CAA’s Andrew Haines says UK airspace ‘needs to be modernised’ in order to add a SE runway
In a blog by Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Andrew Haines, he says unless UK airspace is modernised, and around London in particular, “then we will not be able to use that additional runway wherever it is because the levels of congestion we have are very severe.”… “Effectively the airspace structures have not been redesigned since the 1960s and 1970s. We’re not using modern technology, we’re using an incremental approach to flight paths which means it’s not the most efficient.” He admitted that flight paths and noise are a problem for communities. People living 30 or more miles from an airport can now be very negatively impacted by plane noise, due to the way flight paths are now concentrated – as part of the drive for modernisation. Airspace is more “efficient” for the aviation industry if flights follow set routes, rather than being more dispersed. Andrew Haines says the ability to “massively concentrate traffic” would be “brilliant” if that could be done over an unpopulated area (but we have no unpopulated areas in the densely populated south east). He adds that although the CAA approves modifications to airspace design, this is ultimately down to government policy, because “who should suffer most and least from noise is a political decision”. But the DfT said: “We are currently reviewing existing airspace and noise policies and will consult on proposals in due course.” Meaning after a runway decision. Not before.
LAMP (London Airspace Management Programme)
There is detail on the CAA website about LAMP Phase 1A. https://www.caa.co.uk/Commercial-industry/Airspace/Airspace-change/Decisions/London-Airspace-Management-Programme-Phase-1A/
All the changes came into effect on 4th February 2016. There are details on that CAA webpage about LAMP Phase 1A:
Module A – Stansted SID switch
Module B – London City RNAV-1
Module C – London City network
Module D – Luton and Northolt SID changes
Module E – changes to airspace over the Solent and Isle of Wight
It is understood that, because of the extent of anger, upset, opposition and despair expressed by tens of thousands of people, exposed to flight path changes, that the CAA had to put further stages of LAMP on hold, in 2014. Dave Curtis from the NATS said this at a CAGNE meeting on 25th April 2016. The plan is for LAMP to return by 2023 / 2024.
Mr Curtis said LAMP was put on hold because it pitched communities against each other with proposed new routes outside of the NPRs (Noise Preferential Routes). ie. over people who had not previously been over-flown.
London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) Phase 1A
LAMP 1A is a major airspace change proposal affecting airspace arrangements in south-east England, from Stansted to the Isle of Wight. The package has been developed over the last three years and was submitted to the CAA in February 2015.
It is intended to modernise airspace structure, improve operational efficiency and environmental performance, minimise delays and deliver safety benefits. It includes five separate airspace change proposals (ACPs) some of which are inter-related and cannot occur unless other of the airspace changes also take place. The overall fuel and CO2 savings, which are an important factor when considering these ACPs, are only delivered if all the modules are implemented.
UK airspace ‘needs to be modernised’ ahead of expansion
13 September 2016 (Hayling Insider)
Airlines will not be able to utilise new airport capacity in south-east England unless airspace is modernised, the head of the UK’s aviation regulator has said.
Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Andrew Haines claimed that expanding Heathrow or Gatwick without redesigning airspace would be “like building a brand new car park and forgetting to build the access road to it”.
In an interview with the Press Association, Mr Haines said: “Unless we modernise our airspace, in London in particular but the UK as a whole, then we will not be able to use that additional runway wherever it is because the levels of congestion we have are very severe.
“Effectively the airspace structures have not been redesigned since the 1960s and 1970s. We’re not using modern technology, we’re using an incremental approach to flight paths which means it’s not the most efficient.”
Mr Haines went on to say that flight paths have more impact on noise levels for local communities than the location of runways.
“How you configure the airspace probably has more noise impact on the local community than anything else,” he said. “It’s not an issue that has got anything like the same level of political or media attention as runways.” [Some might question that statement ….]
Stack holdings are used by the UK’s national air traffic service (Nats) for arriving aircraft when they cannot land immediately. Flights enter at the top of the stack at around 11,000 feet and spiral down to 7,000 feet before being cleared to land.
But advancements in navigation technology mean it is possible for aircraft to queue in straight lines and make their final approach at the right moment. This system, known as linear holding, can be done at 20,000 feet, cutting noise levels for those living under the aircraft, reducing fuel efficiency and maximising the use of airport capacity.
Mr Haines said new technology allows air traffic controllers to “massively concentrate traffic” and it would be “brilliant” if that could be done over an unpopulated area. [Mr Haines may be aware that in the densely populated south east of England, there are no unpopulated areas. And hardly any lightly populated areas. AW note]
But he insisted the impact on communities must be considered when making changes to flight paths, which he described as “highly contentious”.
He added that although the CAA approves modifications to airspace design, these must match Government policy because “who should suffer most and least from noise is a political decision”.
A DfT spokesman said: “We are currently reviewing existing airspace and noise policies and will consult on proposals in due course.” [ie. after a runway decision has been made by government, in the absence of clear policy on noise. AW comment].
The Davies Commission recommended in July last year that a third runway should be built at Heathrow. Other shortlisted options are extending the airport’s existing northern runway or building a second runway at Gatwick.
Mr Haines claimed it would be wrong to think that expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick would be “materially easier than the other” in terms of managing the impact on communities.
He said that from a noise perspective Gatwick “obviously has fewer people affected” but those residents have lower ambient noise and “tend to react much more strongly to increases”.
Martin Rolfe NATS blogs illustrate the irreconcilable conflict between increased plane noise and community tolerance
Martin Rolfe, the CEO of NATS, writes blogs – putting the NATS points of view. He talks largely to an industry audience, but has to try to avoid irritating members of the public who find being noisily overflown unacceptable. A couple of these blogs are below, and a response sent to some complainants. The thing that stands out is the language used by the airspace management industry. They like to hide behind the complexity of the process, hoping this will obscure details and make it difficult for the public to understand. Both NATS and the CAA have the difficulty that they get their money from the airlines, and it is not in their interests to do anything other than benefit them. Both realise they have a real problem with the amount of anger, upset, misery and opposition there now is to exposure to high levels of aircraft noise. Both have a real problem in attempting to cram ever more flights, ever more flight paths – and concentrated flight paths – into the skies over crowded areas. Unfortunately for them, most of the UK – the south east in particular – is densely populated. There ARE no empty areas for flight paths to over fly in the south east. So the only thing on offer is to try and tweak the noise a bit, shift it slightly from one place to another, and make communities fight it out between themselves as to who is to be worst affected. The concept of “enough is enough” is not in the mindset of the CAA or of NATS.
Airspace change to go live
NATS has today (3 February) announced that its Airspace Change Proposal for the first phase of the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) will be implemented tomorrow (4 February), following approval by the CAA in November 2015.
The changes pave the way for wider modernisation of airspace to deliver more efficient flights, saving fuel and reducing CO2 emissions, and reducing noise, keeping aircraft higher for longer and minimising areas regularly overflown.
The changes include:
- A Point Merge arrival system [see image below] for London City Airport. This is over the sea and will replace conventional routes which are over land
- New alignments for London City departure routes that pass over Essex and Kent. Other existing routes at the airport are being replicated to RNAV standard, which will enable aircraft to climb to higher altitudes more quickly
- Daytime traffic departing Stansted [see image below] that today heads towards the south will move onto the existing eastbound routes to allow aircraft to climb higher more quickly
High level changes, at 7,000ft and above, will also be implemented along the south coast affecting Bournemouth, Southampton and TAG Farnborough airports. This will mean fewer flights over land.
The decision by the CAA followed a series of public consultations by NATS, London City and TAG Farnborough airports as part of the Airspace Change Proposal.
This project has benefitted from European Union funding under the Innovation and Networks Agency (INEA) / Connecting Europe Facility (CEF).
FAS – Future Airspace Strategy
Why is an airspace strategy needed?
Aviation relies on the scarce resource that is airspace to ensure that passengers, businesses, the military and leisure flyers enjoy the many benefits aviation brings.
The basic structure of the UK’s airspace was developed over forty years ago. Since then there have been huge changes, including a hundred fold increase in demand for aviation.
Throughout Europe there is a move to simplify and harmonise the way airspace and air traffic control is used through the Single European Sky project. In the UK and Ireland we’re meeting those and other issues through the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) which sets out a plan to modernise airspace by 2020.
UK and Irish airspace is run as a combined Functional Airspace Block to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
More information is available in Future Airspace Strategy for the United Kingdom 2011 to 2030.
The “Future Airspace Strategy for the United Kingdom 2011 to 2030″ by the CAA makes no mention at all of communities overflown, or of the problem of noise – or any mention at all of the problems aviation and plane noise has outside the industry. It appears, in 2011, that this was not even considered. At all.