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Government adds extra £3.7m to UK airspace modernisation scheme

The government has committed an extra £3.7 million to support the modernisation of the UK’s airspace for the first time since the 1950s.

The new funding brings the total to £9.2 million, after an initial investment in March 2021.

It is being provided on an exceptional basis while the sector recovers from the impacts of the pandemic, according to the Department for Transport.

The money is designed to support airports to develop new, more efficient flight routes that make use of modern technology, such as performance-based navigation, which will enable aircraft to fly more precise routes.

The aim is to help the aviation industry build back better from the Covid-19 pandemic and create a resilient, efficient airspace that is fit for the future.

The airport sponsors of the programme will resume responsibility for funding future stages, as the sector continues its recovery.

Britain’s airspace is made up of a complex network of flight paths that have seen little development since they were designed 70 years ago, despite a surge in demand on airspace.

This has led to increased flight delays, noise and pollution. Without action, the UK’s congested airspace could have meant that passengers would have seen 30-minute delays on one in three flights by 2030.

Redesigning the airspace will enable aircraft to fly more direct, precise routes, with faster climbs and a reduced need for holding patterns – cutting up to an approximate 600,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, according to early analysis.

Airspace modernisation could help to deliver up to 36% of CO2 savings by 2050, alongside moving to best-in-class aircraft and more efficient aviation operations, the DoT said.

Aviation minister Robert Courts announced the funding boost from London City, one of the airports to receive a share of the initial funding last year.

Courts said: “By redesigning our skies, we are creating a modern UK airspace that is fit for future generations and makes journeys quicker, quieter and greener.

“This £3.7 million funding will support the industry in upgrading our airspace, allowing the aviation sector to continue to grow while we build back greener, cut carbon emissions and deliver on our ambitious plans to reach jet zero.”

Mark Swan, head of the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG), added: “The announcement of today’s funding enables the industry to move on confidently to the next stage of modernising the UK’s airspace.

“This programme is a critical national infrastructure project for the UK and will deliver benefits across the country – from increasing efficiencies in the routes aircraft fly to supporting the industry to deliver its net zero targets.

“With airspace not updated since the 1950s, it remains a programme that is long overdue.

“Today’s additional funding maintains momentum behind the programme following its remobilisation and we look forward to our continued engagement with the government, CAA and airspace change sponsors in delivering airspace modernisation for the country.”

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