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The Government published its Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS) in 2018. The AMS lays out a national programme to modernise and upgrade the UK’s airspace and sets out the work required of the aviation industry, including UK airports, to deliver airspace modernisation. A masterplan is now being created by the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) to coordinate the delivery of airspace change across UK airports and NATS En Route Limited (who is responsible for the airspace above/beyond the airports’ areas of responsibility).
Heathrow’s current departure and arrival procedures were designed decades ago, at a time when aircraft and navigation were much less sophisticated than today. Through the introduction of airspace modernisation at Heathrow, the airport will make use of modern navigation technology to enable better aircraft performance, reduce delays and manage traffic in ways that mitigate, where possible, the impact on local communities.
Heathrow will also play its part in delivering the requirements of the UK’s AMS, such as maintaining and enhancing high aviation standards, ensuring the efficient use of airspace, avoiding flight delays by better managing the wider airspace network, and improving environmental performance by reducing emissions and noise impacts on local communities.
Heathrow had intended to deliver airspace modernisation as part of the Expansion project, however Expansion is on pause as the current priority is to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Heathrow remains committed to airspace modernisation and we are therefore proposing to progress the changes required to keep pace with the wider UK programme via this new ACP, based on our existing two runways. Through the new airspace design, Heathrow will seek to minimise the impact of potential future changes to its airspace as far as is practical, such as those that may result from the development of future navigation technologies, the introduction of Urban Air Mobility (UAM), other anticipated aircraft fleet changes, or expansion of the airport.
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