Airspace Change Process

Independent Review & Recommendations - The UK CAA commissioned Helios to advise on new offshore approach procedures.


Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA)


The UK CAA sets out the airspace change process and is responsible for reviewing airpsace change proposals and making a decision or referal to the Secretary of State. The airspace change process must protect the safety of all airspace users, be efficient and consider the impact on all stakeholders.

In recent years the level of scrutiny and challenge of the CAA's process and decisions has increased, particularly following changes that impacted communities below. The potential for legal challenge is ever present, so the CAA asked Helios to undertake a detailed independent review to identify if the process was efficient, transparent and robust and, if not, to set out recommendations.

Role of Helios

Helios carried out an in-depth independent review of the whole UK airspace change process. Our approach started with a desktop review of:

  • Policy documents
  • CAA guidance
  • A sample of previous Airspace Change Proposals.

This was followed by a comprehensive stakeholder engagement exercise involving airports, airlines, ANSP's, industry bodies, local residents, environmental and community campaign groups. Interviews were conducted with internal CAA and external stakeholders, including members of the public who had previously demonstrated a keen interest in airspace change and its consequences for communities. The interviews enabled us to identify seven key change themes and a number of concerns within each theme. The seven key change themes were:

  • Process
  • Guidance
  • Engagement & consultation
  • Trust
  • Decision making
  • Role of the CAA
  • Government policy & guidance

To extend our research and engagement we developed an online questionnaire that enabled a larger number of stakeholders to rank the seven change themes. The questionnaire also sought opinions on the importance of the identified concerns within each of the seven themes.

The next stage was to run some workshops to gain a deeper understanding of the questionnaire responses, and to share and test conclusions. We held one-day events for each of the three stakeholder groups, Change sponsors & Industry, General & Business Aviation, and Communities, leading to a number of observations focussed around:

  • Transparency
  • The consultation process
  • Public expectations of the role of the CAA
  • Cost and timescales for ACPs
  • Guidance on the AC process
  • Information on the "strategic priorities"
  • Factors outside of the AC process that affect the affect the wider context as to how it is viewed.


The study highlighted a number of areas where the current process and guidance material could be strengthened and proposed a revised process detailing the:

  • Issues addressed by each stage of the revised process.
  • Objective of the process stage and an overview of the sub-tasks.
  • Steps within the sub-tasks and who the responsible stakeholder is.
  • Documentation required to guide and support the sub-tasks.
  • Required outputs from each stage.

For more information on this project please contact us.

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