Airspace is the network of flight paths in the sky that aircraft follow when flying into and out of the UK's airports.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for all aviation policy in the UK, including airspace. The CAA is responsible for its regulation and for the Airspace Change Process which all airports must follow where changes to airspace are proposed.
Heathrow is responsible for the design of any changes to flight paths into and out of the airport up to approximately 7,000ft, and NATS is responsible for changes to airspace above 7,000ft.
The aviation industry is regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK, and they ensure that the environmental impact of aviation on local communities is managed through efficient use of airspace. When changes to airspace are proposed, an airport is required to follow the CAA’s Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) process.
Changes to flight paths are submitted to and approved by the CAA, following the Airspace Design Guidance provided in its document known as ‘CAP 1616’. This guidance sets out a process framework following a multi-stage approach for changing airspace. The process places great importance on engaging and consulting on airspace proposals throughout the process with a wide range of stakeholders, including potentially affected communities.