Air Clean Up

  • How Would Opening Up Airspace Affect Pollution?

How Would Opening Up Airspace Affect Pollution?

Jun 22 2019 Read 417 Times

The UK government has promised to reduce air pollution by “opening up” airspace all over the country. By re-directing flight paths and overhauling the current system that has been in place for well over half a century, the government believes it can reduce delays, increase efficiency and transform British aerospace into one of the greenest of its kind in the world. Given that air pollution from EU planes was recently predicted to rise by half over the next two decades, any reductions in emissions would be most welcome.

However, the plan is not without its disadvantages. While it may go some way to optimising airspace use and reducing emissions as a result, it would involve rerouting flight paths over areas that had not previously been subject to them. This would inevitably include urban locations where the local populations have not had to deal with the noise pollution associated with air travel in the past, causing concerns that it could interrupt their peaceful way of life.

Breaking records

The Department for Transport (DfT) waited until Friday 31st May to make their announcement about the proposed changes for a specific reason. The following evening saw the final of the Champions League in Madrid, which was contested by two English teams for the first time in over a decade. In order to accommodate the demands of fans flying over to Spain for the game, airlines were forced to lay on an extra 700 journeys.

Indeed, the previous record for flight arrivals and departures for UK airports was 8,842, but the additional traffic saw that figure smashed with more than 9,000 journeys on June 1st. With British skies ever busier thanks to rising demand and falling prices of air travel, the DfT believes it must act now to avoid severe inefficiencies in the future.

Time is ripe to re-evaluate

Despite the fact that our air quality monitoring capabilities are becoming ever more sophisticated, the infrastructure surrounding air travel in the UK has remained unaltered since the 1950s, notwithstanding that it’s a significant contributor to airborne pollution. Aviation Minister Charlotte Vere explained that air travel must move with the times if Britain is to continue in its role as environmental pioneer.

“Like our road and rail infrastructure on the ground, we need to keep our infrastructure in the sky up to date to keep people moving,” she said. “It hasn’t fundamentally changed since the 1950s, and without action, one in three flights could faces delays of half an hour or more by 2030.”

Pros and cons

By re-organising flight paths to allow more direct routes, the experts behind the proposals believe they could reduce flight times, minimise delays at airports and optimise fuel efficiency. In fact, it is estimated the transition could see planes consuming up to 20% less fuel, which would translate into around 400,000 fewer flights every single year.

On the other hand, the plan does risk angering citizens who live in parts of the country that have remained hitherto unaffected by the noise pollution created by air travel. A newly-created body named the Airspace Change Organising Group (ACOG) has been put in charge of the proposals.

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