Have your say on changes to the airspace above Stansted Airport
A once-in-a-lifetime chance to change the flightpaths in and out of Stansted Airport has begun.
Manchester Airports Group has set up a digital portal so residents and other stakeholders can track the progress of proposals and have their say.
Neil Robinson, director of sustainability, is leading the process which he hopes will provide benefits for the community, commercial interests and climate change.
"Ultimately we are doing this with the interests of our neighbours and stakeholders in mind. It gives us an opportunity to reduce noise, improve environmental impacts and make services more reliable for all.
"What we want from the process is the same as the other interested parties and what the community wants as well.
"We will be really clear and even-handed in the process and make sure people can understand everything we do."
As part of the Airspace Modernisation Programme, the Government has requested that all UK airports review how new technology can best be used to make the airspace that they use more efficient.
Much of its design has remained unchanged since the 1950s, but innovations such as satellite navigation systems rather than ground-based radar systems can reduce the need for stacking and delays and help to cut emissions.
All UK airports are responsible for reviewing their operations up to an altitude of 2,133.6m (7,000 feet) with the UK's national air traffic service provider, NATS, looking at aircraft routings above that altitude. The process is being overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and it will be the final arbiter of any changes made at Stansted and elsewhere.
This month, the airport has been hosting focus groups, including members of the public, aviation industry, local businesses, elected representatives, special interest groups, national organisations and community representatives.
They have been asked for their views on the broad principles that Stansted should follow when designing any change to its airspace.
However, Mr Robinson was keen to emphasise that anyone who wishes to contribute to this stage of the process can do so by visiting the airport's new dedicated future airspace website at https://www.stanstedairport.com/futureairspace/
Currently, protocols dictate that when aircraft fly below 1,219m (4,000ft) the primary concern is creating the least amount of noise for residents while above 2,133.6m (7,000ft) reducing emissions is the target.
New technology will be able to reduce the 3km (9,842ft) swathe currently flown by departing aircraft to just 400m (1,312ft) if the consensus is that concentrating flight paths is the best option for the greater good.
The review is also set to resolve conflicts with aircraft departing from other airports, such as Luton, which currently causes some flights to remain lower for longer.
Mr Robinson said: "The thing we should not lose sight of is there is a lot of opportunities. If we make the right choices, there should be benefits for all."
As well as potentially cutting fuel costs for airlines and improving the performance of air traffic control, the reorganisation can increase capacity but Mr Robinson stressed Stansted's current airspace can accommodate its growth to 43m passengers a year.
Instead, the changes will mean fewer delays. "It's not about growing the airport, it's about taking advantage of the new technology to do things in a better way," he said.
Crucially, Mr Robinson said that along with green aviation technologies including sustainable aviation fuels and electric flight, the airspace changes could have a key role in plans to cut aviation's net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, in line with UK Government targets, while accommodating 70% growth in passenger numbers by the same date.
Mr Robinson said: "I want people to get involved in this process. If you get involved, you will understand what's going on and you will be reassured."
More by this authorSinead Corr