The UK Government has launched a long-term plan for sustainable growth to ensure the future of the nation’s aviation economy.
The Aviation 2050 consultation proposes new measures to generate significant benefits to the UK economy and citizens up to 2050 and beyond, including a new passenger charter, practical requirements to reduce emissions and noise levels and more use of innovative technology in a bid to modernise UK airspace to improve efficiency and reduce delays.
NATS said it warmly welcomed the government and UK Civil Aviation Authority’s commitment to making best use of technology to better manage today’s air traffic, reduce the impact of noise on local communities and the wider environment, and create capacity for future flights.
“The Aviation Strategy Green Paper and the CAA’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy explain clearly why we need to modernise UK airspace, how we will achieve that and the roles of all stakeholders in the process,” it said.
In 2017, NATS was tasked by the Secretary of State for Transport to review the technical feasibility of modernising airspace. That report, also published today, concluded that, together with procedures which can reduce noise for those overflown communities near to airports, future growth aspirations could be met.
The UK air navigation service provider said the design of today’s airspace originated in the 1950s for a different generation of aircraft capability and air traffic technology and that in order to better handle today’s traffic levels requires, industry had to make best use of the latest and emerging technologies to manage noise, reduce carbon emissions and increase capacity.
There is a growing evidence base that this can also deliver significant benefit to local communities, it said, pointing to CAA analysis of London City’s airspace modernisation in 2016 that showed that the number of people overflown by aircraft 7,000ft and below has been reduced by 1.2 million.
“We will continue to work with local communities to strike the right balance between their interests and those of people wishing to fly. With a further 700,000 flights expected by 2030, we also need to ensure they can be accommodated safely and sustainably, without significant delays and cancellations, providing the connectivity for an open and global Britain.”
The government said that it plans to embed noise exposure levels into the planning approval process, the introduction of noise caps which will be regularly reviewed and enforced, along with the appointment of a Chair of the new independent commission on civil aviation noise. Tackling climate change will also be a key requirement of future growth.
Martin Rolfe, NATS chief executive, said: “NATS has been tasked with co-ordinating and delivering this huge programme which involves up to 15 airports in south east England, and we will be working closely together to ensure that we deliver the very best options for change that modern technologies allow.
“We have been clear that modernisation is about more than just increased capacity. It can deliver improved management of noise and lower levels of carbon emissions which we know are just as important as being able to handle additional flights.”
Commenting on the launch of the aviation strategy, Professor Graham Braithwaite, director of transport systems at Cranfield University, said: “The aviation strategy green paper is a welcome step towards enabling the UK to unlock the potential of digital aviation. As technological advances enable greater integration between aircraft and emerging technologies such as such as drones and autonomous vehicles, it is vital that regulations and legislation keep pace.”