Future Airspace

Find out how Manchester Airport is modernising airspace.

European Union

In February 2017 the Department for Transport published ‘Upgrading UK Airspace’. This document reviewed how modern aircraft can use new technology onboard aircraft for greater efficiency and reduced noise. The current departure routes for aircraft are based on navigation equipment on the ground. Modern aircraft can replace this method of navigation by using satellites. Satellite-based routes enable aircraft to follow the departure routes more accurately while maintaining safety. You can find out more about why Airspace change is needed by following this link to a video.

The CAA consulted on a process for airports to work with communities when they modernise their airspace. This process was introduced in 2017 (and was last amended in March 2021), in a document called CAP 1616, this sets out the detailed seven stage process that Manchester Airport must follow. You can read and/or download the latest version of CAP 1616 here.

Stage 1 Define


Stage 1 of the modernisation involves two Steps:

  • Step 1A requires an airport to issue a Statement of Need to the CAA to approve the start of a change process. Manchester Airport did this in March 2019 and the CAA gave approval for Manchester Airport to begin the change process following the process set out in CAP 1616. The whole process was expected to take two years followed by a review process one year after implementation but was paused for over a year because of the pandemic.

  • Step 1B was an opportunity for the community and industry to help us to form Design Principles. We produced an information pack and promoted this widely. You can see the consultation document ‘Be part of the Conversation’ here and it is also available in single colour here. We met with elected representatives, held Focus Groups (independently facilitated by YouGov), and provided opportunities to discuss the process face-to-face at Outreach sessions in August, September, and October 2019. Comments had to be returned to the Manchester Airport Future Airspace Team, through a web portal, by Sunday 6th October 2019.
    We evaluated the feedback from the Focus Groups and members of the public (provided through the web portal) and produced a set of ten draft Design Principles. These ten draft Principles were tested with a further set of Focus Groups to ensure that they reflected he feedback we had received. We carefully considered the Groups comments and feedback to narrow to a set of nine proposed Design Principles. These proposed Design Principles were sent to the CAA in a report for evaluation. You can read the full report here, a full colour summary document here (or in single colour here) or on the CAA web site.

The CAA reviewed our report and Proposed Design Principles and in December 2019 have given their approval for Manchester Airport to move to Stage 2 of the CAP1616 process. It was at this point that the Manchester Airport Future Airspace programme was paused. The outputs from Stage 1 were a Statement of Need in Step 1A and a set of nine Design Principles in Step 1B -full colour summary document (or we have a single colour version).

Stage 2 Develop and Asses

In July 2021 we resumed the Manchester Airport Future Airspace programme and have now started Stage 2. We have appointed airspace designers to develop flight path options. Stage 2, like Stage 1, is not a consultation, but we are keen to provide an opportunity for the community and industry to input into the process and help us to ‘Develop and Assess’. We plan to test the first outputs from our airspace designers with the stakeholders we engaged with during Step 1B of Stage 1. We will seek feedback to ensure that we have developed the envelopes/swathes with the Step 1A Statement of Need and Step 1B Design Principles (single colour version) in mind. We will do this by testing the comprehension of the rationale for designs, and the design envelopes, with our stakeholders.   

Stakeholder Reference Group

A Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) was formed in advance of Step 1B. The Group acts as an independent advisory group to contribute to the Manchester Airport Future Airspace programme. The SRG consider and provide comment on our approach to engagement, consultation, materials, and process. The Group has been structured to provide persons representing local (where possible), stakeholders’ representative of different parts of our society, specialist knowledge and interests. You can see the composition of the SRG here. The SRG feeds back on the process only, it is not their role to comment on the substance, outcomes or choices selected in response to the process. The Group is chaired by the Chair of the Manchester Airport Consultative Committee (MACC), although it is not his role to represent that Committee; there is a Member to represent MACC on the Group. The Agendas and minutes (once agreed as a true record) of the SRG are published below:

Keeping in touch

We are following the seven-stage process outlined in CAP 1616. We are currently in the process of achieving Stage 2; this Stage (like Stage 1) is not a consultation. The engagement process we followed to develop Proposed Design Principles, was in line with the CAP 1616 process but exceeded the minimum requirements set out. In Stage 2 we are keen to provide an opportunity for the community and industry to input into the process and help us to ‘Develop and Assess’ and we will engage with the stakeholders we engaged with during Step 1B of Stage 1. Updates on our progress will continue to be made widely available in the community and through councils. During Stage 3 ‘Consult’ we will enter a full-scale Consultation on any proposed changes. Please return to this page to see content changes as we move through the seven-stage process outlined in CAP 1616.

If you would like us to contact, you directly please email futureairspace@manairport.co.uk with the following information and we will add you to our mailing list:

  • Your name

  • Your postcode (to help us direct bespoke information to you)

  • Your email address

Your information will be used solely for the purpose of corresponding with you about Future Airspace and all details will be destroyed at the end of the consultation period.

Current operations

On other web pages, we have provided a range data sheets and video clips that describe how we currently operate. There are also data sheets that show the experience of arrivals and departures in previous years.

*The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Manchester Airport and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the European Union.