UK learns from FAA NextGen implementation experience and maybe will teach US

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Government gives green light to modernise UK airspace

Clearer about RNP impact

Adds layer of Independent Review

Will it work???

For years there have been stories of designing the technology and then implementing the ATC architecture for NextGen. Thus, it is surprising that the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) and Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) JUST announced a National Air Traffic Service’s (NATS) Airspace Modernisation [UK spelling; one of many] Proposal (AMP).

The space-based technology and systems like Performance Based Navigation (PBN) are similar to the FAA’s basic implementation plan. Perhaps having observed resistance by the neighbors to the MetroPlex implementation, the DfT, CAA & NATS chose to preface their explanations of the AMP with a high level of disclosure of  the concentrated noise impact of PBN.

The AMP review process included a new procedure which may also increase the public’s acceptance.

  1. Here are the CAA’s and NATS’ disclosures.

According to research conducted by NATS, flights in UK airspace are forecast to grow from 2.25 million per year in 2015 to 3.25 million in 2030 (an increase of 44 per cent).

For some, the increase in traffic may lead to an increase in noise, or the concentration of traffic can focus noise over a smaller area.

While it is impossible to reduce the impact of aviation noise for all communities, it is important that noise is managed as well as possible.

This document replaces the Future Airspace Strategy and sets out the ways, means and ends of modernising airspace through 15 initiatives that will modernise the design, technology and operations of airspace, initially focusing on the period until the end of 2024.

These include the removal of all fixed routes in upper airspace so aircraft can fly fully optimised routes, a fundamental redesign of the terminal route network using precise and flexible satellite navigation, and the focus on electronic surveillance solutions to improve safety and enable better integration of all airspace users.


The CAA’s materials on the AMP also made an effort to forewarn the public about the PBN impact:

For some, the increase in traffic may lead to an increase in noise, or the concentration of traffic can focus noise over a smaller area. While it is impossible to reduce the impact of aviation noise for all communities, it is important that noise is managed as well as possible. Airports should also consider as part of the airspace process whether they can change their airspace design to reduce noise or, more specifically, the health effects of noise.

Being clear is always a preferable tactic for the government in communicating with the public. The above CAA statement makes it clear that the ANP implementation is likely to involve some zero sum decisions between communities. It will be interesting to see whether the honest pronouncement will lead to a less contentious process or whether the advance warning will result in greater opposition by the neighborhoods which bear the impact.

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. The new Review Process

The Airspace Modernisation Strategy has created some separation: (1) the people who have designed the ATC routes, have participated in the public meetings and made final recommendations (NATS, the airlines and the communities involved, and (2) CAA which will not participate in the initial step, but who will make the final recommendations.

Alongside this strategic airspace modernisation role, the CAA is the independent decision maker for proposals to change the design of UK airspace.  It recently introduced a new process for making these decisions that requires greater evidence, transparency and stakeholder engagement.

As part of this process, the CAA earlier this year launched a dedicated portal for proposed changes to UK airspace.  It provides communities and all interested stakeholders with a one-stop shop of information about new designs of UK airspace that might impact them and an easy way to provide their views about changes whilst they are still being designed. This forms a central element of the new airspace change process introduced by the CAA in January 2018.

The portal can be found at https://airspacechange.caa.co.uk and exemplifies the step change in openness and transparency around the process of airspace design.

 

The AMP’s clearer noise impact declaration and the CAA’s role as an independent review process are intended as enhancements to the FAA’s experiences. The future meetings and decisions may provide valuable lessons for the US.

 



 

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