Plane taking off

Funding for UK’s airspace could create quicker journeys and cut emissions

Faster, quieter and greener journeys by air are the focus of a £3.7m investment in redesigning the UK’s 'motorways in the sky', according to a government announcement.

The additional £3.7m is being made available to support airports in reducing journey times, pollution and flight delays. The government said this funding is in addition to the £5.5m investment announced last year.

Combined, the two sums are intended to drive progress in redesigning the UK’s ‘motorways in the sky’ for the benefit of passengers, airports and the communities surrounding them. Reducing aviation emissions is also an important part of the government’s stated commitment to reach net zero.

The funding 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 public money is being provided on an exceptional basis while the sector recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

Aviation minister Robert Courts announced the funding boost from London City Airport, 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 £3.7m 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), said: "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."

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 our airspace from commercial planes to private aircraft, the military and drones. In recent years, this has led to increased flight delays, noise and pollution.

Redesigning the airspace could enable aircraft to fly more direct, precise routes, with faster climbs and a reduced need for holding patterns that could cut up to 600,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, according to early analysis.

Alongside moving to best-in-class aircraft and more efficient aviation operations, airspace modernisation could help to deliver up to 36 per cent of CO2 savings by 2050, according to government estimates.

Plans to modernise the UK’s airspace are one aspect of the measures that will make up the UK’s strategy to deliver "jet zero" aviation by 2050. The official strategy is due to be published later this year.

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