As part of its Airspace Modernisation Strategy, the UK government announced today it would be investing £5.5 million ($7.7 million) to redesign its ‘motorways in the sky’. It said that although there may currently be severe limitations on travel, this will help the industry rebuild ‘better and greener’ as it bounces back from COVID:
Money will go to airports
The money will help support the country’s airports to investigate and evaluate design options for making journeys ‘quicker, quieter, and cleaner’ in order to build back more sustainably on the other side of the crisis.
Pre-pandemic times counted approximately 7,000 aircraft in UK airspace. However, they were (and are) still utilizing flight networks and routes mapped out decades ago. The government says this is contributing to unnecessary delays, as well as noise and pollution.
“As an island nation, our airspace is vital in keeping us connected to the rest of the world. Modernising our ‘sky motorways’ could put an end to the days of circling the airport waiting for a landing slot, improving efficiency, and leading to flights that are quicker, quieter, and greener than ever before,” Aviation Minister Robert Courts said in a statement.
Airspace Modernization Strategy
The funds will be available to airports that have signed up for the Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS). The AMS is developed by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). It sets out a roadmap, as the name implies, modernizing UK airspace through 15 various initiatives in design, technology, and operations and stretches to 2040.
According to the CAA, flights over the UK are calculated (albeit pre-COVID) to grow by 44% from 2015 to 2030 – from 2.25 to 3.25 million. Without modernization, that would mean an average delay of 26.5 minutes, and over one in three flights departing from UK airports would be delayed due to airspace constrictions.
Government reaffirming commitment
While such predictions may have shifted slightly due to the ongoing crisis, when demand bounces back, the problems will not just magically have resolved themselves. The CAA says the new strategy will provide more choice and value for customers, enhance global connections, make journeys more environmentally friendly, and manage noise pollution. It is also intended to provide safer access to airspace for new users such as drones and spacecraft.
“We’re delighted that the government has reaffirmed the essential role that airspace modernisation will play in helping the aviation industry to build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to work with our partners across the industry to ensure this programme is one that delivers for all of the UK,” Mark Swan, head of the Airspace Change Organising Group, said following today’s announcement.
Do you think this time of lull in operations is a good time to reset and reboot? Where should the focus be? Leave a comment below and let us know. And raise your hand if you have ever been in a holding pattern over Heathrow.