Flight paths are changing

Over the next few years there will be changes to flight paths at most airports in Europe.  This is because flight paths across the world are being modernized.  Air traffic controllers are moving from a ground-based system to a satellite system to guide planes.

The new system will allow planes to be guided more accurately.  It will mean narrower, more concentrated flight paths.  Routes will be more direct.  The system is known as Performance Based Navigation (PBN).

The new system will mean:

  • Airlines save money on fuel;
  • Journey times become more reliable;
  • The capacity of airports increases since there should be fewer delays and because there can be more departure routes;
  • The amount of CO2 emitted per plane decreases.

What will be the impact for local communities?

It depends how the flight paths are organized.  There are a number of options:

The new flight paths could be concentrated over a few communities.  This would mean that these people got all the flights.

Or the flight paths could be rotated to give communities a break from the noise. This is known as respite.  This would mean that more people in total would get aircraft noise but most communities would get a break from noise each day.

Many communities will also benefit from planes being higher.  At the moment at some airports planes need to be kept lower than they need be to avoid aircraft from nearby airports.  This is likely to happen much less under PBN as aircraft will have their own dedicated route.

What has happened so far?

Over 100 airports across the world have introduced PBN.

In America the authorities have gone for concentrated all-day flying over the same communities.  No respite.  Some of these have been communities which were not previously overflow.  There has been a lot of opposition, including lawsuits.

 In contrast, Heathrow consulted the public on what they wanted from their flight paths.  Only a small number of people favoured all-day flying over the same communities; the majority favoured respite; with new areas avoided if at all possible.  Heathrow then set about designing the new routes based on those preferences.  (The work is currently paused because of the pandemic).

If flight paths are changing at your airport and you need some advice, please feel free to contact us at UECNA.