Manchester Airport has commenced a huge two year project to modernise their airspace by designing new flight paths.
Despite advances in technology, such as satellite-based routes which enable aircraft to fly more accurately and closer together, the way airspace is managed in the UK has changed little since commercial flights began in the 1950s.
As a result of developments in aircraft technology and the fact that more people than ever are flying, the Government has asked the aviation industry to overhaul the way UK airspace is managed. As part of a co-ordinated national programme, all airports are now taking a fresh look at how aircraft fly below 7,000 feet, to see what improvements can be made.
A spokesperson a Manchester Airport said "We hope that the modern ways of flying that are now available to us will mean that we can reduce delays, make customers' journeys more reliable, reduce the effect flying has on the environment, better manage some of the local effects of flying (such as noise nuisance) and achieve further improvements in safety."
The process of modernising the airspace will take more than two years and will involve a series of different stages. Manchester Airport are currently in the first stage of the process, which involves asking those affected by the business to give them their views on the principles they should consider when designing new flight paths.
John Mayhew General Manager of NATS at Manchester Airport "Imagine if we hadn't changed roads since 1960 – things just wouldn't work. We need an infrastructure to be modernised to be as efficient as possible for the aviation industry and the communities we serve."
In order to develop the design principles, a series of questions are being put forward to the public for consideration such as whether the airport should avoid aircraft flying over new areas or design the best possible routes even if this means flying over new areas; concentrating flight paths, which will affect fewer people but to a greater extent, or spreading out flight paths, which will affect more people but to a lesser extent.
Amongst the other options being considered if whether to avoid flying over built-up areas, which will affect fewer people but to a greater extent, or avoid flying over villages and rural communities, which will affect more people but to a lesser extent.
Plus whether they should fly the most direct routes possible to reduce emissions, even if this means flying over more people or avoid flying over communities so fewer people are affected by aircraft noise, even if this means higher CO2 emissions.
Manchester Airport will be gathering views on what their design principles should be until October 6th and they expect the CAA to review the proposals at the beginning of 2020. If it is satisfied with the proposals they will be able to proceed to the next stage of the process and begin developing flight path options which they intend to consult the public on in late 2020 or early 2021.
The area in red on the map above shows the area within which aircraft landing at and taking off from Manchester Airport fly below 7,000 feet.