New films explain need for airspace modernisation

Future Airspace Strategy stakeholders from the aviation industry have produced two films to illustrate the need for modernisation of the UK airspace infrastructure.

The films have been created to explain the strategic need for change and to then show what the future of aviation might look like if change can be introduced. Both films also have a document explaining in more detail some of the concepts and arguments in the films.

The Future Airspace Strategy has been designed to pave the way for new technologies and practices which will make life better for communities, business and passengers.

The structure of the UK’s airspace has evolved over the past 60 years as airports have developed and grown. That means that the existing routes and airport holds are no longer in the best location and that means they don’t unlock the true potential of modern aircraft.

It means that aircraft on some departure routes are held down after take off to avoid other routes above them while others are held down because they have to fly underneath arrival holds.

But today if we could lift the lid on airspace that would enable us to make changes that could benefit many – maybe moving some of the holds so they no longer interfere with other routes and enable aircraft to climb and descend more smoothly rather than in steps.

This will reduce the noise footprint around airports which means that most people will benefit.

Co-chairman of the Future Airspace Strategy Industry Implementation Group (FASIIG), Andy Shand, said: “Airspace and the way aviation uses it is a very complex subject – we felt that the production of these two films would help to explain some of the concepts.

“We now have the technology to change the design of routes which means that in some locations we could position aircraft more flexibly to provide some respite and predictability for local communities repeatedly overflown at low levels while still giving us the flexibility to handle peak flows of traffic.

“Some departure routes are now based on more accurate navigation using GPS instead of ground based beacons, reducing the number of people overflown by as much as 70 per cent and saving hundreds of tonnes of fuel and CO2.

“We can now accurately predict when aircraft will arrive at their destination airport, and absorb delay during the flight, reducing the need for airborne holding.

“Although these changes are complex – the environmental and economic benefits would be significant.  We have already done this in some locations and been able to prove the benefits.”

He added: “Our airspace is a crucial, but largely invisible, part of the UK’s national transport infrastructure. It hasn’t been fundamentally updated for 50 years, despite huge growth in traffic volumes and technical advancement for aircraft and other systems.

“The airspace and route network across the UK is not sufficiently resilient or sustainable to fully meet the country’s future transport needs. The UK is not acting in isolation – the aviation industry globally is changing and modernising the way it works and it is more important than ever that we do not find ourselves isolated from the rest of the world.”

The films can be found HERE.

Author: Kevin Briscoe