The UK Civil Aviation Authority has today (23 January) set out a vision for the future of UK airspace which will help deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys, as well as create more capacity for the benefit for those who use and are affected by UK airspace.
The aviation and aerospace regulator has developed a refreshed Airspace Modernisation Strategy to make sure that this invisible piece of the UK’s national infrastructure is fit for purpose.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority’s strategy also takes into account the latest developments in innovation and technology, placing integration of all airspace users, and accommodates for new types of aircraft such as drones, aerial taxis (known as eVTOL) and spacecraft.
The structure of the UK’s airspace has remained the same for decades, despite an increase in demand from its users.
Although demand for air travel is recovering after being severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the strategy takes a long-term view to 2040.
The refreshed Airspace Modernisation Strategy includes measures:
- to maintain and, where possible, improve the UK’s high levels of aviation safety;
- to aim for simpler airspace design and supporting regulations;
- to introduce environmental sustainability as an overarching principle to be applied through all modernisation activities, taking account of the latest government policy and environmental guidance;
- to meet the UK’s international obligations, aligning delivery of the strategy with the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Global Air Navigation Plan and ensuring interoperability of the UK network with our neighbours; and
- to provide a clear strategic path for regulatory policy and requirements now that the UK has left the EU and the EU Aviation Safety Agency.
Working with the Department for Transport, the UK Civil Aviation Authority developed the refreshed strategy over the last year after wide engagement with airports, airlines, the general aviation community, innovators, and community groups.
Tim Johnson, Director for Strategy and Policy at the UK Civil Aviation Authority said:
“The strategic vision set out in our refreshed strategy gives us a direction of travel that guides airspace modernisation. It will help make our airspace more environmentally friendly and sustainable, and deliver the many benefits of airspace modernisation.
“Alongside existing users of airspace like commercial air transport, business aviation, recreational flyers and the military, there are new parts of the sector which need to be integrated safely into our existing airspace network. Our strategy enables these different groups to use airspace alongside each other and is a fundamental principle of the strategy.”
Aviation Minister Baroness Vere said:
“It’s easy to forget that above our heads is a complex infrastructure that, while invisible to the naked eye, is as essential to getting around as roads and railways.
“But the future of flying requires a refresh of how we use our skies, and this new strategy will develop the infrastructure to make it fit for the future.”
Notes to Editors
- More information on the Airspace Modernisation Strategy 2023–2040.
- The Secretary of State has given the UK Civil Aviation Authority the function to prepare and maintain a co-ordinated strategy and plan for the use of all UK airspace for air navigation up to 2040, including for the modernisation of the use of such airspace. This is consistent with the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s role as specialist aviation regulator and its statutory responsibilities.
- In line with these duties, in December 2018, the UK Civil Aviation Authority published the Airspace Modernisation Strategy, initially focusing on the period to 2024, replacing our earlier Future Airspace Strategy. We are today publishing a refreshed version of the Airspace Modernisation Strategy to bring it up to date and to widen its scope.
- The UK Civil Aviation Authority and Department for Transport cannot deliver airspace modernisation alone. They will be working collaboratively with a range of aviation organisations, such as air navigation service providers, airports, airlines, manufacturers, representative organisations and, where appropriate, bespoke delivery bodies and local communities to ensure that it is delivered in a coherent and consistent way.
Why is airspace modernisation needed?
- Modernisation is critical to ensure that this invisible piece of the UK’s national infrastructure is fit for purpose for the future. The structure of the UK’s airspace has remained the same for decades, despite an increase in demand from its users. Although demand for air travel has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is rapidly recovering. Even if recovery timescales remain uncertain, it is important to take a long-term view.
- Airspace modernisation will provide more choice and value for consumers, by allowing airlines to add new flights, reducing flight delays and enhancing global connections that can help boost the UK economy, while continuing to improve safety standards and helping make journeys more environmentally friendly. Coupled with the adoption of new technology by existing airspace users, it will also help pave the way for increased safe access for new or rapidly developing airspace users like drones and spacecraft.