Spectator Out Loud

Revolution in the air: redrawing Britain’s air routes

30 min listen

In This Episode

The UK’s aviation industry has today pledged to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It’s a promise that has been met with scepticism by some campaigners, so how does the industry think it can achieve this goal, while also matching Britain’s post-Brexit ambitions on connectivity and trade?

One major reform could be the modernisation of British airspace, to make flight routes more fuel-efficient. It’s a project that’s been a long time in the coming. We don’t always think of airspace as a series of roads in the air – but there is a complex infrastructure system right above our heads. In fact, the UK’s aviation network is the third largest in the world, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs in Britain and responsible for billions of pounds worth of trade with other countries.

But given its importance, you might be surprised to hear that the system we use today is largely the same as when it was implemented – in the 1950s. Back then, the number of flights per year in UK airspace was a mere 500,000, compared to over 2.5 million today.

This archaic system is feeling the strains of demand, leading to excessive carbon emissions, as well as delays and unnecessary noise pollution. Plus, in the post-Brexit age, aviation will only become more important in our trade routes. But critics argue that modernisation will only allow even more flights to take place – something that could be a net loss to emissions. So is modernisation the right way forward?

To discuss, Kate Andrews is joined by the Rt Hon Conor Burns MP, Minister of State for International Trade; Mark Swan, Head of the Airspace Change Organising Group; and David Learmount, aviation journalist and consulting editor at Flight International magazine.

This podcast is sponsored by Our Future Skies, the industry campaign group for national airspace change.


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