More flights will need more air traffic investment


More flights will need more air traffic investment

Any growth in airport capacity must be backed with investment in the air traffic control infrastructure if the UK is to meet the predicted growth in air travel demand, Prospect has warned on behalf of 3,500 air traffic controllers and engineers.

Responding to today’s (Tuesday) white paper on aviation, Prospect negotiator David Luxton said:

"Prospect is disappointed that the government has not accepted the clear need for an extra runway at Heathrow immediately where the major airlines operate, although any extra runway capacity in the south-east must be welcomed to cope with the expected doubling of flights over the next 20 years.

"From an air traffic point of view, continued investment in the air traffic infrastructure requires better understanding by the regulator of a charging mechanism to airlines, which more accurately reflects the costs of providing safe and efficient air traffic operations.

"The current weight to distance formula is out-dated and in urgent need of overhaul. It is essential that NATS has long-term funding stability for its investments that is not constrained by the five-year regulatory review cycle."

The recently privatised National Air Traffic Services (NATS) handles over two million flights each year in UK airspace and plans to handle around three million flights within the next 12 years, despite the temporary lull in air traffic growth post September 11 and the Gulf War.

The expected growth of air traffic demand is a considerable challenge to NATS, given the existing constraints on airspace and the financial constraints on NATS arising from its debt burden when it was privatised and the subsequent impact of tight economic regulation.