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Aviation growth forces redesign of UK airspace in the South East

21st February, 2008


NATS, National Air Traffic Control Services, has today launched a consultation into possible changes to airspace in the South East of England.

Key proposals include:

  • ‘Spreading out’ of departure routes from Heathrow, Stansted, London City and Northolt,
  • Creation of separate stacks for Luton and Stansted traffic, with Stansted having a second stack,
  • Set routes for arrivals at Luton, Stansted and London City, intended to allow for continuous descent approach at Luton and Stansted,
  • Moving the stack for arrivals at London City, and
  • Changes to departure routes from London City.

The consultation documents state that the NATS proposals would have a ‘negligible’ impact on local air quality, while a balance has been sought in terms of minimising both noise disturbance and carbon emissions (which can increase slightly if longer routes are taken to avoid overflying densely populated areas). “Improvements in fuel efficiency and minimising the number of people overflown below 7000ft were given greater priority than avoiding overflight of AONBs and National Parks.” The consultation gives little indication of possible effects on tranquility, citing the absence of universally accepted metrics for measuring such impacts.

On a flight by flight basis, NATS predicts no improvement in carbon emissions from planes, since reductions in fuel burn from proposed changes to arrivals and stacking would be matched by increased fuel burn from departures (with many departure routes potentially becoming longer than they are at present).

AEF will be studying the documents in detail. We are concerned that changes to flight paths that simply shift noise pollution away from towns and cities into currently tranquil areas do not present an adequate solution to the problem of aircraft noise – set to increase significantly as flight numbers grow. We also note that since improvements in fuel burn from the use of continuous descent approach and changes to stacking arrangements would be offset by increases in fuel burn from departures, these proposals cannot respond in any way to the urgent need to tackle the climate change impacts of aviation.

Consultation documents can be downloaded from The consultation period now runs until 19th June 2008 (extended from the original deadline of 2nd May).