Airport bosses set to expand air control

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Bosses at Norwich International Airport are planning to reach for a greater share of the skies in a bid to cope with rising passenger levels and the increased risk of collisions with military aircraft following the closure of RAF Coltishall.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Bosses at Norwich International Airport are planning to reach for a greater share of the skies in a bid to cope with rising passenger levels and the increased risk of collisions with military aircraft following the closure of RAF Coltishall.

The owner, Omniport, is exploring the idea of increasing the amount of airspace falling under the airport's control after the closure of the RAF base.

Ironically, since Coltishall's closure the number of military plans exercising in the skies above Norfolk has increased.

Norwich International controls a 2.5-mile radius and an altitude of 2,000ft, but has no say or control over aircraft operating just beyond those boundaries, whether fighter jets or microlights.

Airports which have successfully secured similar changes because of rising passenger numbers include Luton, Cardiff, Bristol and Newcastle.

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And with passenger numbers in Norwich expected to rise by 100pc in the next two years and predicted to hit the 3m mark by 2030 there is a growing need to extend the area available for directing the flow of air traffic.

Supporters believe that there will also be environmental spin-offs including using less fuel and reducing noise by introducing more direct flight paths and enabling air traffic controllers to divert flights waiting to land into holding sites away from builtup areas.

An informal approach has been made to the Civil Aviation Authority about carrying out the changes, while a consultation process is also under way.

A report by the airport warned that retaining the current system could "inhibit growth of (the) commercial operation" and there was also a "high potential for incidents between passenger carrying and military and general aviation aircraft exercising freedom to operate".

The environmental benefits would include reduced fuel usage because aircraft would fly fewer miles as less re-routing was required. Bosses also claimed that the creation of an enlarged controlled airspace would boost the chances of wind farm developments -because the airspace would be a known environment to locate them safely.

Richard Jenner, airport managing director, said the proposals were at a very early stage but the changes would bring a range of benefits to passengers, residents and the environment.