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Aerodrome Safeguarding

Aerodrome safeguarding ensures the safety of aircraft in the vicinity of an aerodrome by controlling potentially hazardous development and activity around it.  Belfast City Airport are Certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).  To comply with the terms of this certificate, BCA need to ensure that developments surrounding the airfield do not compromise any aspect of the operation.  This is referred to as 'safeguarding'.  A principle objective is to ensure structures do not impact on Instrument Flight Procedures or Navigation Aids.

There are three main types of aerodrome safeguarding:

  • Physical - protects a set of flight safety surfaces up to a 30km radius around the airfield.
  • Technical - protects aircraft navigational equipment from interference or disruption
  • Wildlife Management - prevents development areas from creating an environment attractive to birds

Safeguarded maps of 30km radius centred on the aerodrome indicate the areas, or Obstacle Limitation Surfaces (OLS), within which developments that could have a detrimental effect on aircraft operations require consultation with the aerodrome.


Areas of development interest within 15km of the airport:

  • Tall structures
  • Cranes or other construction equipment (within 6km)
  • Landscaping schemes which could encourage wildlife (within 13km)
  • Lighting and illuminated signage which could dazzle pilots or air traffic controllers
  • Use of Chinese lanterns or balloon releases
  • Firework displays
  • Developments using highly reflective materials such as glazed roofs or photo voltaic cells
  • Masts or antennas emitting signals which could interfere with airport navigation aids

Areas of development interest within 30km of the airport:

  • Wind Turbines


The physical impact cranes can have on aircraft flight safety surfaces can affect aircraft operations, and pilots need to be fully aware of the location and height of any cranes which could impact their flight path. 

Crane operators should consult the aerodrome for permission to work if a crane is to be used within 6km of the airfield and its height exceeds 10m or that of the surrounding structures or trees, completing a crane request form. It will then go through an approval process at the airport, and various caveats may be applied such as lowering the maximum height of the crane when the aerodrome is in Low Visibility Procedures.  An Instrument Flight Procedures (IFP) assessment may be required, depending on the height and location of the proposed crane, which is carried out by NATS (National Air Traffic Services) at a cost to the crane operator / developer.

Download the crane request form.

All completed crane request forms (BCA/F/020) should be forwarded to

Wind Turbines

Wind turbines can also pose a physical infringement on flight surfaces, however in addition to this, they can also cause problems with aircraft navigation aids, air traffic control radars, and can cause turbulence. The airport is responsible for assessing any proposed wind turbine sites within 30km of the aerodrome, to ensure safety for aircraft is maintained. 

The Planning Authority will forward wind turbine applications, which fall within the safeguarded area, to the airport for assessment, who in turn may request that National Air Traffic Services (NATS) also assess it for any effect on navigational aids and radar.

Landscaping and Wildlife

Aircraft are vulnerable to bird strikes which can cause aviation incidents and accidents therefore it is important that the airport manage this risk.  80% of bird strikes occur on the take-off or landing phase of flight which highlights the necessity for wildlife management on and around the airfield. The airport is responsible for monitoring bird activity within a 13km radius of the aerodrome. This is to mitigate the bird strike risk to aircraft and be aware of what species we have in the local area.

Any proposed developments which are looking to include landscaping or water features which may increase the risk of bird strike to aircraft must be forwarded to the airport for assessment. This includes landfill sites, wetlands and nature reserves.  Wildlife attractants during the construction phase should also be considered.

Firework Displays, Laser Shows, Balloon/Kite/Lantern Releases, Tethered Unmanned Gas Balloons, etc.

These can distract or endanger aircraft therefore the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) offer guidance for anyone planning such an event in order to alert pilots and air traffic control in advance.  The CAA are able to offer advice on any sort of event and strongly recommend that you contact them if you are planning a show near an airfield or where aircraft regularly fly. See for advice.


Belfast City Airport can provide safeguarding related advice to developers and construction companies upon request to and the Airport Operators Association (AOA) publish very useful concise Advice Notes ( on all of the topics listed above.

Drones / Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) / Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

(Hereafter, all above referred to as ‘drones’)

Drones are now widely available for commercial and recreational use and can cause injury or damage if they are not used responsibly, therefore they are subject to safety rules, which are underpinned by UK law. 

Rules have been established to provide a safe environment in which drones can be flown without coming into conflict with manned aircraft and without risk to other people or properties with some specific additional steps that must be taken if a drone is being flown for ‘aerial work’, such as, you must be in possession of a Permission issued by the CAA before you conduct any aerial work with your drone. You can find details about the requirements to fly a drone commercially from the CAA.

Anyone using a drone needs to be aware of the regulations contained in the Air Navigation Order (ANO). 

Air Navigation Order (ANO), Amendment 2019:

Article 94(2) The remote pilot is directly responsible for ensuring that the aircraft is flown safely.

Article 94(3) The remote pilot must not fly the aircraft out of his/her sight in order to ensure that collisions can be avoided.

It is illegal to fly SUAs inside an airport Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) without permission. If your drone endangers the safety of an aircraft it is a criminal offence & you could go to prison for 5 years.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidelines & NATS advice can be found at:

400ft height restriction above the surface of the earth, for all drones, unless exempted by CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).


Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) around aerodromes (EASA certified, national licenced & government), see map below, consisting of the following at Belfast City Airport:

  1. the aerodrome traffic zoneat the aerodrome
    • centred on the runway mid-point with a radius of 2nm, extending from the surface up to 2,000ft above the level of the aerodrome.
  2. any runway protection zones at the aerodrome
  • 5km in length by 1km in width that extend from each runway threshold into the approach to that runway, extending from the surface up to 2,000ft above the level of the aerodrome

You MUST NOT fly a small unmanned aircraft within the flight restriction zone of a protected aerodrome without first ensuring that you have permission to do so.

The flight restriction zone is active at all times & applies to all small unmanned aircraft of any mass (even very small ‘toys’).

Flight Restriction Zone (FRZ) for Drones around George Best Belfast City Airport:

Where drone has a mass of 250grams or > there is a requirement for:

  • Drone operators to be registered & valid registration number to be displayed on the aircraft.
  • Competency of remote pilots to be tested.

Permissions for Drones/SUA flights:

CircumstancesConditionsPermission Required from
Outside of Aerodrome FRZFlight > 400ftCivil Aviation Authority (CAA)
Within Aerodrome FRZFlight to take place during notified hours of ATC.Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Belfast City Airport

Please notify ATC at least 2 weeks before intended flight.

NSF Approval is required in advance (see below)
Note: it may be possible to also obtain ATC permission to fly a drone > 400ft if the air traffic situation can permit this.
Flight to take place outside of operational hours of ATC.Belfast City Airport Aerodrome Operator

Please notify BCA at least 2 weeks before intended flight.
Note: aerodrome operator cannot permit drone flight > 400 ft.

Drone flights are considered as non-standard and therefore permission, where required, is achieved by applying for a Non-Standard Flight (NSF) approval via where drone operators complete a form to provide the appropriate information about their intended flight.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) or Operations at Belfast City Airport will then reply to the operator and may:

  • provide operator with an advanced strategic approval for the flight
  • possibly require operator to acquire clearance from ATC and/or Airport Security on the day of the flight.

Drone operators also require landowner permission to fly. An example of this, in the vicinity of Belfast City Airport, is Belfast Harbour Estate who can be contacted via ‘Port Access’ on

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