Nats boss warns over increased gridlock in the skies

Nats boss warns over increased gridlock in the skies

Efforts are to be made to cut flight congestion over the south-east of England.

Airspace is to be radically redrawn amid fears that a surge in traffic could lead to significant flight delays over the next decade.

Air traffic controllers plan to scrap the current stacking system, force aircraft to remain higher for longer and impose “variable speed limits” in the skies, The Times reported.

Flight paths will also change to take advantage of new onboard GPS-style technology that allows aircraft to fly more accurately over less densely populated areas.

Air traffic services company NATS insisted that average delays on flights would soar within ten years without major reforms.

Chief executive, Martin Rolfe, said that short-haul European flights would be subjected to average delays of up to 20 minutes by 2025 because of air traffic problems, compared with a few seconds at the moment.

Gridlock over the south-east — the busiest airspace in Europe and among the most congested in the world — also threatened to undermine plans for a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick, he warned.

Rolfe told the Aviation Club in London: “The airports themselves and the runways are only as good as the airspace that supports them.

“We can build ten more runways in this country . . . . and we would have no ability, if we didn’t change the airspace, to take any advantage of that additional capacity.”

It would cost airlines “over a billion pounds a year to deal with the delays that will be coming into the system” within the next few decades because of a lack of airspace.

“You . . . will end up being delayed more often than you are not delayed, and it won’t be small delays,” Rolfe wanrned.

The first part of the reforms, being introduced from February, will affect arrivals into London City airport.?A consultation is expected to be launched in coming years, according to the newspaper.

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