Draft procedure for reviewing the classification of airspace

Closed 17 Sep 2020

Opened 25 Jun 2020

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
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  • Elected political representatives
  • European Aviation Safety Agency
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  • National representative organisations or institutes
  • Workers' representative bodies
  • Autogyros
  • Balloons
  • Drone owner
  • Drone operator


  • Aircraft noise
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  • 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