory during its daily work, and in special situations including but not limited to emergencies, equipment failures, and incidents.


2.1 When providing ATS, the ATCOs work is based on their knowledge and training about the airspace, and all other relevant information needed to provide ATS for their airspace.

2.2 If the airspace given is not their own ANSPs airspace, but airspace which is part of a foreign country, ATCOs are to be made aware of certain essential elements required to fulfill their ATS-related tasks.

2.3 Examples for this are, but not limited to:

  • Airspace classification
  • How the airspace is designed and what rules have to be observed?
  • Airspace layout (routes, fixes, linkages, coordination-partner, neighbouring units)
  • Regulatory framework: country-specific rules of aviation (AIP)
  • Regulatory framework: country-specific rules of ATC (MO-ATS)
  • Legal situation
  • Responsible authorities for reporting issues, technical problems, coordination
  • Who to call and what to do in case of abnormal situations such as emergencies or technical problems?
  • Which rules are valid?
  • Responsible authorities for supervision
  • Civil units in/next to the same area
  • Military units in/next to the same area
  • Who and where are the civil units next to the delegated airspace?
  • Coordination procedures
  • Digital, analog, manual or automatic coordination procedures with receiving or accepting units available?
  • Knowledge about and coordination with military stakeholders available?
  • Backup procedures
  • Legal situation (location where jurisdiction is being set and the appropriate rules)
  • Proficiency training to keep people updated and well trained.

2.4. The list of items above highlights how many constraints have to be taken into account and clarified. This list of constraints is quite extensive and depends on the local situation, the array of scenarios describing how these situations can be solved and implemented in the daily working procedures of the ATCOs. The situations are:

2.4.1 The providing ANSP is using their rules of the air including all methods & principles laid down in the local procedures and Memorandums of Understanding (MoU).

2.4.2 The providing ANSP has to organize the ATS according to the rules of the air laid down in the country where the airspace is located.

2.4.3 It is essential that all parts of such an agreement are written down and clearly understood. Especially when it comes to questions between two parties not sharing the same opinion, there has to be a kind of mediation or decision as soon as possible.

2.5. In all cases personnel have to be informed on working principles in foreign airspace, either following their own rules or adapting everything from the original ANSP. To stay current, provisions have to be put in place to make sure that all involved stakeholders are properly trained for the application of the foreign regulations.

2.6. ICAO states that the delegated airspace is still the airspace of the delegating country and therefore doesn’t change the national sovereignty situation:

ICAO Annex 11

2.1.1 Contracting States shall determine, in accordance with the provisions of this Annex and for the territories over which they have jurisdiction, those portions of the airspace and those aerodromes where air traffic services will be provided. They shall thereafter arrange for such services to be established and provided in accordance with the provisions of this Annex, except that, by mutual agreement, a State may delegate to another State the responsibility for establishing and providing air traffic services in flight information regions, control areas or control zones extending over the territories of the former.

Note — If one State delegates to another State the responsibility for the provision of air traffic services over its territory, it does so without derogation of its national sovereignty. Similarly, the providing State’s responsibility is limited to technical and operational considerations and does not extend beyond those pertaining to the safety and expedition of aircraft using the concerned airspace. Furthermore, the providing State in providing air traffic services within the territory of the delegating State will do so in accordance with the requirements of the latter which is expected to establish such facilities and services for the use of the providing State as are jointly agreed to be necessary. It is further expected that the delegating State would not withdraw or modify such facilities and services without prior consultation with the providing State. […]



There are many different possibilities for arranging the regulatory framework for airspace which covers multiple countries. ATCOs working in such airspace (regardless if this is a control zone, high level UAC-sector or even a FIS area over water) need to be aware of all the different regulations in order to perform their work effectively and safely, especially if they differ from these procedures which will be followed in their home state.

This information shall be available to the ATCO and all other relevant staff (supervisors, flight data assistants, procedure planning officers) at any time.


It is recommended that:


ATCOs working foreign airspace shall be informed about all regulatory framework, requirements, Manual of Operations, Letters of Agreement and procedures valid for such airspace. Procedures shall conform to the agreed terms in contracts between ANSPs.


ATCOs shall be informed about their legal liability when working airspace which includes that over a foreign territory.


International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). (November 2016). Annex 11 – Air Traffic Services, Fourtheenth Edition, Chapter 2 – 2.1.1.


Last Update: October 1, 2020  

December 31, 2019   744   Jean-Francois Lepage    2018    

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