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Glasgow Airport: Airspace Modernisation

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 4 November 2021

8. What recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of the airspace modernisation proposals for Glasgow airport. (904024)

Glasgow airport is engaged in the airspace modernisation programme, and is working with the Civil Aviation Authority and the Airspace Change Organising Group to develop its proposals.

With COP26 kicking off this week, the environmental impact of flying is at the forefront of many attenders’ minds. What assessment has the Minister made of the environmental benefits of potential airspace changes?

UK airspace is among the most complex in the world, but it has not been modified significantly since the 1950s. Airspace modernisation will enable us to have more direct, quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys, and will harness new technologies such as performance-based navigation. As set out in the “Jet Zero Consultation”, the Department’s analysis shows that

“Moving to best-in-class aircraft, operations and airspace modernisation could deliver 25-36% of CO² savings by 2050”,

bringing benefits not only for the hon. Lady’s constituents but for the whole United Kingdom.

Is my hon. Friend aware that Rolls-Royce is now developing an aviation jet engine that will run on 100% sustainable fuel? When that happens, will it not show that flying can be not only fun but clean?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am aware of that engine that is being developed; in fact, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State went to see it only this week. There are a number of exciting technologies with new aerospace advancements including sustainable aviation fuel that will deliver precisely the guilt-free flying that my hon. Friend refers to.

We have an analogue airspace system in the digital age; the Minister is right in what he says. With the better ascents and descents of planes and the elimination of holding patterns, we will not only improve noise abatement but cut carbon emissions by up to 26%, as he rightly said. This is the lowest of the low-hanging fruit when it comes to the climate crisis, so can the Minister tell us what he is personally doing and how he is talking to the industry to unlock the funding we need to enable this programme to continue?

The hon. Gentleman is quite right. There are a number of aspects to decarbonising aviation. There are the existing efficiencies as well as sustainable aviation fuel and the £180 million that we have recently announced on that. Then there is the longer-term but still rapidly advancing technology that was referred to earlier. He is also quite right to talk about airspace modernisation, and the Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Act 2021, which was put through in the last Session, was a major part of that. It gives the Government extra powers. After the pause that took place during covid, we have given £5.5 million for the future airspace strategy programme, which is taking place as we speak.