The Airport Operators Association has welcomed the UK government’s announcement of a further £3.7m towards Airspace Modernisation.

The additional funds were announced by Aviation Minister Robert Courts last week, with the aim of ‘redesigning the UK’s motorway in the Skies.’ The additional funding is on top of £5.5m in government investment announced in 2021. The money will be used to support the Government’s programme to modernise the UK’s airspace for the first time since the 1950s, helping the industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and create an efficient airspace ready for future aerospace developments.

The funding programme will help 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.

Programme will deliver quicker, quieter, cleaner journeys

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee 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.”

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. Courts 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 £3.7 million 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.”

Critical national infrastructure project is “long overdue”

Mark Swan, Head of the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), said: “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 UK airspace from commercial planes to private aircraft, the military and drones.

In recent years, this has led to increased flight delays, noise and pollution. Redesigning the airspace 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 per cent of CO2 savings by 2050. During the next stage, airports will launch public consultations on their proposed airspace changes.

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