Things you may not know about airspace change
1. Our current airspace was designed in the 1950’s
That’s right, as Britain was recovering from the devastation of World War 2 we had approximately 195,000 aircraft using the most efficient routes of the day. We still use those same basic route structures today – except we have 90% more aircraft in the sky. This leads to system delays and inefficiencies, which is why we are developing UK wide airspace change proposals to upgrade Britain’s airspace.
2. Britain remains the global aviation leader
The UK has always been a leader in the aviation industry; from piloting the first transatlantic flight to the development of Concorde, we have a proud history to draw on. However, it’s important that the UK aviation industry continues to innovate and seizes the opportunity to build back better, ensuring our reputation as a world leading aviation hub remains. Airspace modernisation, a plan to update flight routes and create greater efficiencies in airspace, is one way to do just this.
3. Britain is keeping pace with airspace change around the globe
Airspace modernisation is not unique to the UK. Globally, airspace structures have seen significant levels of investment in recent years, mainly driven by airport developments in the Middle East, the Far East and China. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is ensuring these operational improvements are harmonised globally through the Aviation System Block Upgrades (ASBU) framework. The UK aviation industry is, therefore, investing in airspace change to maintain the country’s connectivity and status as a global hub for aviation and keep pace with international developments.
4. Airspace modernisation is being designed to help Britain meet its net zero ambitions
We know that aviation contributes to the total emissions generated by the UK and the industry is committed to reducing these. The outdated airspace structures don’t help with aircraft frequently flying further than necessary, using routes that follow suboptimal climb and descent profiles. This means they burn more fuel and create additional CO2 emissions. Upgrading our airspace will therefore mean reduced holding patterns and fewer miles flown per aircraft, meaning less fuel being burnt and carbon emitted.
5. Airspace modernisation will support the future growth of international trade in the UK
Airspace modernisation will build the infrastructure needed to facilitate new Trade Agreements with countries around the world. An upgraded airspace infrastructure will reinforce that the UK is a great place to visit and do business, attracting investment, tourists and the global trading opportunities that the country needs to succeed.
6. The technology for reimagining airspace is already in place
Simplifying airspace by leveraging modern technology such as Performance Based Navigation (PBN) will make it easier for today’s aircraft to fly more direct routes, with quicker climbs to energy-efficient cruising altitudes and later descents to help reduce emissions, and overall noise impacts. All that’s left to do is for ACOG to help coordinate the series of airspace changes being developed by UK airports.
7. Almost 300 million passengers travelled through UK airspace in 2019
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, analysis produced by NATS showed that if airspace structures were not upgraded, passenger delays were expected to increase sharply as traffic levels increased: it forecast that by 2030, passengers could face delays on average of 30 minutes on every 1 in 3 flights if no action is taken.8 With traffic levels expected to recover to 2019 levels in the next three to five years and grow thereafter, the need to improve the resilience of our skies remains a key driver for modernising airspace.
8. UK businesses rely on air freight to trade their goods
UK businesses depend on aviation to enable them and their goods to move around the globe. With air freight accounting for up to 40% of UK imports and exports by value in 2019, our airspace will ensure that businesses can move goods across the globe, crucial for the future of a global Britain.
9. Aviation and airspace support the UK economy
The UK enjoys strong global connectivity through its airspace industry. October 2018 to October 2019, pre-pandemic, saw over £345 billion worth of imports to the UK and over £490 billion worth of exports from the UK. In 2018, there were also over 2.2 million Air Traffic Movements from UK airports,10 more than 292 million passengers travelling through UK airports and over 2 million tonnes of freight moved.
10. Airspace modernisation is happening now
All 21 airports currently involved in the programme are progressing plans to upgrade their areas of airspace up to 7000ft, while NATS modernises the airspace above that. ACOG has been set up to coordinate the programme and ensure that the proposals knit seamlessly together and create an airspace fit for the future. To stay updated please follow the link – www.acog.aero