Call for future airspace redesign during ‘opportunity’

Five aviation organisations have united to call for a total redesign of the UK’s airspace, saying that the departure from EASA and the reduction in flights due to the pandemic is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.

The five organisations are:

  • Association of UK Flight Information Service Officers (AUKFISO) with 35 members units and an industry platform for FIS units around the UK.
  • British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA), the professional association representing commercial airline and helicopter pilots.
  • General Aviation (GA) Alliance representing 72,000 members from GA and sports and recreational aviation interests.
  • Guild of Air Traffic Control Officers (GATCO), a UK-wide professional organisation representing over 1,600 civil and military air traffic controllers and ATM professionals.
  • Honourable Company of Air Pilots represents over 1,900 UK and overseas air pilots and navigators across all sectors of aviation.

“While the UK’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy is a welcome step in the right direction, it continues the piecemeal approach of airspace infrastructure modernisation of the last 70 years, imposing minor or localised modifications based on legacy technology and infrastructure,” says a joint statement.

“If the UK is to continue being at the forefront of aviation worldwide, it requires an ambitious vision of a modern, safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective airspace structure, which benefits from current and future technology and which encompasses the needs of all airspace users.”

The five organisations are working on a paper outlining what they think needs to be done and that’s expected to be ready in March.

John Turner of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (HCAP) told FLYER, “UK airspace is a national asset that belongs to everyone. We want to make airspace safe for all users. When someone takes a bit of airspace, it makes [that bit] unavailable to others.

“Segregation has worked but it’s based on 1950s thinking and technology. But now segregation is no longer a sustainable option. Future airspace policy should make airspace accessible to everyone.”

John said a “major paradigm shift” is required for all users, including drones and military, to share.

“The tools are already in place. Look at the USA where pilots can pick up weather and traffic reports in the air using ADS-B. We don’t have a view of the right technical solution but we need a long term plan.”

However, John did say that Electronic Conspicuity would have to be part of that plan.

“We also need to review the skillsets of pilots, traffic controllers and drone pilots, among others. There’ll be a degree of adaptation.”

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