The challenge of ‘Jet Zero’ and the importance of modernising our airspace.
There’s no denying it, it has been a tough few years for aviation. While things remain challenging right now, it is clear that the demand for air travel is very much back on the up and our skies are getting busy once again.
Much of Britain’s airspace was designed in the 1950’s and has seen very little change since. At ACOG, my team and I have the important task of working with airports and a wide range of other stakeholders to figure out how the various pieces of the UK airspace puzzle can be organised to accommodate the future demand for aviation, as and when it returns. We’re doing this through our Airspace Masterplan which identifies which airspace design changes need to be developed to deliver the range of benefits that modernisation will bring to the UK. Without this, a full recovery of demand will lead, among other things, to ongoing flight delays. These cost families time lost on holiday, and affect British businesses and their exports across the globe.
This week shone that spotlight on the longer-term implications of inaction namely the lost opportunity to markedly reduce emissions from every flight using UK airspace. The Department for Transport has unveiled its Jet Zero strategy to help UK domestic aviation reach net-zero even faster, by 2040. The strategy outlines 6 priority areas to help tackle the problem of decarbonising the industry with most of these focusing on new technology, scientific research and future developments over the next two decades.
It also focuses on the things that we can do today with existing technology. It is crucial that we improve “the efficiency of our existing aviation system, from aircraft to airports and airspace” (DfT) even as we look further ahead. ACOG’s delivery of its Airspace Masterplan alone has the potential to reduce future carbon emissions by up to 20% by 2050 even as we work through longer-term challenges.
The exciting news is that despite the severe difficulties posed by the pandemic, our work is on track. In January, Iteration 2 of the Airspace Masterplan was formally accepted by the Co-Sponsors of the programme (DfT and CAA) and we’re aiming to deliver the third iteration for review in 2023. Alongside the Masterplan development, participating airports are progressing their airspace change proposals through the various stages of the Civil Aviation Authority’s process. The work being done by all 21 of the airports will feed into the next iteration of the Airspace Masterplan.
As we develop the Masterplan, we’ll be asking stakeholders for feedback on some aspects of the plan as part of a public engagement exercise we’ll be conducting next year. This will provide stakeholders with the opportunity to understand and comment, for example, on the approach to managing conflicts and interdependencies between the individual airspace change proposals.
Through our Airspace Masterplan, ACOG has the task of supporting the most significant change to our national airspace infrastructure in generations, delivering benefits for all airspace users, as well as businesses, the environment and communities around airports. This is an exciting and challenging task, one that is of critical importance to the UK and will also help to deliver the Government’s ambition for a ‘Jet Zero’ future.
Mark Swan, Head of ACOG