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New government funding to help modernise the UK’s airspace


The UK government claims that faster, quieter and greener flights are one step closer today thanks to an extra £3.7 million being invested in redesigning the UK’s ‘motorways in the sky’.

It says that the funding will support a programme to modernise the UK’s airspace for the first time since the 1950s, “helping the aviation industry build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic and create a resilient, efficient airspace that is fit for the future”.

It adds that the extra cash will support airports to develop new, more efficient flight routes that make use of modern technology, such as Performance Based Navigation, which will enable aircraft to fly more precise routes.

Today’s £3.7m in new funding brings the total funding to £9.2 million, after an initial round of investment in March 2021, and is being provided on an exceptional basis while the sector recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

Aviation Minister, Robert Courts, announced the funding boost from London City Airport, one of the airports to receive a share of the initial funding last year.

He said: “By redesigning our skies, we are creating a modern UK airspace that is fit for future generations and makes journeys quicker, quieter and greener.

“This £3.7m in funding will support the industry in upgrading our airspace, allowing the aviation sector to continue to grow while we build back greener, cut carbon emissions and deliver on our ambitious plans to reach ‘Jet Zero.”

Mark Swan, head of the airspace change organising group (ACOG), noted: “The announcement of today’s funding enables the industry to move on confidently to the next stage of modernising the UK’s airspace.

“This programme is a critical national infrastructure project for the UK and will deliver benefits across the country – from increasing efficiencies in the routes aircraft fly to supporting the industry to deliver its net zero targets.

“With airspace not updated since the 1950s, it remains a programme that is long overdue.

“Today’s additional funding maintains momentum behind the programme following its remobilisation and we look forward to our continued engagement with the Government, CAA and airspace change sponsors in delivering airspace modernisation for the country.”

The airport sponsors of the programme will resume responsibility for funding future stages, as the sector continues its recovery.

Britain’s airspace is made up of a complex network of flight paths that have seen little development since they were designed 70 years ago, despite a surge in demand on our airspace from commercial planes to private aircraft, the military and drones.

In recent years, this has led to increased flight delays, noise and pollution. Without action, the UK’s congested airspace could have meant that passengers would have seen 30-minute delays on 1 in 3 flights by 2030.

Redesigning the airspace, argues the government, will enable aircraft to fly more direct, precise routes, with faster climbs and a reduced need for holding patterns – cutting up to an approximate 600,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, according to early analysis.

Alongside moving to best-in-class aircraft and more efficient aviation operations, airspace modernisation could help to deliver up to 36% of Co2 savings by 2050.

The government notes that its plans to modernise the UK’s airspace are just one of a number of measures that will make up Britain’s strategy to deliver net zero aviation by 2050, or ‘Jet Zero’, which is set to be published this year.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the UK’s Airport Operators Association, said: “We welcome today’s announcement by government of a further £3.7 million towards airspace modernisation on top of the £5.5m in government investment announced last year.

“This will give airports some essential support to continue this crucial programme of upgrading the UK’s airspace and deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys.

“The UK’s airspace is our invisible infrastructure in the sky, vital to the UK’s connectivity and to the delivery of government agendas like global Britain. Airspace Modernisation is also essential to support aviation as it aims to build back better, so that a recovery to pre-pandemic passenger levels can be delivered with a reduced impact on the environment.

“We look forward to working with government and the Airspace Change Organising Group to deliver modernisation and to help achieve aviation’s net zero by 2050 commitment.”

1 Comment

  1. Nick von Schoenberg 21st January 2022

    Everyone is always happy about big cheques coming from the government, but don’t be too quick to believe all the hype. Ground-based delays and runway capacity are the most significant bottlenecks in the system and more direct routes don’t help that. My prediction: get used to more frequent and longer delays as we come out of this pandemic. Don’t believe the hype.


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