Majority of public believe cutting emissions is main priority for changes to UK airspace, finds poll conducted for NATS
Thu 27 Sept 2018 – Research commissioned by UK air traffic service provider NATS shows just over half (52%) of 1,000 people polled by Ipsos MORI agreed that reducing aircraft carbon emissions should be the top priority from any reworking of the UK’s airspace. Improving flight paths (36%) and reducing aircraft noise (32%) were next in line of importance. Less than a quarter (24%) of those polled cited increasing airport capacity as a priority, although almost half – a figure that rises to 64% in London – agreed that airport expansion was “the right thing to do”, with 15% disagreeing. NATS says much of the UK’s network of air routes and flight paths, originally designed in the 1960s, are in urgent need of modernisation.
The ‘Aviation Index’ research also showed that 49% of those surveyed would support changes to flight paths, against just 6% opposing any changes, with almost 60% saying the process should be given the same priority as the roll-out of high-speed broadband.
A huge majority of those interviewed had flown at least once in their lives and over half having done so in the past 12 months, with nine in ten flights for leisure purposes. Young people aged between 18-24 were the group most likely to have flown recently.
“We know that people still want to fly and that demand is growing, but these results show us that people also want to see a reduction in the environmental impact of aviation,” commented Ian Jopson, Head of Environment and Community Affairs at NATS. “Modernising how our airspace is structured and managed is the main way for us to do that.”
The current structure does not allow air traffic controllers to take advantage of the navigation capabilities of modern aircraft, which would allow for more direct routes with smoother, quieter flight profiles, says NATS. This would help reduce delays by improving capacity and lead to lower carbon emissions, it adds.
Despite the majority of respondents agreeing that reducing emissions was a priority, more of them agreed (45%) than disagreed (21%) that residential areas should also be avoided as far as possible, even if it resulted in an increase in fuel burn and emissions.
“These findings are totally in line with the guiding principles around airspace change, with minimising noise for local communities the top priority at lower levels and reducing carbon emissions at higher altitudes,” said Jopson. “That’s exactly the balance we’ll be looking to achieve and we want to work with communities to achieve that.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has just closed a public consultation on a draft Airspace Modernisation Strategy published in July. The UK government has tasked the CAA with preparing and maintaining a coordinated strategy and plan for the use and modernisation of UK airspace up to 2040. The final strategy is expected to be published at the end of this year.
Priorities for the aviation industry, according to poll (source: NATS):