My noble friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport (Baroness Vere of Norbiton) has made the following Ministerial Statement on Monday 30th January 2023.
The Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS) refresh, published on 23 January 2023, sets out, through 9 elements, the ways and means of modernising airspace, focussing on the period until the end of 2040.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) must report to the Secretary of State annually on the delivery of the AMS, through an annual progress report. This report details the progress made by industry, as well as work the CAA have conducted against each of the AMS’s elements. For 2022, the progress report reports on the previous AMS’s 15 initiatives.
In total, 6 of the 15 initiatives are assessed as ‘requiring attention’, 2 are on track, 1 has been implemented and 6 initiatives have been assessed as having ‘major issues’. The department continues to work with the CAA to ensure greater progress is made in implementing the airspace modernisation programme. Ministers are giving the programme the urgent attention it requires and are committed to delivery of the AMS.
Areas of progress
Free Route Airspace (Initiative 2) was implemented in Scotland in 2021 and remains on track for deployment in Q1 2023 across southwest England and Wales. This will see airlines being able to fly more direct routes in upper airspace reducing aviation’s carbon emissions and will save CO2 every year equivalent to the power used by some 3,500 family homes (12,000 tonnes CO2/year).
The Airspace Classification Review (Initiative 10) has made significant progress with the publication of the findings into the review of the Cotswold region. This work has identified where airspace can be opened up for all airspace users to use (for example, general aviation).
Under the Deployment of Electronic Surveillance Solution (Initiative 11), DfT and the CAA established the Surveillance Standards Task Force, developing national, voluntary specifications for electronic conspicuity. This is a key enabler in the refreshed AMS, bringing together current and new airspace users, such as drones, in order to promote a safe and integrated lower airspace.
Areas assessed as having major issues
There are a number of initiatives assessed as having ‘major issues, in part because of COVID recovery and the complexities of the airspace changes in the London cluster. However, formal acceptance of the Airspace Change Organising Group’s (ACOG) Masterplan Iteration 2 in January 2022 was a critical milestone. This was enabled in part to £9.2 million funding by government. Iteration 3 will be published later this year following a number of public engagement exercises. Of the 6 initiatives requiring attention, timescales and delivery plans have been re-assessed and re-baselined as a result of publication of the refreshed AMS.