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Stansted Airport airspace upgrade enters initial phase

The initial phase will see Stansted Airport host a series of focus groups encouraging people to provide their views on any change to the airport’s airspace.

Stansted Airport airspace upgrade enters initial phase

Credit: London Stansted Airport

Within the UK government’s Airspace Modernisation Programme – in which the government requested that all UK airports review how new technology can best be used to make the airspace that they use more efficient – London Stansted Airport (STN) has now begun work to redesign the network of corridors and flight paths that aircraft use when travelling to and from the airport.

At the beginning of March 2020, Stansted Airport will host a series of focus groups that will encourage people to provide their views on the broad principles that Stansted should follow when designing any change to its airspace. The groups will include members of the public, aviation industry, local businesses, elected representatives, special interest groups, national organisations and community representatives. A full public consultation on Stansted’s future airspace design will begin in 2021.

Topics that will be discussed by the focus groups include: whether it is better to concentrate flights over one area or spread them out more evenly; and how it should account for other airspace users, such as gliders and drones.

A proposed timeline for Stansted Airport’s airspace modernisation programme is as follows:

  • 2020 – gather early views on design principles
  • 2021 – full public consultation
  • 2022 – submit updated proposal to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  • Early 2023 – CAA to assess proposal for Stansted’s airspace modernisation
  • Late 2023 – the earliest new flight paths could start to be introduced.

Nick Millar, Operations Director at London Stansted, said: “When delays start to build up on our roads or rail network, the impact it can have on the ground is all too obvious. It’s easy to forget that we have a similar network in the sky, which our airlines and other airspace users rely on to get from A to B. This upgrade of the UK’s airspace is long overdue and will help make flying much more efficient and environmentally friendly. But we understand the impact aircraft can have on those people living near an airport, which is why we are undertaking a thorough programme of engagement to understand what matters most to our neighbours.”

Millar continued: “This initial phase will help us frame the way we develop our proposals, which will be subject to full public consultation next year. The views of stakeholders and local residents are central to this process, and anybody who wishes to take part is welcome to submit their views.”

As with road and rail, airspace is a critical part of the UK’s national infrastructure. However, much of its design has remained unchanged since the 1950s. With new technology now available – for example, satellite navigation systems – it is now easier for the facilitation of a more efficient use of airspace, as well as decreasing the need for stacking and delays and a reduction of emissions.

Under the government programme, all UK airports are responsible for reviewing their operations up to an altitude of 7,000 feet, and NATS, the UK’s national air traffic service provider, is responsible for aircraft routings above that altitude.

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