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UK to detail airspace modernisation strategy

UK authorities are set to unveil plans to overhaul the country’s airspace through a modernisation programme intended to take advantage of air traffic management technology.

Air navigation service NATS was requested last year to assess the technical feasibility of restructuring the airspace to improve efficiency, capacity and reduce noise.

It states that the restructuring will make better use of performance-based navigation and free-route airspace.

The UK government and the Civil Aviation Authority are publishing strategy papers outlining the need for airspace modernisation and the plan for achieving this aim.

Last year more than 2.5 million flight movements took place within the UK flight information region, an increase of nearly 4% on the previous year.

NATS points out that the UK’s airspace has remained largely based on structures developed more than six decades ago, for previous generations of aircraft.

Chief executive Martin Rolfe says it does not permit the best use of modern air traffic management technology and current aircraft capabilities.

He says the “huge” modernisation programme covers up to 15 airports in the busy south-east of the UK.

“Our report for the government has shown that airspace modernisation is feasible and has benefits for local communities, passengers and the environment while also accommodating future growth,” adds Rolfe.

“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.”

NATS states that it expects to handle another 700,000 flights by 2030, and that the airspace overhaul is intended to ensure that they can be accommodated “safely and sustainably” without incurring delays.

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