Draft procedure for reviewing the classification of airspace

Closed 17 Sep 2020

Opened 25 Jun 2020

Feedback updated 17 Dec 2020

We asked

The purpose of the consultation was to hear your views on a draft procedure that sets out how the CAA will carry out its new role to review and, where appropriate, amend airspace classification.

Respondents were asked five questions (open text and multiple choice): general comments on the proposed procedure overall, specific feedback on the three stages in the procedure (Consider, Review and Amend), and views on cost impacts.

This consultation follows an earlier one in December 2019 where, in parallel with developing the new procedure, we asked for specific suggestions for volumes of controlled airspace where the classification could be amended. 

You said

We had 123 responses to the consultation, which we have published where we had permission to do so. Of the 123 responses, 72 were from members of the General Aviation community, 17 responses were from the commercial aviation industry, 12 from residents affected by aviation, and others were mostly from national or local representative bodies across the UK.

Overall, respondents expressed support for the concept and intention of the new procedure. In respect of the Consider, Review and Amend stages of the procedure, 63%, 60% and 59% respectively said that they were about right or that only some modifications were needed. There were also concerns about our proposals, such as a perceived lack of CAA commitment to undertake a review, the extent to which we engage with stakeholders, and whether the CAA’s decisions need independent oversight or an appeal process. Some also criticised the CAA for underestimating the cost impact of the procedure and said that reviewing airspace classification should not be a priority, especially in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Some respondents said that airspace modernisation needed a more holistic approach, and questioned how classification changes would interact with airspace change proposals going through the existing CAP 1616 process. We also received comments about the type of data sources we should use, how we should prioritise proposals in our biennial plan, and the use of flexible airspace management as an alternative to reclassification.

Furthermore, respondents questioned how we assess environmental impacts of proposed changes, how we obtain the vital input from the relevant airspace controlling authority, and how the effectiveness of a change would be reviewed once implemented. 

We did

We have published the new procedure as CAP 1991 Procedure for the CAA to review the classification of airspace and a summary as CAP 1991a.

The new procedure takes effect on 1 December 2020. Later in December 2020 we will add to this page our plan for the first volumes of airspace where we will be considering potential amendments to the classification. These have been chosen from those highlighted to us in response to the initial review that we launched in December 2019. A new CAA team dedicated to the review of airspace classification will start work on those in January 2021.

We have also published a consultation response document CAP 1990 Outcome of the consultation on a draft procedure for reviewing the classification of airspace giving an overview of the responses received, including a quantitative analysis of the multiple choice questions, and the main changes we made as a result of the consultation.

Update - December 2020

The CAA has undertaken a recruitment process to put in place the team that will be delivering this work.  The team has now been recruited. One team member joined the CAA at the beginning of December. The rest of the team will be starting early in the New Year.

The CAA has examined each of the proposed volumes to determine which could be taken forward to the “Amend” phase. In line with CAP1991, a filtering process was applied and accordingly proposals were considered as suitable for this procedure where the following factors did not apply:

  • Would the change have an adverse effect on military operations;
  • Does the volume sit within airspace that is currently the subject of a change in airspace design through the CAP1616 Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) process;
  • Does the volume sit within airspace that will be assessed by the CAA as part of the ACP post implementation review (PIR) process; or
  • Does the proposal have a significant environmental or operational impact?

A number of the proposed volumes related to airspace which sits within an existing or recently completed airspace change proposal process which will then be subject to a Post Implementation Review (PIR).  As set out in CAP 1991, where we do not progress a classification amendment because of an ongoing or recent change in airspace design, we will instead formally notify the airspace change sponsor and (where appropriate) the Airspace Change Organising Group of the intelligence we have received. We expect the airspace change sponsor to consider and respond to this intelligence in its final airspace design, or in the final PIR report.

Published responses

View submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response.


The CAA is introducing a new procedure to review and where appropriate amend airspace classification.

The classification determines the flight rules that apply in that airspace and the procedures that must be followed.

Why we are consulting

We are seeking your views on the procedure we propose to adopt for amending the classification of airspace, reflecting the CAA’s airspace functions, government policy and best practice decision-making.


In October 2019 the Secretary of State gave the CAA new Air Navigation Directions creating a role for us to review airspace classifications and where appropriate amend them. This requires a new procedure to be in place by 1 December 2020. It is the design of this procedure that we are consulting you about.

The new function given to the CAA responds to a General Aviation-led review of how airspace is managed. (General Aviation essentially means all civil flying other than commercial airline operations. It therefore encompasses a wide range of aviation activity from powered parachutes, gliding and ballooning to corporate business jets, and includes all sport and recreational flying.) It requires that in applying our classification policy, or amending a classification, we seek to ensure that the amount of controlled airspace is the minimum required to maintain a high standard of air safety and, subject to overriding national security or defence requirements, that the needs of all airspace users are reflected on an equitable basis. (The CAA understands ‘equitable’ to mean that needs are fairly accounted for, not that each user has the same and equal amount of airspace. The needs of different types of airspace user could vary considerably.)

We aim to design a procedure that will allow different, sometimes competing, factors to be taken into account, including satisfying the requirements of airspace users. In the longer term, the new procedure will be a useful tool for the CAA to use for airspace modernisation, for example for integrating new types of airspace user.

We began last December by asking stakeholders for their suggestions of volumes of airspace that we might consider for reclassification through our new procedure. We have now published the results of this consultation.

Once we have a procedure in place, taking into account your feedback, we can take appropriate suggestions through to the Amend stage of the procedure, and future reviews will follow the new procedure.

Our proposed classification procedure

The wording of the Directions gives us three distinct stages for our new procedure:

  • to Consider regularly whether we carry out a review of airspace classification
  • to Review (including consulting airspace users) where we consider a change might be made
  • to Amend the classification as we consider appropriate.

Consider stage

An internal CAA meeting makes a yes/no decision whether there are airspace safety, efficiency, environmental or access benefits that a review might help to define and deliver, taking into account workload and other obligations. We may limit the scope of the review if we choose. We notify aviation stakeholders of our decision and reasoning.

Review stage

We use appropriate intelligence including continuous monitoring of airspace safety, access or utilisation issues to draw up a plan that lists airspace volumes where we think a case could be made for amending the classification or other remedial action. We consult airspace users for feedback on the plan and for other suggestions they would want us to include in it. We apply filters to remove changes which would have significant operational or environmental impacts that make them unsuitable for this procedure. We would not pursue an amendment that was the subject of a current or recent airspace design change. We publish a refined plan after this consultation.

Amend stage

For each airspace volume identified, the CAA develops further a formal proposal for amending the classification that aligns with our statutory duties, with vital input from the designated airspace controlling authority.

The proposal must satisfy the requirements of the Air Navigation Directions and the factors in section 70 of the Transport Act 2000. This includes the airspace controlling authority developing the operational and safety case with CAA assistance, but ultimately the controlling authority owning the safety component of the proposal. The CAA assesses any potential environmental impacts and adds this to the proposal.

The CAA consults relevant stakeholders about the proposal and takes their feedback into account in finalising the formal proposal that amends the classification. This proposal is then submitted to the CAA Airspace Regulation decision-making process. We publish our decision.

The airspace controlling authority implements any amended classification, monitors its ongoing effectiveness and reports after one year to the CAA.

To find out more about the proposed procedure, please read our consultation document CAP 1934. We are also publishing a short summary of the consultation document as CAP 1934a

What we are not consulting on

We are not seeking your views on the policy on airspace classification or the classifications of particular volumes of airspace, nor on government policy, including the Air Navigation Guidance and the functions given to us which come directly from the Secretary of State. This consultation is also not about the CAP 1616 airspace change process or specific airspace change proposals or decisions.

We will disregard elements of responses to this consultation that focus on any of these areas.

Your views are invited

We are seeking your views on our proposed procedure for reviewing airspace classification. Once we have considered your views and incorporated any modifications needed to our proposed procedure, we will introduce it on 1 December 2020.

How to respond to this consultation

Please let us have your comments by following the "Give us your views" link below and answering the five questions.

We understand that some stakeholders prefer not to be constrained by the questions alone and will want to send a self-contained response. While we will read these submissions, we will not be able to analyse the submissions in the same way that we analyse the online responses.

We are asking for comments before 23.59 on 17 September 2020. We cannot commit to taking into account comments received after this date.

If you would like to discuss anything about how to respond to the consultation, please email us at airspace.modernisation@caa.co.uk. 

What happens next

Thank you to those who have submitted their views, which we are now considering. Once we have made any modifications needed to our proposed procedure in the light of those responses, we will publish the new procedure in November 2020 for effect from 1 December 2020.

Responses, where we have consent to publish, can be viewed by following the link above under 'Published Responses' (for online responses) and the link at the foot of this page under 'Related' (for offline responses).


  • Residents affected by aviation
  • Organisations affected by aviation
  • Community groups
  • General Aviation
  • Commercial airlines
  • UAV operators
  • Air taxi operators
  • Military
  • Airport operators
  • Air Navigation Service Providers
  • Industry representative bodies
  • Eurocontrol
  • Flightcrew
  • Air traffic control staff
  • Aerodrome Operators
  • FISO licence holders
  • ATS initial training organisations
  • Government departments
  • Regulatory bodies
  • Elected political representatives
  • European Aviation Safety Agency
  • European Commission
  • International Civil Aviation Organization
  • National representative organisations or institutes
  • Workers' representative bodies
  • Autogyros
  • Balloons
  • Drone owner
  • Drone operator


  • Aircraft noise
  • Aircraft emissions
  • Local air quality
  • Flightpaths
  • Airspace design, categorisation and access
  • Airspace change proposals
  • Airspace investment
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Safety
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Gyroplanes
  • FISO training, qualification and licensing
  • Light aircraft
  • Microlights
  • Drones