Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about the Airspace Masterplan and the airspace change process.
What is the UK Airspace Change Masterplan?
The Airspace Masterplan is a high-level coordinated implementation plan that will identify what airspace changes need to be developed to achieve the range of benefits that modernisation can deliver. The Masterplan will draw on information from the constituent Airspace Change Proposals (ACPs) led by the airports and NATS (as the Airspace Change Sponsors) to consider potential interdependencies between the various proposals, potential conflicts, the concepts that might be used to resolve conflicts and the trade-offs that may be needed to deliver modernisation. The Masterplan does not show the detail of individual airspace designs included within each ACP but will include a programme plan for their development and implementation.
Who is responsible for developing the Masterplan?
The CAA and Department for Transport, as co-sponsors of airspace modernisation in the UK, commissioned NATS to set up an impartial body, the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), to develop the Masterplan.
How is the Masterplan being developed?
Airspace modernisation is a long and complex process. The co-sponsors have agreed that ACOG will develop the Masterplan through a series of iterations over the next few years. This reflects the fact that different information and levels of detail will be available at different points as the constituent ACPs sponsored by the airports and NATS are developed. It also means that the Masterplan can be kept flexible to accommodate the evolving context for airspace modernisation, such as any changes in policy or additions to co-sponsor commissions to produce new elements of the Masterplan, or unanticipated external events. More information about the iterative approach can be found here (LINK to Masterplan page).
Why are only some UK airports included in the Airspace Masterplan?
Only the strategically important ACPs that make a significant contribution to achieving the airspace modernisation objectives are included in each cluster. These ACPs were identified in the Iteration 2 of the Airspace Masterplan.
These are mostly airports that share interdependencies with other nearby airports and therefore airspace changes need to be undertaken and consulted on in a coordinated way. They may also be airports that NATS have identified that need to make changes at lower levels in order to optimise changes to upper airspace.
For example, some larger airports, like Birmingham, Newcastle International, Aberdeen and Inverness are not currently included in the masterplan because modernising the routes that serve their operations is not expected to make a significant national or regional contribution to achieving the airspace modernisation vision. These airports, and other notable omissions (including but not limited to Belfast International, Belfast City, Norwich and Newquay) do not form part of a coordinated overall airspace design and they do not share interdependencies with the existing masterplan ACPs.
Will the participating airports be making changes to their airspace in the same timeframe?
Due to the complexity of the changes involved, the Airspace Change Programme is expected to take a number of years to complete. As part of Iteration 2 of the Airspace Masterplan (PDF), ACOG set out a ‘clustered’ approach to the delivery of the programme.
This will allow changes within geographical clusters of airports, once approved, to be deployed and the benefits realised, without waiting for all airports to complete the ACP process. More information about the clusters can be found here (link to page).
The Masterplan will play an important role in the sequencing of airspace changes. ACPs will be held at the relevant stage of CAP1616 process based on the approach set out in the Masterplan. This will ensure that Sponsors’ options development and public consultations are delivered in a coordinated, joined up manner.
The CAA will require a version of the Masterplan to inform their decision making about constituent ACPs at the relevant gateways in the CAP 1616 process.
How will the impact of aircraft noise be taken into account in the Airspace Masterplan?
In the Government’s key environmental objectives set out in the Air Navigation Guidance (2017), it stated that airspace changes are to ‘limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by adverse impacts from aircraft noise’.
This objective was further broken down in the Altitude Based Priorities section of the ANG
‘To limit and, where possible, reduce noise below 4000ft; and to minimise noise providing there is no significant CO2 cost between 4000ft and 7000ft’
The Masterplan and the constituent ACPs that the airports are responsible for, must demonstrate how this objective will be achieved.