‘Greater capacity at UK airports’ pledged in new aviation strategy

The Department for Transport’s long-expected aviation strategy is published today with an expected pledge to deliver “greater capacity at UK airports”.

The government has already given provisional approval for Heathrow to build a third runway, allowing an additional 260,000 take-offs or landings a year.

The strategy, which sets government policy on aviation up to 2050, reportedly acknowledges that other airports should also be granted permission to grow.

Gatwick has already drawn up expansion plans, with a proposal to bring its existing emergency runway into regular operational use.

The strategy also outlines plans for a major overhaul of UK airspace to create new flight paths into the biggest airports.

GPS-style technology will allow aircraft to fly along more accurate paths below 30,000ft instead of being led by ground beacons, which space aircraft out over a wide arc several miles across.

It will mean a considerable increase to the 600 or so dedicated flight paths that are in operation today, The Times reported.

However, air traffic control service Nats said that creating more accurate paths would allow it to alternate routes throughout the day, giving residents more respite. Controllers would also be able to reduce the number low-level “stacks”, where incoming aircraft circle an airport waiting for runway clearance. This would reduce noise and fuel consumption.

The system could cut noise levels by a fifth at Stansted and Gatwick, a quarter at Luton, more than a third at Heathrow and 70% at London City airport.

New flight paths are expected to be designed by the summer of 2020 and introduced in 2024 and 2025 subject to Civil Aviation Authority approval.

Nats predicts that the number of flights in and out of the UK is expected to grow by 700,000 to about 2.9 million by 2030.

The strategy, which will go out for public consultation, also sets out plans for noise caps at airports and incentives for airlines that use the quietest planes.

An Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise has been created to police the system.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK carriers, said: “We welcome the next stage in the government’s aviation strategy.

“Airlines look forward to continuing to work with ministers to create a strategy that helps to deliver sustainable growth in our sector.

“To connect UK families and businesses domestically and to the world, deliver value for money, and further improve the travelling experience for all passengers.

“In particular we need a strategy that gives a clear statement in favour of delivering additional capacity where it is needed – both on the ground and within our congested airspace – so we can continue to deliver for passengers and cargo customers into the future.”

A spokesman for airports group MAG said: “The UK’s aviation sector underpins this government’s aspirations for a global Britain.

“As it sets out proposals for a new aviation strategy, it is vital that government focuses on how it can enable growth in both the short and the long term.

“Airports like Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands are strategic national assets, connecting people and goods to the world.

“As MAG invests more than £1.5 billion in our airports over the next five years, we want to work with government to improve road and rail infrastructure around our airports to maximise the benefits of direct connectivity right across the country.”

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