Airline chief to head major UK airspace overhaul

Sir Timothy Anderson is to chair a cross-industry group overseeing the newly created Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), coordinating a £150 million airspace change programme, which forms part of the UK’s airspace modernisation strategy.

He will leave his current role as chief operating officer of Flybe and take up his new role in September.

The announcement completes the senior leadership of this important new group, following the appointment last month of Mark Swan from the UK Civil Aviation Authority to head the ACOG team reporting into the steering group. The steering group also includes senior executives representing airlines, airports and UK air navigation service provider NATS.

Anderson said: “The UK’s airspace structures have served the nation well but our dependence on air transport, and its continuing growth, drive an inescapable need to modernise our airspace design and use. By doing this intelligently we will increase capacity safely, and be able to exploit emerging technologies and smart design principles to ensure that we minimise the environmental impacts to tolerable levels. ‘Low-to-no’ carbon is an entirely plausible direction of travel and one that we all can and should embrace.”

Modernising the UK’s airspace is designed to reduce the environmental impact of aviation and increase capacity, making journeys cleaner, quieter and quicker. Combined with the development of new technology, the programme aims to:

  • help to reduce aviation’s carbon emissions, contributing to ambitions such as the global industry goal to reduce net emissions by 50 per cent by 2050
  • reduce the need for stacking, where aircraft join a circular queue to land at busy airports, helping to reduce carbon emissions and noise impact
  • create opportunities for airports to manage how noise impacts local communities, including the potential for ‘planned breaks’ for noise respite
  • increase the resilience of the air traffic network, so we can all be more confident that both holidays and travelling for work will not be affected by unnecessary delays
  • increase airport capacity, providing more choice and better value for passengers.

New technology may also provide opportunities to reduce the amount of controlled airspace used by airports for commercial flights, allowing greater access for general aviation users.

Over the next decade, ACOG will coordinate more than 15 airspace change projects across 14 airports and higher level airspace. The steering group that Anderson will chair includes representatives from airlines, airports, NATS and the Infrastructure & Projects Authority. In developing its programme, ACOG will engage with a wide range of industry, environmental and community stakeholders.

ACOG was commissioned by the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) and the Civil Aviation Authority, and operates as an independent body within NATS.

Martin Rolfe, NATS chief executive, who was tasked with setting up ACOG, added: “We are very fortunate to secure Sir Timothy Anderson.  He has a formidable track record and extremely relevant experience. I can’t think of a better person to chair the steering group and support the delivery of this vital programme.”