Future Airspace Programme

Find out how East Midlands Airport is modernising its airspace.

In 2017, the Government set out its policy on the future of UK airspace which made it clear that airspace modernisation is essential. UK airspace has undergone very little change since it was first mapped out in the 1950s, and with the increasing demand for flying, a lot of the way our skies are managed is outdated.

Therefore, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched their Airspace Modernisation Strategy in 2018 with the objective of delivering quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys.

East Midlands Airport fully supports airspace modernisation and the wide range of benefits that it can offer, notably helping to reduce carbon emissions, enabling us to better manage how noise impacts our local communities and reducing delays for passengers.

There are seven clear stages to the formal airspace change process, East Midlands has now started Stage 2.

Stage 1 Define

East Midlands Airport submitted the work completed in Stage 1 in December 2019 and received formal approval from the CAA in January 2020.

Stage 1 of the modernisation involved two Steps:

  • Step 1A required us to submit a Statement of Need which outlined the reason for change and what we want to achieve from the change. The CAA approved this statement in 2019.

  • Step 1B was an opportunity for us to work with local stakeholders to determine a set of design principles that will be used to guide the development of our airspace change. Design principles are high level considerations and these covered things like whether it is better to concentrate flight paths over one area or spread flights out more widely, and whether there are specific areas that route options shouldn’t go over. This Stage included two phases of engagement to ensure stakeholder views were taken into account.

We considered all the feedback received in the engagement phases and produced a set of proposed Design Principles which were submitted to the CAA for review. You can view our submission report and all accompanying appendices on the CAA’s airspace change portal.

Stage 2 Develop and Assess

In January we resumed the Future Airspace Programme and have now started Stage 2. This stage requires us to develop a list of route options that address the Statement of Need and align with our design principles. Our route designers will firstly identify areas where it could be possible to design routes and where it would not. We will gather the views from a broad range of stakeholders as part of a two-phase engagement process.

Developed options will be subject to full public consultation when we reach Stage 3 of the programme.

Sign up for updates

The future airspace program is a significant project and will be running for some time. If you would like us to contact, you directly please email futureairspace@eastmidlandsairport.com with the following information and we will add you to our mailing list:

  • Your name

  • Your postcode (to help us direct bespoke information to you)

  • Your email address

We will update at significant stages of the project such as ‘Gateways’ and when we commence full-scale consultation in Stage 3. There may be long periods of time when you receive nothing from us. Your information will be used solely for the purpose of corresponding with you about Future Airspace and all details will be destroyed at the end of the consultation period.


Airspace is the term usually used to refer to the area from the ground to a height of 66,000ft. UK airspace is among the busiest in the world and therefore needs to be managed carefully to make sure we can provide safe and reliable journeys.

NATS is responsible for managing UK airspace, through their air traffic control centres. Individual airports, such as East Midlands Airport are responsible for managing their local airspace, making sure that arriving and departing aircraft are safety co-ordinated with the national control centre and other airports nearby.

The way we manage airspace remains largely unchanged since the 1950s and with an increase in demand for air travel, our airspace is reaching capacity. Although advances in technology have brought improvements, a lot of the way our skies are managed was for a different time. For example, to keep aircraft safe NATS builds in delay when the airspace gets too busy. While today flights experience only around 10 seconds of air traffic control delay. It is forecast that by 2030 passengers could face delays of more than 30 minutes. Early analysis by NATS also suggests airspace modernisation could deliver up to 20 per cent of annual savings in fuel burn and CO2 emissions.

The modern ways of flying that are available to us might mean that we can make customers’ journeys more reliable, reduce the effects flying has on our environment and make further improvements in safety.

There are a number of stakeholders involved in this programme, however the CAA have overall responsibility for the process of modernising airspace. The Government expects all UK airports to modernise airspace close to their runway (below 7,000ft) and our national air traffic service provider (NATS) are modernising airspace at higher altitudes (above 7,000ft). To makes sure that all the changes to lower and higher altitudes work together, the Government and the CAA have set up a new body, the Airspace Change Organisation Group (ACOG) to co-ordinate the program of airspace modernisation projects.

The CAA have set out a formal process, called CAP1616, that all airports must follow throughout their airspace change programme. CAP1616 outlines a number of detailed stages that must be followed, with the CAA approval required at the end of each in order to progress. You can find out more about CAP1616 by following this link to the CAA’s website.

You can find out more information about East Midlands Airport’s current operations by clicking here.

We have created an independent Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) to challenge and provide advice on our communication and consultation plans. The SRG will be made up of a selection of stakeholders and will:

• Independently managed by the Consultation Institute, on independent organisation that specialises in managing and giving advice on public consultation.

• Meet periodically during the Future Airspace project to comment on and review the process that Airport uses during the whole CAP1616 review.

If you would like us to contact, you directly please email futureairspace@eastmidlandsairport.com with the following information and we will add you to our mailing list:

• Your name

• Your postcode

• Your email address

In line with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), the information you provide will be used solely for the purpose of corresponding with you about future airspace and all details will be destroyed at the end of the programme. You can find our data protection policy by following this link.