The efficient movement of aircraft on the ground and through airspace will reduce the environmental impact of aircraft. If planes can fly more direct routes and are not held in stacks or on taxi-ways on the ground they will have less impact on the environment both in terms of reducing emissions and aviation noise.
One example of this is the Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) technology which enables aircraft to fly routes with greater accuracy. One effect of greater accuracy is an increased concentration of aircraft along defined routes and less dispersion – which in turn has the potential for reducing the number of residents overflown but also the potential for increasing noise impacts for those beneath the defined routes. Further information about PBN and its effects can be found in the Airports Commission’s 2015 report on PBN.
How air traffic is managed in the UK
The CAA is the national airspace regulator with powers given to it by Government. Locally, it is the airport that is responsible for managing what is known as terminal airspace. Airports appoint air traffic control companies to ensure that aircraft operate in a safe manner when arriving and departing from airports. Outside of terminal airspace, once planes are en-route they are managed by NATS, the UK provider of this air traffic control service. Please visit the NATS website for more information on what NATS are doing to improve the environmental performance of air traffic. If an airport or air traffic controller wants to change the way that airspace is operated they have to make an airspace change proposal for the CAA to consider.
The UK Government has provided guidance for the CAA to help it consider environmental objectives when assessing airspace change proposals.
Airports are required to consult local communities on airspace change proposals – including the environmental effect to these communities.
Using airspace more efficiently
Airspace is managed nationally and internationally. When aircraft fly internationally, they move through the airspace managed by other countries. To increase the efficiency of airspace use and management across Europe, the Single European Sky project has been set up.
The CAA has contributed to this through the Future Airspace Strategy, which sets out the UK's current thinking around how airspace can be used more efficiently.