The head of the UK’s National Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) has warned that all flights in the UK will face a delay of up to 20 minutes unless flight paths first drawn up in the 1970’s are not changed. Nats chief executive Martin Rolfe said the the paths needed to be changed to allow planes to fly above each other and he also described the existing flight paths, which are currently in operation and the majority of which were drawn up in the 1960’s and the 1970’s – as resembling “a network of B roads.”
Experts predict that by the year 2030, more than 3.1 million flights will be operating within the United Kingdom, a rise from the current figure of 2 million.
Mr Rolfe told the Telegraph
Mr Rolfe warned that under the current system either all flights will be delayed or expanded capacity, such as from a third runway at Heathrow Airport, will not be utilised.
He said: “Either delays will soar from effectively no delay or very little delay from an air traffic perspective right now up to millions of minutes a year, which probably means every flight being delayed by 10, 15, 20 minutes.
“Or we end up in a position of any additional capacity that we build in the country – no matter where it is – not being usable and not being of any benefit because we don’t have the infrastructure in the airspace to support it.”
Calculations by Nats has shown that flight delay and cancellations could potentially increase from 90,000 minutes a year, to four million by 2030, if nothing is done to address the issue of inadequate flight paths.
Mr Rolfe also added that:
Mr Rolfe said: “Modernising how our skies are structured is vital, but we are already behind schedule and it is critical that the industry and government now work together to deliver change.”
He admitted that changing flights paths is “a contentious topic” as it means some communities have more planes flying above them.