Appendix - Department for Transport response|
1. This paper sets out the Government response to
the Committee's Inquiry Report into The Use of Airspace, published
on 10 July 2009.
2. The Government welcomes the Committee's interest
in this subject and, in particular, its recognition that there
is much to commend in the current management of UK airspace.
3. This response incorporates contributions provided
by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
In each case the Committee's recommendation is reproduced followed
by the Government's response.
The management of airspace
4. Our evidence has demonstrated there is much to
commend in the current management of UK airspace. We have been
particularly impressed by the technical competence and professionalism
of the CAA and NATS. We reject suggestions that responsibility
for decision-making about airspace be placed in a different organisation.
We see no apparent and significant benefits from such a transfer.
5. The Government welcomes the Committee's endorsement
of the current decision-making arrangements for airspace in the
Strategy, change and co-ordination in airspace
6. It is fundamental that those affected by airspace
changes are presented with more than one option, assuming this
is possible, during the consultation process. The CAA must encourage
airspace change sponsors to follow the guidance requirement for
more than one option to be presented, if possible.
7. The CAA's existing Airspace Change Process guidance
document (CAP 725) already encourages Airspace Change Proposal
sponsors to consider and consult on more than one option, where
this is feasible. The 'do nothing' scenario is always one of the
options to be considered.
8. However, because CAP 725 covers all airspace changes
from minor adjustments to large, wide-ranging changes, it necessarily
recognises that in certain circumstances the complexity and interdependencies
of an airspace design are such that multiple options are not feasible
because the knock on effects of each option rapidly become unmanageable.
For example, in the case of the London airspace that was the subject
of the recent NATS Terminal Control North (TCN) consultation,
a relatively minor change in one departure profile would have
affected several other arrival or departure procedures. The CAA's
Directorate of Airspace Policy (DAP) does, however, expect sponsors
of airspace change proposals to set out clearly why a single option
is being put forward for consultation, what other options were
considered and why they were discarded.
9. In addition, sponsors of airspace changes are
also strongly encouraged to engage with local authorities representing
communities that might be affected by the change prior to the
start of formal consultation. In this way, local factors can be
given due regard at the earliest stage of the airspace design
10. The CAA and NATS should review the techniques
used for designing controlled airspace around airports. The techniques
used should match European and USA best practice standards to
minimise the impact on general aviation, whilst ensuring safety
and that current standards are not lowered.
11. In the UK, controlled airspace is designed in
accordance with international requirements set out by the International
Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). The size of a Control Zone
around an airport is based on the requirement to contain Instrument
Flight Procedures within Controlled Airspace so as to provide
a known traffic environment and to protect commercial air transport
movements during the critical phases of flight associated with
take-off and landing. The overall size and volume of the airspace
is dictated by the actual approach and departure procedures for
an airport and not solely by the number of aircraft operating
within it. Importantly, controlled airspace is not intended to
be a 'no-go' area for General Aviation traffic and the CAA is
committed to ensuring appropriate access is provided by air traffic
service providers when it is safe to do so.
12. Direct comparisons have been made between the
size of the control zones at Glasgow, Doncaster and other airports,
with that of Gatwick. However, those comparisons are not entirely
appropriate as the procedures for Gatwick are primarily contained
within the larger London Terminal Manoeuvring Area (LTMA), which
sits above the control zones for Gatwick and the other London
airports. Equally, a direct correlation with the USA is not feasible
as the operating environment is substantially different for a
number of reasons including traffic and airport density, airspace
classification and rules of the air.
13. Similarly, individual States within Europe operate
in accordance with their own strategic priorities and policies.
These vary greatly from country to country, although for the future,
Single European Sky Implementing Rules may seek to harmonise how
airspace is classified across Europe. The CAA will work closely
with the European Commission and Eurocontrol to ensure that any
such Implementing Rules continue to meet the requirements of UK
operators as far as practicable.
14. There needs to be clarity about what benefits
an Airspace Master Plan would bring, in particular how such a
plan would improve flight efficiencies and improve the effectiveness
of the Airspace Change Process.
15. When the current project definition stage has
been completed, the CAA should present its framework recommendations
for a Future Airspace Strategy (FAS) to the Department for Transport
and the industry. This work should explain the nature of the FAS,
the benefits to be achieved, how the strategy relates to airport
development planning processes, and the impact of the strategy
on the Airspace Change Process. It should describe the safeguards
required to ensure that the FAS does not pre-empt the requirement
for proper consultation on airspace change proposals.
16. The CAA could allay many concerns about the perceived
slow progress in developing a long-term airspace strategy, and
the lack of consultation to date on the FAS, through better communication
with stakeholders. The CAA must improve its communication with
key stakeholders about the ongoing work on the FAS and the likely
timescales. It must ensure that stakeholders are properly consulted
about the FAS when appropriate.
17. The CAA's Directorate of Airspace Policy is leading
the complex work to develop a Future Airspace Strategy (FAS)effectively
an Airspace Master Planto address safety, environmental
and capacity issues out to 2030 within the context of the Future
of Air Transport White Paper and developing Government policy
on climate change and sustainable development. This work, which
started in earnest in 2008, has to dovetail with new requirements
emanating from the Single European Sky second legislative package
and global technology developments from the Single European Sky
Air Traffic Management (ATM) Research (SESAR) programme and the
USA's Next Generation Air Transport System (NextGen).
18. The CAA has been working with DfT, MOD and NATS
to develop the FAS but fully acknowledges the need to involve
other key stakeholders and that the lack of wider engagement on
this topic to date, may have led to some stakeholder concerns.
To address this, the CAA is preparing a paper entitled, 'Airspace
for Tomorrow' to initiate dialogue with stakeholders, setting
out the broad vision, key drivers and strategic objectives for
FAS and how it will be developed. The CAA intends asking the National
Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee (NATMAC) - which includes
a range of stakeholders - to formally consider the paper at its
meeting in October, with a view to circulating it shortly thereafter.
Formal consultation on the strategy will follow once the material
within the various FAS work streams is sufficiently developed.
19. We believe that airspace impacts should be considered
a vital part of airport development proposals. It is essential
that National Policy Statements (NPSs) on the development of major
airport infrastructure are based on advice from the CAA and NATS
about the airspace implications of proposed developments. In the
case of non-location specific NPSs, the NPS should include unambiguous
guidelines to the IPC on how to evaluate the airspace implications
of any proposal. It is vital that the industry is well appraised
of the methods used as well as the factors and information used
by the Commission in making decisions on major airport developments.
20. The Government recognises that major airport
development cannot be considered in isolation from the associated
impacts on airspace, and we will consult the CAA and NATS when
developing a National Policy Statement (NPS) on Airports. Having
regard to the Airports NPS, the Infrastructure Planning Commission's
(IPC) decisions will, however, focus on the ground infrastructure
aspects of proposals for nationally significant airport development.
Airspace planning and regulatory decisions will remain the responsibility
of the CAA under the Airspace Change Process.
21. As with the existing planning system, the Government
expects applications for major airport development which are submitted
to the IPC will set out illustrative options for airspace design.
The subsequent detailed airspace design and consultation by the
airspace change sponsor (who is usually the promoter of the development
proposal) will depend on the nature of the airport development
for which the IPC has granted consent, and it would therefore
be taken forward only once consent had been granted.
22. With regard to NPSs generally, the CAA is a statutory
consultee for any NPS which relates to airports or is likely to
affect aviation activity. Statutory undertakers, including NATS,
must also be consulted on any NPS which includes policies relevant
to their functions. Other relevant secondary legislation implementing
the Planning Act (2008) makes similar provisions.
23. The Government agrees that it is important that
the industry fully understands the IPC decision-making process
for major airport developments. The Planning Act clearly states
that the IPC, in deciding an application for a nationally significant
infrastructure project, must have regard to any relevant NPS,
any local impact report, any other prescribed matters or any other
matters which the IPC thinks are both important and relevant to
its decision. All decisions must be made in accordance
with any relevant NPS except to the extent that it would
lead to the UK being in breach of its international obligations; be
in breach of any statutory duty that applies to the IPC; be
unlawful; result in adverse impacts that outweighed
the benefits; or be contrary to regulations about how its
decisions are to be taken.
24. Some "stacking" may be inevitable.
But excessive stacking, such as frequently occurs at Heathrow,
has negative environmental effects. A third runway at Heathrow
Airport, if built, offers a real opportunity to add resilience
into the air traffic management system and to help reduce excessive
stacking. If a third runway is built at Heathrow, the Government
should create a framework for setting targets to eliminate excessive
stacking around the airport. The CAA should be given responsibility
for setting and monitoring such targets. The targets should be
included within the relevant National Policy Statement for the
25. The Government acknowledges the point made by
the Committee that excessive stacking has negative environmental
effects. It also means delay for the passenger. In his decisions
announced on 15 January on Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport,
the then Secretary of State noted the need for further work to
improve existing airport and airspace procedures and to develop
new ones to deal with delays and help make the airport more resilient.
Work has been commissioned from the CAA on runway resilience at
Heathrow and the Committee's recommendation for setting targets
for reducing excessive stacking will be considered in the light
of the proposals that emerge from that.
26. It is clear that the development and application
of new technologies and air traffic management techniques are
integral to improving flight efficiency, thus reducing excessive
fuel burn, and increasing airspace capacity.
27. The Government agrees with the Committee's view
that the development and application of new technologies and ATM
techniques are integral to improving flight efficiency. We will
aim to ensure that future UK plans are properly aligned with developing
proposals that emerge from the European ATM Masterplan to be developed
by the SESAR Joint Undertaking and this will be a key strand of
the CAA's Future Airspace Strategy work.
28. We have heard very wide support for Precision
Area Navigation (P-RNAV), but a great deal of uncertainty remains
amongst industry parties about the actual plans and commitments
for the widespread introduction of this technology in the UK.
The CAA should produce a strategy for P-RNAV within 12 months.
29. The CAA accepts the need to move from the largely
ground-based Basic Area Navigation (B-RNAV) environment that has
been in place in the UK above Flight Level 95 (approximately 9500
feet) since the late 1990s to a Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
environment. Precision Area Navigation (P-RNAV) is, however, only
one element in the multi-faceted strategy needed to complete this
30. P-RNAV is the current terminal airspace standard
and there remains a place for it within future implementation
plans for UK airspace. However, P-RNAV alone will not deliver
the solution to all of the UK's existing constraints on the use
of airspace and it has to be considered as one tool amongst a
number of other factors affecting capacity, flight efficiency,
safety and the environment. It is worth noting that while a limited
number of P-RNAV procedures do exist at certain airports, no other
European state has systematically implemented a P-RNAV environment
in airspace as densely utilised or as complex as that in the south-east
31. The future navigation requirement is now being
considered as an essential component of the FAS requirements and
will need to dovetail with the international mandate on Performance
Based Navigation issued by the ICAO Council in 2009. In the longer
term, there will need to be alignment with navigation capabilities,
in terms of trajectory management, that stem from the European
ATM Masterplan. As such, this is not something that can be resolved
in 12 months and the CAA is already looking ahead to determine
if there are greater benefits to be gained from the next generation
of Required Navigation Performance (RNP) applications.
32. There is currently noticeable variation between
airports and between airlines in the take-up of CDAs. It is necessary
to improve airports' performance in the use of CDA landings so
that best practice standard is adhered to as near to universally
as is achievable. The Civil Aviation Authority must adopt a more
active role in encouraging the industry to adopt CDA. The CAA
should monitor the CDA performance of major airports and airlines,
publish statistics and promote practices and changes that lead
to greater utilisation of CDA.
33. The Government continues to endorse the principles
set out in the Arrivals Code of Practice which encourage the use
of Continuous Descent Approach (CDA). The procedure has been highlighted
as the principal method for reducing noise from arriving aircraft.
The Department for Transport works with both the CAA and NATS
to encourage CDA use and this collaboration has been fundamental
in achieving the high rates of CDA compliance cited in the Committee's
Report. A Government/industry working group consisting of representatives
from BAA, CAA, NATS, airline operators and the then Department
for Transport Local Government and the Regions developed the Code.
This was published in February 2002 and a revised second edition
was published in November 2006. The Code is hosted on the DfT
34. The development of CDAs at UK airports, principally
at the three London noise designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick
and Stansted), is now regarded as international best practice
and is helping to inform work to develop a global standard at
ICAO. Overall achievement of CDA across these three airports has
increased significantly following the wide circulation of the
Code. This has brought environmental benefits (both noise and
emissions) to local communities. CDA is employed at an increasing
number of other UK airports. However, it must be recognised that
CDA is not possible under all circumstances at every airport or,
in some cases, without whole-scale airspace re-design. Following
the publication of the Future of Air Transport White Paper, NATS
were instructed by the CAA to include CDA concepts in all future
airspace designs and this has been achieved in a large number
of subsequent airspace changes.
35. On monitoring, DfT currently monitors CDA performance
at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted as part of its responsibilities
under section 78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 with performance
being reviewed and discussed at the respective local airport Noise
and Track Keeping Committees. Performance to date has been measured
as a percentage of total arrivals. Information about CDA performance
on an airline basis is collated by each of the three airports.
In reviewing performance, it should be noted that the ability
to perform a CDA is not always within a pilot's direct control
because of factors such as adverse weather, other Air Traffic
Control considerations and aircraft emergencies. Consequently
as any comparison of CDA performance on an airline by airline
basis is subject to considerable variation, information is not
36. Also of relevance is the requirement for major
airports and those near agglomerations (large urban areas) to
develop noise action plans in response to the European Environmental
Noise Directive (2002/49/EC) (END implementation of the Directive
is a devolved matter. The Department for Environment Food and
Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is responsible for implementing this Directive
through the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 (as
amended). In England, the relevant airports are currently consulting
on their plans and typically they will be reporting on measures
to encourage the use of CDA. Following consultation, airports
will submit their draft plans to DfT who will then decide whether
or not to recommend to DEFRA that the plan is appropriate for
37. Having regard to these points the Government
is currently unconvinced of the need for CAA to become more directly
involved in monitoring CDA performance and related operational
issues at individual airports.
38. We believe that many concerns from industry stakeholders
could be alleviated by improved communication on the part of the
CAA. The CAA should review its communication strategy in DAP (Directorate
of Airspace Policy) to ensure that policy and technical matters
are communicated in a timely and effective manner to all stakeholders.
39. It is disappointing that the Committee has been
left with the impression that, aside from the lack of direct engagement
on the Future Airspace Strategy, the Directorate of Airspace Policy's
(DAP) engagement with stakeholders is less than ideal. This contradicts
positive comments that the Directorate has consistently received
in feedback from its stakeholders over a number of years. In particular,
the CAA has been complimented on a number of occasions for the
manner in which it has kept the industry informed on developments
in Europe. Further, DAP's National Air Traffic Management Advisory
Committee (NATMAC) and its sub-groups provide an essential element
of the CAA's stakeholder engagement strategy that has been recognised
as best practice in Europe. Nevertheless, DAP continuously reviews
its mechanism for communicating with stakeholders with a view
to improving engagement and, in light of the comments made to
the Committee, will actively seek to improve the mechanisms for
engagement with all of its stakeholders.
Environmental impacts of airspace change
40. Tranquillity is a key factor in sensitive areas
such as National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Current guidance appears to allow unchecked increases in aviation
activity over these areas. Without some level of constraint, the
noise environment in these areas might degrade progressively as
41. The Government recognises that tranquillity is
becoming an increasingly important issue, particularly for those
living in rural areas. But "tranquillity" is a subjective
quality and as such can mean different things to different people
- what may be seen as intrusion by one may be acceptable to another.
Given these perception issues, it is not surprising that the task
of measuring tranquillity is extremely difficult. There is no
universally accepted metric by which tranquillity can be measured.
42. DfT's guidance to the CAA requires the Authority
to pursue policies that will help to preserve tranquillity where
this does not increase significantly the environmental burdens
on congested areas. While Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
(AONB) and National Parks are afforded certain statutory protection
this does not extend to precluding over-flight by aircraft. In
practice it would be impractical to prevent widespread over-flying
of AONBs, or of National Parks without affecting reasonable levels
of access to our airports.
43. DEFRA is in the process of developing a national
noise strategy which will aim to manage noise in the context of
sustainable development. This will include environmental noise
from sources such as aircraft. DfT will be actively involved in
the development of this strategy.
44. The European Environmental Noise Directive (END)
requires that Member States aim to protect quiet areas in agglomerations
from an increase in noise. The Directive also makes reference
to quiet areas in the open countryside although no specific measures
are currently required for these areas. DfT will continue to work
closely with DEFRA on the implementation of the END.
45. The DfT and the CAA should examine the case for
adopting maximum limits on noise levels and numbers of aircraft
permitted per hour over sensitive areas such as National Parks
and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The DfT should fund exploratory
research on evidence based limits.
46. As stated in the response to Recommendation 13,
DfT's guidance to the CAA requires the Authority to pursue policies
that will help to preserve tranquillity where this does not increase
significantly the environmental burdens on congested areas. Any
restriction on flights over National Parks or AONBs would affect
these existing policies and may result in any revised flight paths
being routed over congested areas and potentially affect morepotentially
significantly morepeople. Any change in policy would require
47. In terms of monitoring aircraft noise levels,
the DfT is working with its Aircraft Noise Monitoring Advisory
Committee (ANMAC)whose role is to advise the Department
on policy relating to aircraft noise at Heathrow, Gatwick and
Stanstedon the scope for noise modelling at lower levels.
The CAA has been asked by ANMAC to conduct initial work in this
area and this is in progress.
48. The Government is aware that other organisations
such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England have undertaken
some work on the issue of tranquillity in the countryside and
that there have been some discussions with the CAA. The Government
believes that attempting to develop a widely accepted definition
of the concept of tranquillity is likely to be a significant challenge;
it should also be borne in mind that aircraft noise is likely
to be just one of many factors in the equation.
49. The Department for Transport (DfT) should issue
up-to-date Environmental Guidance to the CAA before the end of
the year. The guidance should represent current Government thinking
on CO2 and other emissions in relation to transport decision making.
The guidance must be clear about the basic policy principles by
which the Government expects the CAA to make its airspace assessments.
50. The Environmental Guidance to the CAA already
provides a clear framework for the CAA to discharge its air navigation
functions. But we agree it needs to be updated to reflect more
recent policy developments. It will not, however, be possible
to update the guidance before the end of 2009 because we need
first to consider what impact our ongoing work towards a new general
environmental objective for CAA, on which we intend to consult
later this year, would have on its content.
51. The 2008 Pilling Review
recommended that the CAA should have a general duty in relation
to the environment, set within a clear policy framework from Government
and within which guidance should be provided to help the CAA interpret
that duty. In January 2009, as part of a statement on Britain's
transport infrastructure, the Government announced the CAA would
be given a new general environmental duty and that guidance on
how to interpret this would be provided by the Secretary of State.
52. It would be inappropriate to update the Environmental
Guidance to the CAA on exercising its air navigation functions
before further developing work on the CAA's general environmental
objective and the guidance related to that.
53. Once the DfT has issued new environmental guidance
to the CAA, the CAA must produce clear and comprehensive new guidance
on airspace change for the industry. The CAA should adopt a regular
review cycle to update the environmental material in the document.
54. The CAA's Airspace Change Process guidance document
(CAP 725) will, as a matter of course, be updated to reflect any
changes to Government policy and any changes to the associated
environmental guidance issued by DfT. All CAA policy and guidance
material is already subject to a regular review cycle as part
of the CAA's quality assurance process.
55. We support the principles of the Single European
Sky (SES) initiative to create a more rational organisation of
European airspace, for example by establishing cross-border Functional
Airspace Blocks. It is unacceptable that, on such a crowded continent,
airspace is still largely managed in isolation based on national
borders. Greater harmonisation of air traffic management practices
at the European level would lead to improvements in efficiency,
environmental performance, and capacity. However, it is essential
that NATS and the CAA remain at the forefront of SES developments
over the coming decade. Their world-class expertise in air traffic
management services is second to none in Europe. It is essential
that the UK's high standards are the benchmark to which the SES
initiative aspires and delivers.
56. The Government welcomes the Committee's support
for the Single European Sky (SES), which we have strongly endorsed
from the outset because of the improved efficiency, capacity and
environmental benefits it will bring. We welcome the further revisions
to the SES foundation regulations which will introduce a performance
framework and accelerate the implementation of functional airspace
blocks. As the development of SES moves into this new phase, the
CAA is resetting its objectives to address the wide range of initiatives
in this complex package.
57. NATS and the CAA will continue to be at the forefront
of SES work over the coming decade in terms of supplying expertise
to Government through their involvement in SES-related fora and
through involvement with their counterparts across EU and non-EU
58. The Government supports common standards but
not a "lowest common denominator". Rather we have always
pushed for robust common standards to enhance Europe-wide safety
in the skies and bring other States up to a level commensurate
with that of the UK. The Government, CAA and NATS will continue
to scrutinise SES proposals, consult widely and promote UK level
standards and good practice in the negotiation process.
59. The Government must be explicit that the focus
of the European network management function should be on co-operation,
in order to improve efficiency across European airspace. The function
should not have the power to overrule recommendations from the
national regulator. Such recommendations are firmly based on consultation
arrangements with people affected by flight paths.
60. The Government considers it sensible for there
to be a Europe-wide network management function (NMF) involving
cooperation between all the players to enhance the overall functioning
of the system and complement the proposed performance framework.
We support improvements to route and sector design, traffic flow
management and central coordination of scarce resources, such
as spectrum which will boost system performance, and lower the
cost to users by optimising flight trajectories. There is no legislative
intention or power to overrule national regulators and it is made
explicit in the legislation that the NMF is without prejudice
to the responsibilities of Member States with regard to national
routes and airspace structures.
61. The Committee welcomes the statement made by
the Minister and the CAA that the performance by the European
Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has improved. However, the Committee
remains concerned that the extension of EASA's remit may lead
to a decline in safety standards and requests the Government and
the CAA provide six-monthly reports on progress to this Committee.
62. The Government is committed to maintaining
high standards of safety in air traffic management. EASA
is currently in the early stages of the lengthy process of preparing
Implementing Rules for air traffic management safety, which
are unlikely to be adopted before the end of 2012. The Government
and the CAA will be involved at various key stages of
this process and will keep the Committee informed as this work
63. The CAA should lead work to establish the broad
costs and benefits of SESAR for each of the different sections
of the UK aviation industry. It should also set out how it intends
to improve the phasing of projects within SESAR so as to maximise
the benefits to aviation stakeholders most cost-effectively.
64. The Government and the CAA have supported SESAR
from the outset as the technological arm of Single European Sky
essential to deliver a modernised European air traffic management
system capable of absorbing projected traffic growth safely and
efficiently. SESAR has recently moved into its Development Phase
which will see the SESAR Joint Undertaking oversee a programme
of research and development work to test the ability of the SESAR
concept to meet the challenges facing the European ATM system,
including the associated costs.
65. We expect the Commission and the SESAR Joint
Undertaking to apply effective project management techniques involving
robust cost/benefit analyses, risk identification and mitigation
and budget control as well as the development of sound funding
proposals. The UK was influential in the EU Council of Ministers
in the development of a resolution on the endorsement of the SESAR
Master Plan. This calls on the Joint Undertaking to focus on the
delivery of early benefits from SESAR through business cases,
cost benefit analyses and consultation and therefore to lead on
work to establish the costs and benefits of SESAR. Through this
resolution, the UK and other EU Member States have the mechanisms
to ensure that the JU will deliver on this work and both DfT and
the CAA will have early sight of proposals through the Single
Sky Committee (SSC) and progress reports to the Council of Ministers.
The DfT in liaison with the CAA, NATS, MOD and aviation stakeholders
will monitor progress and scrutinise any funding proposals or
changes to the European Air Traffic Management Master Plan deemed
66. We fully recognise the importance of synchronising
all the elements (such as ground and airborne equipage and legislative
aspects) needed to implement individual projects, as well as of
sequencing projects to ensure that capacity benefits are delivered
as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. The Master Plan rightly
prioritises projects that will deliver early capacity gains.
1 "Report of the strategic review of the CAA",
Sir Joseph Pilling, 2008 Back