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NATS survey shows public backs modernisation of airspace over Stansted

Stansted Airport. (7672273)
Stansted Airport. (7672273)

Public opinion backs the case for modernising airspace over Stansted and the country’s other busiest airports, according to a new survey.

Research commissioned by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air navigation services, found that 82% of respondents agreed that aviation is important for the UK economy and 59% were in favour of an overhaul in the skies.

This underscores the Transport Secretary’s Chris Grayling’s comments at the Airport Operators Association’s annual dinner that “reforming the way we use our airspace is among the most pressing of tasks”.

NATS believes public backing for airspace modernisation is crucial as passenger numbers continue to grow, with 2018 the busiest on record with 2.6m aircraft flying through UK airspace. As aircraft become more technologically advanced, the airspace infrastructure needs to be redesigned to make better use of this technology and safely accommodate the additional 700,000 flights expected by 2030 – without delays and cancellations and while managing aircraft noise and decreasing carbon emissions. The UK’s aviation industry contributes nearly £70bn annually to GDP and employs almost 1.2 million people.

Despite the majority in favour of airspace modernisation, 80% of respondents knew nothing about plans to modernise the UK’s airspace infrastructure, demonstrating the need for greater engagement with local communities, businesses and holidaymakers. NATS, together with Stansted Airport and other partners across southern England, will be working together over the next five years to put forward options for change for consultation with the public.

Martin Rolfe, NATS chief executive, said: “The Transport Secretary’s comments very clearly demonstrate the Government’s recognition of how important our airspace is, and the priority they are now giving to modernising it. Redesigning UK airspace is a complex task, yet it is crucial if we are to reduce the impact air traffic has in terms of noise and CO2 emissions and manage the forecast growth in air travel while maximising the benefits for the UK.

“We will be working closely with the airports to increase awareness of future plans with local residents and the flying public so that the impacts of aviation on the environment and those who are overflown can be balanced with the benefits of air travel and the opportunities it brings.”

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