Major changes to Scottish air routes to be unveiled by Edinburgh and Glasgow airports
The next step towards Scotland leading the UK in the biggest changes to its airspace for 70 years is launched this week with views being sought on a move towards “quicker, quieter and cleaner” flights.
It comes as part of the countdown to detailed proposals being unveiled by Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, which are expected to include plans for shorter journeys to and from London by re-routing aircraft along the east coast.
The move is aimed at creating more direct routes between airports to cut delays, noise and emissions. Many routes were established in the 1950s, based on pilots being guided by a series of ground-based beacons that were often not the shortest. They also involved routes converging at certain points, causing congestion.
Detailed design options are being worked up by Scotland’s two busiest airports, but their complexity has delayed publication for up to a year until late 2024.
The body overseeing the process for the UK Government will on Monday embark on a “public engagement exercise” in Scotland ahead of publishing a masterplan for the project. This is designed to help people understand the process.
The Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) said it would focus on airspace in and around Edinburgh and Glasgow airports below 7,000ft. Separate changes are planned for higher-level airspace by air traffic control firm National Air Traffic Services.
Scotland is in the vanguard of the changes, which will be repeated in three areas covering the rest of the UK.
ACOG head Mark Swan told The Scotsman: "I suspect all eyes will be on Scotland to see how this plays out over the coming months. This is a big signposting exercise, preparing the ground so people can be really well informed as to how best to have their voice when it comes to the consultations that the airports are in charge of.
"If we want increased capacity, flight efficiency, and quicker, quieter, cleaner journeys and reduced delays, this has to happen. Otherwise people just won’t get the flights they want.”
Mr Swan said if nothing was done, by 2040 one in five flights would be delayed by more than 45 minutes.
An ACOG spokesperson said feedback from three focus groups it had established in Scotland showed most people felt there would be an increase in flying in the future, but were concerned airspace was reaching capacity. There were also worries about the impact of delays on tourism.
The spokesperson said: "Around 80 per cent said airspace modernisation was a good thing to do for Scotland. There was broad support for why we need to do this and the potential to reduce emissions per flight because of more direct routings.”
A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: “We’re fully engaged in the process to modernise the skies above the airport and we will take a range of options through a public consultation later this year. This will help shape our final proposal.
“By working closely with our Scottish cluster partners Glasgow Airport and NATS, we’ve been able to identify changes to airspace infrastructure that will meet our criteria of modernisation whilst reducing the noise and carbon impact of flight paths across central Scotland.”
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