Plans for the biggest overhaul of UK airspace in more than 50 years are to be unveiled today.
More flight paths will be created for the biggest airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh and Birmingham, to accommodate additional flights and cut delays.
The revision will mean that 600 dedicated flight paths currently in operation – 300 for departures and 300 for arrivals – will expand to allow about 50% more aircraft to access British airports by the end of the next decade.
A coalition of airlines, airports and air traffic controllers will start a campaign today, called The Sky’s The Limit, to raise awareness of the importance of modernising airspace.
The head of National Air Traffic Services (Nats) said it was likely that more households would be affected by “some” noise under the plans.
Nats chief executive Martin Rolfe told The Times: “The increase in traffic clearly is going to bring challenges where more people are overflown. The question is, how do we make that fair? How do we make it efficient? And how do we make sure it is as limited as it can possibly be without compromising [the need for more flights]?”
Research by Nats found that at least a quarter of flights would be delayed by 30 minutes or more by 2030 without reforms.
Nats estimates that the 2.1 million passenger aircraft flying to and from UK airports last year will grow to 3.1 million by 2030. The figure was 440,000 in 1961.
The Department for Transport will produce a consultation next year followed by detailed flight path routes drawn up by Nats and the Civil Aviation Authority in coming years.
New routes will be finalised within five to seven years, Nats said.
Under the plan, GPS-style technology will allow aircraft to fly to more accurate flight paths as opposed to being led by ground beacons, which space aircraft out over an arc several miles across.
Rolfe said: “It is about creating more accurate roads and more lanes on those roads, but doing it in a more intelligent way so that we do the best we can to reduce the impact.”
A recent report prepared for the Airports Commission estimated that up to 365,000 people suffered “significant” aircraft noise near 18 major airports. Far more people were blighted by lower-level noise, with 725,000 affected by aircraft at Heathrow alone.
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