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UK and European airspace

Heathrow is part of a continent-wide plan for improvement

The UK and European airspace is out of date. It was developed for an era when aircraft were less efficient and less capable, and navigation systems were ground-based. With modern aircraft and precise, satellite-based navigation (known as performance-based navigation) we can do much more. We can redraw flight paths to save fuel, cut carbon emissions, reduce delays, reduce aircraft noise and share the benefits of noise respite more widely.

A European project to improve efficiency

For many years, passengers and airlines have been complaining about the delays that were building within the out-of-date European airspace. So in 1999 the European Commission launched a plan to make the skies above Europe more efficient. It's called the Single European Sky project (SES).

Learn more about the Single European Sky project here

Since all the airspaces above Europe are connected, SES sets out to simplify and harmonise the way that the skies are used throughout Europe. So it's divided Europe into a series of zones known as functional airspace blocks. Each block has to produce its own strategy for modernisation and harmonisation.

Heathrow is part of the UK and Irish functional airspace block, a zone that covers the whole of the British Isles.

Updating the UK airspace

The UK Government's plan to update the UK airspace is called the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS). It's the strategy that applies to Heathrow and all other airports within the UK. The plan is to modernise the UK skies by 2020.

Learn more about the Future Airspace Strategy here

The FAS aims to:

  • Save fuel through more direct routings and improved flight efficiencies
  • Save time for passengers and airlines through more direct routings and the provision of extra capacity when and where needed
  • Cut CO2 emissions through more direct routings and improved flight efficiencies
  • Reduce noise from fewer aircraft holding at low levels.

Heathrow has to play its part

At Heathrow we have to submit plans for modernising our own airspace. Before we can do that we have to run a series of trials to learn more about our surrounding airspace and how we can get better performance from modern aircraft and navigation technologies. All UK airports will be running trials as part of the FAS.

 

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