Update August 2021
The airspace change masterplan
One of the most complex and challenging initiatives in the AMS is the need for airspace to be redesigned, which requires coordination between independent airspace change sponsors to understand trade-offs and dependencies between airspace changes. The co-sponsors believe this complex coordination is best achieved through a masterplan of airspace changes. NERL has set up ACOG to undertake impartial and objective coordination to prepare the masterplan – a single coordinated implementation plan for airspace changes in the UK to cover the period to 2040.
The masterplan will set out where airspace change could be taken forward to provide benefits. It will consider the potential interdependencies, conflicts and trade-offs between airspace changes, and set out a preferred implementation plan.
ACOG envisages a minimum of four iterations of the masterplan. The iterations broadly align with certain gateways of the CAP 1616 process that each of the constituent airspace change proposals will follow. In order to confirm that the masterplan is consistent with government policy and the CAA’s own statutory airspace functions, the co-sponsors must assess ACOG’s progress. Based on that assessment, and before the masterplan can be implemented, the CAA must decide to formally accept the masterplan into its Airspace Modernisation Strategy, having consulted the Secretary of State. The criteria against which the CAA will make that decision are set out in the following documents:
CAP 2156a Airspace change masterplan – CAA acceptance criteria
CAP 2156b Airspace change masterplan – assessment framework
We have also published CAP 2156c Airspace change masterplan – future opportunities to express views which is a short summary of the opportunities that stakeholders have to provide input to ACOG about the masterplan and to airspace change sponsors about the individual airspace change proposals that make up the masterplan.
We are in the process of developing a new webpage with links to documents relating to development of the masterplan.
Airspace modernisation update - May 2021
One of the most complex and challenging initiatives of the AMS, is the need for large-scale airspace redesign. Given the scale and ambition, coordination is required between independent airspace change sponsors, to understand how they need to be developed together to achieve the objectives of airspace modernisation overall and to manage the trade-offs and dependencies between their respective airspace change proposals. The co-sponsors believe this complex coordination is best achieved through a masterplan of airspace changes. NERL has set up ACOG to undertake impartial and objective coordination, and prepare this masterplan.
The DfT recently announced that funding will be made available to enable, FASI airspace change sponsors to restart their change proposals, following a pause due to Covid, through a grant administrated by the CAA. As part of the government’s commitment to supporting restart in the aviation sector and to decarbonisation, this funding will enable change sponsors to continue developing their Stage 2 material for assessment by the CAA (in accordance with the airspace change process known as CAP1616). This is the vital next step in developing the masterplan.
The government funding announced will support the development of airspace change proposals within both the FASI-S and FASI-N programmes, and the masterplan commission has now been extended to cover a single UK masterplan. The masterplan should tell us whether there are interdependences between two or more change proposals, and is intended to facilitate and evidence the coordination needed between change sponsors. We have decided the development of the masterplan should take this approach based on the advice provided in NERL’s original feasibility assessment (2018), which advised that all change sponsors should proceed in a coordinated way, to ensure that any conflicts and interdependencies between changes proposals were understood, and consequently properly managed
Sponsors in both FASI-S and FASI-N are now expected to work in line with ACOGs iterative masterplan development timescales, unless ACOG justify, to the satisfaction of the co-sponsors, that delivery of a masterplan for the UK does not require the co-ordination of a particular sponsor or proposal.
Further information regarding the masterplan commission and expectations in terms of change sponsor design principles is provided below.
The CAA and DfT have extended the masterplan commission to cover all of the UK
FASI-S and FASI-N Design Principles
Stage 1B of the CAP 1616 process requires sponsors to develop Design Principles. Paragraph 112 states that the principles must “encompass the safety, environmental and operational criteria and the strategic policy objectives that the change sponsor seeks to achieve in developing the airspace change proposal” and must “take account of government policy.” Paragraph 113 states that Design Principles must be “drawn up through discussion between the change sponsor and affected stakeholders at this early stage in the process” (with examples as to which local stakeholders may be relevant). It is therefore important that:
- The impact of the Airspace Modernisation Strategy and the Masterplan work is included; and
- Stakeholders are made aware of the way in which the Airspace Modernisation Strategy is reflected in the Design Principles, and that this is of particular importance to the airspace change proposal.
Because of the CAA's Airspace Modernisation Strategy and the co-sponsored Masterplan work, the CAA is therefore advising that it will expect to see the following concepts reflected and adopted in both FASI-S and FASI-N airspace change proposal Design Principles.
Subject to the overriding design principle of maintaining a high standard of safety, the highest priority principle of this airspace change that cannot be discounted is that it accords with the CAA's published Airspace Modernisation Strategy (CAP 1711) and any current or future plans associated with it.
If the stakeholder engagement necessary for Design Principles has already been completed an additional design principle that meets the guidance above should be developed brought to the attention of relevant stakeholders.
Please contact your CAA Account Manager if you have any queries about this.
Airspace modernisation update - October 2020
Airspace modernisation is vital to the future of aviation to delivering net zero and, now, to supporting the aviation sector’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is having a fundamental impact on the sector which in turn has impacted the progression of airspace changes.
The DfT and CAA, as co-sponsors of airspace modernisation released a statement in July 2020 confirming a continued commitment to airspace modernisation and the need to consider how individual organisations may progress airspace change in response to the Airspace Change Organising Group’s (ACOG’s) report on ‘Remobilising the Airspace Change Programme’.
In our July update we stated that we had immediately accepted three of ACOG’s recommendations and the DfT and CAA and committed to considering the remaining recommendations in further detail. Below we provide an update in relation to Sponsors restarting a ‘paused’ ACP and how we intend to assure that ACPs in the FASI-S programme that are progressing to a CAP1616 Stage 2 Gateway assessment do not constrain the optimisation of the wider network.
The airspace change process
Sponsors restarting a 'paused' Airspace Change Proposal (ACP)
The CAA is committed to capitalising on the work sponsors have done to date in bringing forward airspace change proposals through the airspace change process (CAP1616).
We have now developed guidance which sets out what evidence and assurance that sponsors resuming an existing airspace change will need to provide to the CAA before restarting and progressing further. This guidance applies whether they are part of the FASI programmes or not, and which have been paused.
There are a number of considerations that the CAA will need to understand in terms of any relevant changes in the background context, including;
- any changes to the issue or opportunity identified in the Statement of Need, operating environment or geographical area in which the ACP is being developed;
- changes to law, government policy or CAA requirements that would affect the development of an ACP, or parts of an ACP;
- changes to identified stakeholders.
If there have been relevant changes in context, the sponsor will need to consider whether previous work is still appropriate, can be adjusted or requires an element of work or stage of the CAP1616 process to be revisited.
The ACP restart guidance includes our current understanding of the government's position on relevant policy and our approach to actual and traffic forecasts during, and as a result of, the COVID-19 period.
The aim is to avoid requiring sponsors to repeat work previously conducted where possible. However, there may be circumstances where work will need to be revisited or further information provided on a case by case basis to minimising the possibility of the ACP failing at a later stage due to context changes during the pause.
The airspace change masterplan
One of the purposes of the masterplan is to help the CAA make decisions on airspace design changes that, together, create a systemised upgrade to UK airspace, identifying dependencies between changes. Given that ACOG is not in a position to deliver a masterplan at this time, the CAA has now considered what advice it would need in order to decide whether any FASI-S airspace changes could progress to a stage 2 gateway assessment prior to delivery and acceptance of a masterplan.
The CAA has developed a pro forma which would allow ACOG, working with an individual sponsor, to provide advice on potential interactions, dependencies and other issues that would best be managed through the coordinated approach taken in a masterplan, or whether there are no such issues for that part of the airspace. The CAA will use ACOG's advice to decide, in the CAA's role as owner of the Airspace Modernisation Strategy and co-sponsor of the airspace modernisation programme, whether it would be appropriate for a sponsor to proceed to a CAP1616 Stage 2 gateway or not. It does not remove the requirements of CAP 1616, nor does it remove the ability for the CAA to request further information and evidence as part of the CAP 1616 process.
The best course for delivery remains a single, coordinated masterplan. We will therefore only consider taking advice from ACOG, when there is an immediate risk that the inability of an individual sponsor to proceed to the next stage, in the absence of a masterplan, would delay modernisation. The sponsor should discuss this potential approach with ACOG.
Should ACOG, having worked with a FASI-S sponsor, demonstrate that they have no dependencies with other sponsors in the programme and this is subsequently confirmed in an accepted masterplan, one option is that the sponsor may leave the co-ordinated programme to progress independently. If this is not the case, then sponsors will need to align their timescales with ACOG whilst the necessary co-ordination takes place.
Airspace modernisation update - July 2020
Airspace modernisation is vital to the future of aviation to delivering net zero and, now, to supporting the aviation sector’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is having a fundamental impact on the sector which in turn will impact the progression of airspace changes to original plans.
The DfT and CAA, as co-sponsors of airspace modernisation released a statement recently confirming a continued commitment to airspace modernisation and the need to consider how individual organisations may progress airspace change in response to the Airspace Change Organising Group’s (ACOG’s) report on ‘Remobilising the Airspace Change Programme’.
We have immediately accepted three of ACOG’s recommendations and the DfT and CAA will thoroughly consider the remaining recommendations in further detail given the range and scale of the options proposed by early Autumn. In the meantime, below we provide further detail on how the CAA intends to replan work on airspace modernisation.
Reviewing the Airspace Modernisation Strategy
The CAA's Airspace Modernisation Strategy (AMS) sets out what airspace modernisation will achieve and how it will happen. Whilst the CAA will always regularly review its AMS, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic means that we will need to undertake a review sooner than expected. This work will start in late 2020 or early 2021; we will decide how and when to undertake this review exercise by continuing to monitor the effects of the crisis and judging when we may have more certainty as to how the UK and the rest of the world is emerging from it. The CAA intends to complete any revisions to the AMS to provide clarity to industry in time for January 2022.
During late 2020, and through 2021, the CAA will conduct an intermediate review of the NERL (NATS (En Route) Plc) price control arrangements for RP3 to consider and address the impact of COVID-19 on the extant arrangements. Subject to the outcome of that review, any subsequent modifications to NERL's price controls and airspace modernisation responsibilities under its licence, would be expected to be implemented from January 2022.
Before any revisions are made by the CAA to the AMS, or by NERL to its AMS commitments, engagement with industry, stakeholders and the public will be needed. It cannot be assumed that the CAA or NERL knows the expectations or intentions of the industry and other key stakeholders, so our decisions will need to evidence how we have considered them.
The Air Navigation Directions 2017 also require the CAA to consult the Secretary of State in developing the AMS; a new amendment to the Directions expected imminently will also require that the CAA does not include in the plan any detail which the Secretary of State has objected to in writing.
To revise the AMS the CAA will:
- Work with the DfT to revisit the key assumptions in the AMS, including the objective, the policy, and the context for airspace modernisation.
- Complete the task started by the 2018 AMS by looking ahead of 2025 to set a vision for 2040, the timeframe given to us by the Air Navigation Directions 2017.
- Confirm where initiatives set out in the AMS are still relevant, and whether there are any new approaches that could innovate and improve delivery. We will also consider whether any new initiatives should be added
- Consider whether there is an opportunity to capitalise on the current reduction in air traffic to lock in improvements in air quality and reductions in CO2 and noise.
- Run a public consultation exercise, which will include consulting the Secretary of State before confirming any revision to the AMS publicly.
The airspace change masterplan
One of the most complex and challenging initiatives in the AMS is the need for airspace to be redesigned, which requires coordination between independent airspace change sponsors to understand trade-offs and dependencies between airspace changes. The co-sponsors believe this complex coordination is best achieved through a masterplan of airspace changes. NERL has set up ACOG to undertake impartial and objective coordination to prepare the masterplan, starting with the South of the UK, referred to as the FASI-S programme.
The Masterplan will set out where airspace change could be taken forward to provide benefits, consider the potential conflicts, trade-offs and dependencies, and set out a preferred implementation plan.
The co-sponsors do not want to lose the valuable work that ACOG and airspace change sponsors have already done. However, with such material changes to the aviation sector, the CAA could not confidently consider accepting a masterplan at this time, without further analysis to reflect those potential changes. Below we explain what this means for FASI-S changes that have completed Stage 1 of CAP 1616 and are seeking to progress to Stage 2 of the airspace change process. How we consider co-ordination for FASI-N airspace changes is not being reconsidered at present, and can be found on our website.
ACOG's recent report on Remobilising the Airspace Change Programme sets out a number of options for how the change programme could be remobilised. We intend to consider these options in more detail over this summer and we will advise ACOG and stakeholders of our preferred approach in the early autumn, allowing work on the masterplan to restart in good time.
The airspace change process
One of the purposes of the masterplan is to help the CAA make decisions on airspace design changes that, together, create a systemised upgrade to UK airspace, identifying dependencies between changes. We have previously stated that if an individual sponsor wanted to progress to stage 2 of the airspace change process (CAP1616) without an accepted masterplan, the CAA would have to work with ACOG and NERL to understand whether that proposal had any dependencies with or impacts on other changes before making any stage 2 gateway decisions.
Given that the CAA is not in a position to confidently accept a masterplan at this time, and consistent with ACOG's recommendations, the CAA is now considering what information it will need before any FASI-S airspace changes could pass through a stage 2 gateway. Sponsors will need to demonstrate their potential interactions or dependencies with other sponsors, who may be working to different timescales or have opted out of the programme. We will also need to understand the potential risks that this may present to the modernisation of the whole UK airspace system. We are considering how this information can be used by the CAA to inform CAP1616 gateway assessments and will share further details as soon as we can.
The CAA is also committed to capitalising on the work sponsors have done to date in bringing forward airspace change proposals through the airspace change process (CAP1616). We are looking at how we will assess any airspace changes, whether part of the FASI programmes or not, and are considering what elements of CAP1616 materials may require additional information, or may need to be revisited by a change sponsor where the background or scope of a proposal has changed.
The aim will be to avoid losing work sponsors have done wherever possible. However, there may be circumstances where will need to be revisited or further information provided. We will look at the information provided by the sponsor in their original Statement of Need. The need the sponsor identified could be affected by, for example, changes to the context or operating environment, or a government policy change. In order to be able to offer sponsors more certainty, the CAA is developing some clear factors that we would have to review to determine whether previous work remained relevant. We will give sponsors as much certainty as we can about how we will make these assessments, although we cannot offer a simple test as we will have to look at the context on a case by case basis.
We intend to develop these two approaches in more detail over the summer and we will advise ACOG and stakeholders of our preferred approach in the early autumn, to coincide with our preferred approach to remobilising the masterplan.
Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill
The Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill was paused at report stage in the House of Lords during the current pandemic.
At this point in time, the timelines for the Bill have not been confirmed, but it is likely to return to the House of Lords after summer recess.
The DfT and CAA remain committed to the fundamental importance of airspace modernisation. A new planning exercise will be needed to ensure every aspect of the programme remains relevant and proportionate in the future context. We have set out above some thoughts on how the programme would usefully move forward in the current circumstances. We look forward to replanning and engaging on the delivery of airspace modernisation at the earliest opportunity.
Provide page feedback
Please enter your comments below, or use our usual service contacts if a specific matter requires an answer.
Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.