'Select committee to inquire into the use of airspace'

Call for written evidence

The House of Commons Transport Committee has today announced that it will be conducting an inquiry into the use of airspace.

The Government projects that the number of passengers passing through UK airports each year will grow from 228 million in 2005 to 490 million in 2030 if demand to travel is unconstrained by airport capacity. The 2003 White Paper, The Future of Air Transport (Cm 6046), sets out measures to make better use of existing infrastructure and proposes a number of schemes to increase capacity, provided certain environmental conditions can be met. The changes outlined in the white paper would mean that UK airports could accommodate some 465 million passengers a year by 2030.

UK airspace, particularly in the South East of England, is already some of the most congested in the world and is nearing capacity. If rising demand for air travel is to be met effectively through additional airport capacity, a corresponding increase in airspace capacity must be realised. The Government says that the White Paper "recognised the need for a structured programme for the redesign of UK airspace that would help protect safety standards, relieve current constraints, take account of environmental impacts and accommodate the forecast increase in air transport movements where additional capacity was supported".

The Civil Aviation Authority is responsible for the planning and regulation of UK airspace. It published new Airspace Change Process Guidance in March 2007. NATS (formerly National Air Traffic Services) provides air traffic control services at 15 UK airports and "en-route" air traffic services for aircraft flying through UK airspace. NATS must be capable of meeting any reasonable level of overall demand. NATS is due to implement new airspace designs for existing traffic in the South East in 2009.

The Transport Committee will examine progress to date in preparing for the necessary changes to the management of airspace and would particularly welcome responses to the following questions:

€ What changes to the management of airspace could be required as a result of the additional airport capacity outlined in the 2003 White Paper? Are the White Paper's projections for increased passenger demand still accurate? Are all the measures to provide for increased passenger demand likely to be implemented?

€ Can safety be maintained as airspace is increasingly utilised? Is there a suitable interface between military and civilian arrangements for air traffic control?

€ Is the current approach to planning and regulating the use of UK airspace adequate? Would an Airspace Master Plan covering the period of the White Paper be beneficial? Could a piecemeal approach to individual developments necessitate additional redesigns subsequently?

€ How are the effects and aircraft noise and emissions taken into account when changes are made to the use of airspace? Who should be consulted about such changes? How should the balance between conflicting interests be struck?

€ How does the management of airspace in the rest of Europe affect flights into the UK? Is there an opportunity to integrate our plans for changes to airspace management more effectively with those of other European countries?

€ What opportunities are there to apply new techniques and technologies to reduce wasteful flying on indirect routes and excessive 'stacking' while planes wait to land? How can the potential of any such opportunities best be realised? Could environmental benefits be gained as a result of such improvements?

€ In relation to the redesign of UK airspace, is the allocation of the roles and responsibilities of each of the interested parties€”Department for Transport, the CAA, airport operators, NATS, etc€”appropriate and clearly understood? Are the structures of the parties appropriate for undertaking the roles that they should play?

€ Do airspace management considerations delay the planning processes in relation to airport development proposals? How will airspace management considerations be taken into account by the proposed new Infrastructure Planning Commission and the relevant National Policy Statements on airport planning?

€ What could be the implications for smaller airfields, recreational flying and helicopters of changes to airspace management to enable safe and efficient increases in capacity at the UK's major airports? How should an appropriate balance between conflicting priorities be determined?

€ Will it be possible to recruit and train staff in order that airspace changes can be implemented in parallel with additional airport capacity?

€ Who should fund airspace changes? Is there likely to be enough funding to undertake the redesign required to bring about the necessary additional airspace capacity?

Interested parties are invited to submit evidence by Monday 6 October 2008.

Each submission should:

€ be no more than 3,000 words in length;

€ begin with a short summary in bullet point form;

€ have numbered paragraphs; and

€ be in Word format with as little use of colour or logos as possible.

A copy of the submission should be sent by e-mail to and marked "Airspace inquiry". An additional paper copy should be sent to:

Ronnie Jefferson

Transport Committee

Committee Office

House of Commons

7 Millbank

London SW1P 3JA

It would be helpful, for Data Protection purposes, if individuals submitting written evidence send their contact details separately in a covering letter. You should be aware that there may be circumstances in which the House of Commons will be required to communicate information to third parties on request, in order to comply with its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Please supply a postal address so a copy of the Committee's report can be sent to you upon publication.

A guide for written submissions to Select Committees may be found on the parliamentary website at:

Please also note that:

€ Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a proposed memorandum, in which case a hard copy of the published work should be included.

€ Memoranda submitted must be kept confidential until published by the Committee, unless publication by the person or organisation submitting it is specifically authorised.

€ Once submitted, evidence is the property of the Committee. The Committee normally, though not always, chooses to make public the written evidence it receives, by publishing it on the internet (where it will be searchable), by printing it or by making it available through the Parliamentary Archives. If there is any information you believe to be sensitive you should highlight it and explain what harm you believe would result from its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish or further disclose the evidence.

€ Select Committees are unable to investigate individual cases.