Ministers are paving the way to expand airports and create hundreds of flight paths amid warnings that demand for air travel will soar by a third in the next 12 years.
The Department for Transport publishes a long-awaited aviation strategy today that pledges to deliver “greater capacity at UK airports”.
It raises the prospect of airports other than Heathrow growing and accepting more flights if tough environmental and noise restrictions are met.
The strategy also outlines plans for the biggest overhaul of Britain’s airspace in more than 50 years to create new flight paths into the biggest airports. GPS-style technology will allow aircraft to fly along more accurate paths below 30,000ft instead of being led by ground beacons, which space planes out over a wide arc several miles across.
It will mean a considerable increase to the 600 or so dedicated flight paths that are in operation today.
The move is likely to prove hugely controversial, with campaigners insisting that it will subject those households directly beneath the flight paths to unbearable noise levels. […]
Nats says that the number of flights in and out of the UK is expected to grow 700,000 to about 2.9 million by 2030. An aviation industry source told The Times: “We have one chance to get this right but we need government to take the lead. Too often they have shied away because politically it is very tough, but without them setting the policy framework it puts industry in an almost impossible situation.
“The simple truth is that without modernisation we will not be able to grow our industry.”
The government has already given outline approval for Heathrow to build a third runway, allowing an additional 260,000 take-offs or landings a year.