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Industry calls for airspace change to allow massive traffic growth

The aviation industry has today launched a campaign calling for Government to commit to airspace modernisation to facilitate a huge increase in the number of flights in UK airspace. The coalition of airports, airlines and air navigation providers, led by NATS, expects flights to increase from 2 million a year in 2015 to 3.1 million in 2030.

Modernisation could, they argue, lead to more direct routings and less delay, improving efficiency and reducing carbon emissions per flight. But the scale of increase in predicted traffic will see any savings dwarfed, while communities, already angry at recent airspace changes, can expect an increase in the frequency of overflights, reducing the potential for respite.

The industry call comes a month ahead of a long-anticipated Government consultation on airspace and noise which is expected to invite comment on future policies on how to manage flightpaths and how noise is assessed, and to give communities a bigger say in decisions.

AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said:

“The industry’s desire to change the structure of airspace is fundamentally about facilitating growth, and the fact that you can shave a few tonnes off the CO2 emissions from a flight by making the route more direct is irrelevant if you’re going to have more and more of those flights.

What we’ve seen from some of the airspace changes and airspace change trials of recent years is that people react very strongly to changes in noise impacts. So you can’t assume that an airspace change will be good for local people based simply on the total number of people affected at a given noise threshold.

Exposing people to noise who have never been had much of it before, or directing flights down very precise routes so that noise becomes incessant for those under the flightpath can both provoke strong reactions.

Airspace change may soon be as controversial in terms of its community impacts as runway expansion.“

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