Airspace changes postponed following drop in flights

13 October 2010

NATS, the UK’s leading air navigation service provider, has postponed plans for further consultation over changes to airspace north of London.  Instead, the proposals will be incorporated into a wider review of airspace over southern England.

The downturn in air traffic levels since the 2008 consultation on proposed changes in the Terminal Control North (TCN) area, means there is less urgency on capacity grounds to achieve the changes. Current forecasts show that air traffic levels are not expected to return to the peak levels of 2007 until at least 2013/14.

Alex Bristol, Development and Investment Director, said: “We are looking at combining the necessary changes in the TCN proposal with other projects currently under way to create a bigger benefit overall.

“We are already working on a wider project involving the airspace over much of southern England.  The TCN benefits are very much a part of helping us deliver bigger benefits, albeit on a longer timescale.  These include keeping aircraft higher for longer on more direct routes, which saves fuel burn and CO2 and means less noise for people on the ground.

“Whilst the downturn in air traffic means we can take longer to ensure we have the best solution, we have always been clear that doing nothing is not a long-term option.

“This is a large and very complex area of airspace with many interactions and as traffic levels pick up, changes will be necessary to ensure continued safety and reduce delay. The work we have done so far in TCN – and the feedback we have from the 2008 consultation – will be very much a part of our revised plans.”

Terminal Control North (TCN), along with Terminal Control South (TCS) forms London Terminal Control (LTC) which in total covers much of southern England, as far north as Ipswich and west to Bournemouth with Banbury roughly marking the north-west corner. NATS is reviewing the airspace structure in this total area in light of available new navigation technologies and new tools under development to improve air traffic management techniques; our aim is to improve safety in this most complex area of airspace, to provide additional capacity to meet forecast long term demand and to meet environmental targets.

This work is still in early stages but is expected to deliver improvements in the period 2016-2020 with some earlier enabling improvements possible from 2013.

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