Systemisation and Free Route Airspace (FRA) were deployed on 23 March by NATS, following over four years of development. 

The West Airspace Deployment (West), which spans 54,000 square nautical miles, aims to make air travel more sustainable, supporting the UK government’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy.

Juliet Kennedy, Operations Director at NATS said: “We are delighted to have safely implemented West and deliver a simpler, more sustainable future for all airspace users.

“This section of airspace supports over 1,000 flights a day, so these changes will help the wider aviation industry deliver on their environmental commitments.

The West airspace changes expect to reduce 12,000 tonnes of CO2 each year within the UK airspace which equates to annual emissions savings of 3,500 family homes.

There is also a two hour cumulative reduction in flying time each day and 150,000 nautical miles of flying saved for each aircraft – this equates to seven trips around the world.

Systemisation has been implemented above 7,000ft to 24,500ft, the first large-scale systemised network in the UK. The airspace below 7,000ft has not been changed.

The systemised network has highly defined flight paths designed by Performance Based Navigation (PBN) which uses satellite technology on modern aircraft. This allows aircraft to fly on precise flight paths until they reach the higher-level network, increasing predictability and reducing delay.

FRA removes the airspace structures to allow aircraft to fly their preferred route.

Aviation Minister Baroness Vere of Norbiton said: “Revolutionising how we use our airspace is vital to decarbonising aviation. NATS’ West Airspace Deployment is helping us to save emissions and take us a step further towards Jet Zero.

“For this reason it is vital we continue our ambitious airspace modernisation plans across the UK.”