• The role of the CAA’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy in relation to airspace changes

    The Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS) fulfils the statutory duty placed upon the CAA by the Secretary of State to have a strategy and a plan for modernising airspace (as required by the Air Navigation Directions 2017, the Directions). The AMS describes the objectives set in UK governmental and international policy for airspace to be modernised, and sets out the work that industry and other entities are required to carry out to deliver that modernisation (the Initiatives). There are currently 15 initiatives, two of which are FASI-S and FASI-N.

    FASI-S and FASI-N are programmes to redesign airspace in the south and north of the UK, including upper airspace structures. These are complex airspace design programmes that require coordination between the different ‘sponsors’ of airspace changes. These sponsors are airports and NERL, (NATS En Route Limited, which mainly manages upper airspace and its design).

    The Directions require the CAA to make airspace change decisions (i.e. decide whether or not to approve the sponsor’s proposed airspace design) in accordance with:

    • the CAA’s airspace change process (CAP1616)
    • the CAA’s strategy and plan for airspace modernisation (the AMS, CAP1711)

    The AMS overall and the airspace change process (CAP1616) apply to all airspace change proposals, whether they are in FASI-S or FASI-N or neither programme. But as identified initiatives in the AMS, and currently in scope of the extended masterplan commission which has at present (May 2021), the CAA treats change proposals in FASI-S and FASI-N programmes differently from others.

    How coordination is considered in regulatory decisions for FASI-S and FASI-N sponsors

    In accordance with the AMS (Chapter 6, para 6.6), the CAA and Department for Transport (DfT), together the co-sponsors of airspace modernisation) have commissioned NERL to develop a single coordination plan for airspace change or, the masterplan for short. NERL has set up the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) to undertake impartial and objective coordination to prepare the masterplan.

    We will use the masterplan to understand the extent to which our regulatory decisions on individual airspace changes need to be made in a coordinated way, i.e. the masterplan should tell us whether there is an interdependence between two or more changes. The masterplan we commissioned is intended to create and evidence this coordination between sponsors. We have decided to take this approach based on the advice provided in the feasibility assessment, which suggested that all sponsors proceed in a coordinated way to understand the conflicts and interdependencies between changes.

    We are currently preparing new regulatory criteria on how we will accept the masterplan (see CAP1887). Once the masterplan has been accepted into the CAA’s AMS, it will form part of our strategy and we will need to make airspace change decisions in accordance with it.

    This means that consideration of the masterplan will apply to FASI-S and FASI-N airspace changes that are in currently scope of ACOG’s masterplan process in addition to consideration of the engagement and consultation requirements in CAP1616.

    Airspace change proposals in the FASI programmes can be viewed on the Airspace Change Portal. 

    Information about the Airspace Modernisation Strategy is available on our website and in document CAP 1711.