Gatwick flight path changes revealed as 12 week airspace consultation launched

Gatwick airport has started another consultation on changes to its flight paths. This will last for 12 weeks and end on 15th August. The earlier “consultation” done by Gatwick, that ended on 15th May did not include any flight path details, which many who attended the exhibitions found frustrating. Gatwick’s consultation is complex and not intended to be easy for a non-expert to understand. It is rich in acronyms and jargon, that is not properly explained. One could conjecture that making the consultation so hard to understand is deliberate. At its heart  the consultation is about Gatwick managing to get more planes using its current flight paths, with changes to get planes taking off separating earlier, so more planes can use the runway with shorter intervals between them. There remains the issue of whether the noise should be concentrated down narrow routes, or dispersed in “swathes” of several kilometres. The Noise Preferential Routes, for planes below 3,000 feet or 4,000 feet, are meant to be routes where the least noise nuisance is caused. However, planes above 4,000 feet are still a real noise irritation. Gatwick’s proposals for more planes on more routes will mean many more people being exposed to a lot more plane noise, either way.



Gatwick flight path changes revealed as consultation launched

23 May 2014  (BBC)

One of the flight-path mapsThe consultation documents include maps of the various flight-paths

Possible alterations to flight paths to and from Gatwick Airport have been revealed.

The airport said no new communities will be flown over, with the exception of those affected by a potential new departure route to the west of the airport.

12-week consultation on the changes will finish on 15 August.

Gatwick has submitted plans for a second runway to the Airports Commission.

Tom Denton, head of corporate responsibility at Gatwick said: “We want to minimise noise for as many people as we possibly can – and where that’s not possible – offer respite options as a mitigating measure.

“We urge all local communities to have their say in this second phase so we can benefit as many people as possible.”



Gatwick Airport Ltd has commenced a further period of consultation from 23 May 2014 for 12 weeks.

This consultation is on the specific effects of options for proposed changes in the immediate area around Gatwick Airport. This is part of our airspace change programme to modernise the routes into and out of Gatwick in line with the UK Future Airspace Strategy published by the CAA.

The initial consultation was carried out at an early stage in design to enable stakeholder input before detailed options were determined. These options have now been determined using feedback from the initial consultation exercise.

This current consultation specifically seeks feedback on the impacts of the options on noise contours and noise footprints. It also covers proposed changes to the Government’s Noise Abatement procedures for Gatwick Airport. Our proposed changes would bring them up to date with modern aircraft performance, and would enable introduction of innovative respite options.

We are consulting on these issues with reference to the following design options:

• Options for departure routes and associated
Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs) for departure
flight paths – this includes options for
realignment and options for respite

• Night-time respite options for arrivals

• Updating existing Noise Preferential Routes and
their associated swathes to take account of
changes to flight path concentration as a result
of the switch to Performance Based Navigation
(PBN) routes implemented in November 2013.

Full details of the consultation may be found on the Gatwick Airport website at the link below:

A map showing the area of interest for this second consultation is shown below

“Your views are important to this process, so please take the time to complete the online
questions.!  sic  [!]

Map of consultation area May 2014




                 Larger version of the map



Since these are large documents, we recommend viewing them on your desktop


Objectives and Justification for Proposed Changes

3.11 The London Airspace Consultation described our objectives for changing the
routes to/from Gatwick Airport; it described what we are trying to achieve and
the generic benefits/impacts that would result; it then sought the views of
stakeholders on these objectives. We are not re-consulting on these objectives,
or on the rationale for changes already covered in the initial London Airspace
Consultation; however the key elements are described here again for reference

3.12 The proposed changes covered in this consultation are seeking to utilise modern
Performance Based Navigation (PBN) to optimise routes for operational and
environmental benefits.

3.13 Operationally we at Gatwick Airport Ltd are seeking to make best use of existing
runway capacity. Aircraft taking off one after another have to be separated by
either one or two minutes, depending on how soon after take-off the aircraft
head in different directions. Making best use of the runway means designing
routes which enable us to safely use a one minute interval as often as possible.
This is specifically an objective relating to routes heading west and south from
RWY26, as the other route – including all from RWY08 – already enables use of
a one minute interval where feasible.

3.14 This proposal would enable RWY26 to become as efficient as RWY08 in getting
departures airborne, reducing delay in the busy morning period when there is
high demand for departure slots. Ultimately the airspace change would enable
us to accommodate more departures per hour from RWY26. Based on current
demand profiles we would expect this to mean around 2-5 more departures per hour during such periods of high demand11. This would make the airport more attractive to airlines and their customers. Maintaining Gatwick’s competitive

position in the UK and internal market is important both for the airport and for
the local communities that benefit from having a commercially successful
airport as a neighbour.

3.15 Environmentally we are also seeking to utilise PBN to improve noise
management, as it provides the opportunity to refine the application of the
following techniques:

 Positioning routes away from populated areas and potentially other noise
sensitive areas12

 Creating respite routes

3.16 Avoiding overflight of one area means overflight of neighbouring ones; for
example avoiding overflight of a town would almost always mean flying instead
over surrounding countryside which may be valued for its relative tranquillity13
Equally, respite routes mean shifting the impact to other areas for some of the
time, increasing the overall number of people affected by noise.

3.17 We have continued to work on design options to address these objectives since
the London Airspace Consultation. We have identified the following proposed
changes that require further consultation for the reasons described in
Paragraphs 1.5 to 1.9, and which are therefore described in this consultation:

 Options for RWY26 departure routes and associated NPRs for flights heading
to the south (replacing today’s RWY26 SFD, BOGNA and HARDY14
routes) – this includes options for realignment and options for respite
 Realignment of the RWY08 departure route and associated NPR for flights
initially heading to the east (replacing todays RWY08 LAM, CLN and DVR
 Night-time respite options for arrivals to RWY26 and RWY08
 General re-centring, shortening and narrowing of existing NPRs and their
associated swathes, to take account of changes to flight path concentration as
a result of the switch to PBN routes implemented in November 2013.

3.18 Each of these is discussed in detail in Sections 6 to 10 of this document
respectively; maps are provided in separate documents so that they may be
considered alongside the text. The text document may be printed; however the
map document is best viewed on a screen.


Airspace Consultation FAQs – from the Gatwick website

Why is the second phase taking place?

The second phase is taking place because after narrowing down where new flight paths could go – there may be additional impacts on areas in Sussex, Surrey and Kent that were not previously known and therefore not consulted on.

Is this in reaction to Warnham?

Absolutely not. Under guidance from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) we are adding a second phase of consultation to consult with the local community on additional impacts as a result of the development of potential new arrival and departure routes using the feedback from the first consultation.

Was there always going to be a second phase?

Yes – it was always a strong possibility that additional impacts not covered in the first consultation would come to light as we assessed feedback and developed potential routes from the first consultation.

How is this and the second runway linked?

It is not at all. The changes we are consulting on will be delivered by the end of 2015 and will be operational many years before any potential second runway is built at Gatwick. If Gatwick is successful in being awarded a second runway, there will need to be further airspace changes and further public consultations.

Where can I get more info/speak to someone?

The consultation document contains all the information required to enable you to determine the potential effect of the proposal.

Feedback can be given using the feedback button on the website which will open up a questionnaire for you to fill in; the feedback button is shown after entering a postcode, selecting an area of interest form our map or when viewing the full consultation document.  Alternatively you can emailing us at

Alternatively you may post a response to us at:

Gatwick Airspace Consultation
Ipsos MORI
Research Services House
Elmgrove Road

You refer to “environmentally sensitive areas”, “populated or other sensitive areas” and “populated areas and noise sensitive areas”; what is the definition of these terms?

Different communities or individuals may have different perceptions of what is sensitive and what is not, hence we have deliberately left these terms open for individuals to interpret as they see fit.  Stakeholders are encouraged to give their views what areas may be sensitive to airspace changes, so that we can consider them in the ongoing design process.

Will it mean more flights overhead? Will I see/hear more flights?

This consultation is about how we modernise the existing routes to achieve the optimal solution operationally and environmentally.  The consultation is not about the general trend of increasing numbers of flights (see later FAQ on “Why don’t you stop the number of flights from growing?”).

The net effect of these proposals will be less noise – aircraft will climb higher, more quickly on departure and stay higher for longer on arrival. However, flight paths will change – and this may mean some areas will be overflown more than today, others less, and some will not notice any significant change.

This consultation is your chance to feed information into the on-going design process about any local sensitivity to overflights so that it may be considered in the on-going design process.

What is the process for changing airspace?

The process for changing airspace is defined by the CAA in their publication:

CAP 725, CAA Guidance On The Application Of The Airspace Change Process, March 2007, CAA Directorate of Airspace Policy.

For further information on the legal framework for airspace changes in the UK, including government guidance, see Part A of the consultation document.

What will you do with my response? Will you be giving feedback on the results of the consultation?

We have employed IPSOS to independently collate all responses.  They will analyse and feedback to us the issues, which we can consider in our on-going design process.  A feedback report detailing the results of the consultation will be published on this website in September 2014.

Responses will be made available to the CAA as part of any Airspace Change Proposals submitted to them for changes covered by this proposal.  This will allow the CAA to assess whether we have taken relevant information into account in the development of our final proposals.

Why should we believe what you say in your consultation document?

At NATS and Gatwick Airport Limited we take our responsibilities very seriously and whenever we present proposed changes we always seek to present the best available information.

Furthermore, the process for airspace change is regulated by the CAA.  As part of this change process we will be required to analyse performance after one year and demonstrate that the change is working as anticipated.  If the CAA determines this not to be the case then they may require us to make further changes to rectify the situation which would be costly and time consuming.

It is in nobody’s interest to have incorrect information in the consultation material.

Why has there been a recent increase in noise over my area? Why have you made these changes already?

NATS is required to go through the airspace change process, as documented in the CAA’s airspace change guidance, when proposing permanent changes to the airspace design. Permanent airspace changes cannot be implemented until a formal proposal has been submitted to, and approved by the CAA.  An exception to this is trial procedures, designed to test technical airspace design issues.  There have been no permanent changes during the consultation period and therefore any recent changes to the perceived behaviour of aircraft in your vicinity are not due to the proposed changes to the airspace structure.

Air traffic control is required to consider a range of factors when determining where aircraft fly, such as other traffic in the area, the aircraft types, wind direction and weather in general. This means that the way in which airspace is used may vary on a day to day basis, and even flight by flight basis (hence the wide swathes in which aircraft may be seen in route and flight path maps in the consultation document). This variation may contribute to a perception of changed airspace usage where the airspace structure has in fact remained unchanged.

It should also be noted that experience from previous consultations indicates that the consultation process sometimes leads people to take more notice of the routes that are already above them. It may therefore seem like a change has occurred when in fact it is more that the communities have become more sensitised as a consequence of the discussion around air traffic.

Questions regarding existing airspace design or airspace policy should be directed to the CAA.

Who are the CAA?

The Civil Aviation Authority  (CAA) is, amongst other things, responsible for the planning and regulation of all UK airspace, including the navigation and communications infrastructure to support safe and efficient operations. The CAA is staffed by civilian experts from the CAA and military experts from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with experience of commercial, business [private], recreational and military aviation. The needs of all users are accommodated, as far as possible, taking into account safety, environmental, economic and national security considerations.

How do I know that you have considered my response and that of others? I want to be able to see all the responses to the consultation.

At NATS and Gatwick Airport Limited we take our responsibilities very seriously; we will consider all responses and we will ensure that relevant points are fed into the ongoing design process.

To that end we have employed an independent company (Ipsos) to manage and report on the consultation responses.  The consultation responses, analysis and subsequent design process will all be made visible to the CAA as part of any submission we make to them. They will only approve an airspace change if they have evidence to show that we have followed the correct processes.

Allowing open access to the consultation responses would raise data protection issues.  Our integrity, that of Ipsos and ultimately the independence of the CAA as the airspace regulator provides the assurance that due process will be followed.

A feedback report which will provide analysis of the issues raised and numbers of consultation responses will be published in September 2014.

When will this be happening?

The proposal is subject to this consultation, adaptation following consultation and then assessment by the CAA before a decision is made on whether to implement it.  This means that any significant change could not be implemented before Winter 2015.  Changes may be phased over a period of time.

Why can’t the aircraft route over another area?

The airspace over East/South East England has routes into and out of the region’s airports.  Getting aircraft to and from the region’s airports inevitably means some areas will be over-flown.

The consultation will help us determine where the optimal route positioning is.

I think concentrating traffic is wrong – why don’t you spread it around?

A system designed around performance based navigation (PBN) will tend to concentrate traffic along certain routes.  This is in line with government guidance issued by the Department for Transport.

PBN is the cornerstone of the CAA’s Future Airspace Strategy and will improve both operational and environmental efficiency of the airspace as a whole.

NATS and Gatwick Airport are designing airspace in line with this strategy, which means that air traffic will become more concentrated.

However, PBN provides the opportunity to design routes better to avoid population centres and/or environmentally sensitive areas and also provides the opportunity to consider the introduction of respite routes to provide predictable periods where traffic will not be concentrated overhead.  Overall PBN offers improved environmental performance, hence the introduction of PBN is a key objective of the Future Airspace Strategy.

This consultation is your opportunity to feed-back your views on our objectives, and on local details that we should take into account in the ongoing design process.

If you wish to discuss the Future Airspace Strategy or the objective of concentrating air traffic please contact the CAA or the Department for Transport.

Is this just Gatwick airport expansion by the backdoor?

No. These changes are intended to make the operation of Gatwick’s runway more efficient, reducing delay, fuel burn and emissions while managing noise more effectively for local communities.  Runway usage for a single runway operation such as at Gatwick requires arrivals and departures to be interleaved – reducing the gap between departures provides no additional benefit to periods when successive departures are naturally split by the need to land an arrival in between.

Based on current demand profiles we would expect this to mean around 2-5 more departures per hour only during periods of high departure demand when the number of departures significantly exceeds arrivals – this is generally in the morning rush only and so does not represent a significant increase in overall traffic.  Arrival rates are not altered by this airspace change as this is determined by existing separation minima and balanced by the demand of both arriving and departing traffic (an hour with less departure demand can see more arrivals handled on the single runway operation at Gatwick – as is the case today).

Why are you doing this? Please provide justification.

Aircraft today use very accurate navigation technology and new European legislation requires all member states, including the UK, to revise our airspace to maximise the use of these new technologies.  Change is therefore inevitable; our focus in this consultation is on how best to enable that change.

Who will check that the development does what you say it will?

Should the proposal be approved and implemented, NATS and Gatwick Airport will be required to demonstrate to the CAA that the proposals are achieving the target objectives.  In accordance with CAP725, NATS and Gatwick Airport will provide reports on the performance of the development against the target objectives in terms of delay, safety and environmental performance based on the first 12 months of operation.

The results of these post-implementation reviews are made available to the public on the CAA website.

For how long will this new airspace design be operational?

Airspace changes have no defined lifespan. If changes are required in the future, they will be introduced following the airspace change and consultation process.  This includes any changes required to support the development of new runways; see Part A for details of how  future runways would impact this proposal.

Will air traffic controllers be able to cope with rising traffic levels?

Safety is our first priority. The air traffic control system has procedures such that if traffic levels rise to a certain level, restrictions are imposed to stop further aircraft entering the congested area until such time as traffic levels have reduced to manageable levels.  This is (in very simple terms) how safe levels of traffic are maintained.  These restrictions cause aircraft to be held on the ground, which causes delays to flights.  NATS has a good record of reducing delays over recent years.  The LAMP project is an example of how NATS, Gatwick and London City Airports are being proactive in order to avoid an increase in delays that will occur if nothing is done now.


Will planes be closer together because of this change and the introduction of PBN?

PBN does not change the standard separation rules in controlled airspace above London and the South East; these are and will remain 3 nautical miles of horizontal separation or 1,000 feet of vertical separation.

Will it be safe?

Our first priority is safety.  The proposals are being designed in accordance with all applicable safety standards and will be assessed by the CAA for their suitability prior to implementation.

Are the current flight paths unsafe?

No, we have one of the best safety records in the world.  Safety is our number one priority in the current operation.  Flights will be delayed from entering the system if controllers believe there is any threat to systems safety.



The consultation is not for the faint hearted, and difficult for non-experts:

It is full of jargon.  Mind numbing jargon.  And much not properly explained.

For instance, the main consultation document’s glossary:  link

“Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
Referred to as PBN; a generic term for modern standards for aircraft navigation capabilities (as opposed to ‘conventional’ navigation standards).
See for details [that website is unobtainable].


PRNAV Precision

‘RNAV’, otherwise referred to as ‘RNAV1’ (both these terms are defined in this glossary)


Respite route

Additional routes established to spread traffic in a predictable way, so that areas beneath the original track get predictable periods of respite



Short for aRea NAVigation. This is a generic term for a particular specification of Performance Based Navigation



See RNAV. The suffix ‘1’ denotes a requirement that aircraft can navigate to with 1nm of the centreline of the route 95% or more of the time.



Airspace consultation

Gatwick Airport Ltd and NATS recently consulted on significant changes to the airspace above and around Gatwick Airport as part of the London Airspace Change programme.

Airspace above the south of England is some of the busiest in the world. The consultation was the first stage in a wider programme of proposed changes to deliver the UK’s Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), which will be legally required to come into effect in 2020. Gatwick is the first major airport to consult on all levels of its airspace and all other airports will be required to follow suit.

The consultation closed on the 21 January 2014 and since this time we have been analysing all the feedback received, using it to develop revised arrival and departure routes. In line with guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority, we are required to consult again on any impacts resulting from the proposed route development that were not considered as part of the original consultation.

On the 23 May 2014 we launched a Gatwick led phase 2 of the consultation where we are engaging with communities affected by impacts not consulted on as part of phase 1 of this consultation. These impacts include: changes in noise contours; changes to or new noise preferential routes; and rotating respite options.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and we are looking for feedback on the following design options: