We Asked, You Said, We Did

Below are some of the issues we have recently consulted on and their outcomes.

We Asked

The purpose of this consultation was for the CAA to learn your views on new guidance that we have drafted to support our new airspace change decision-making process. This followed our consultation in 2016 about what the new process should look like.

The guidance that we drafted defines what will happen in the new process, including each stage a sponsor of an airspace change must complete; the stakeholders they must engage at each stage and our expectations of that engagement; and how the CAA assesses the proposed change.

We invited views as to whether the guidance is appropriate – including whether our description of the stages of the process are comprehensible, transparent and proportionate.

You Said

We had 113 formal responses to the consultation, which we have published where we have permission to do so.

The first eight multiple-choice questions asked to what extent (good, mostly, not sufficiently) the draft guidance was comprehensible, transparent and proportionate. For all three criteria (i.e. 24 results):

  • between 57% and 76% of respondents rated the draft guidance overall and for each of the seven stages as meeting or mostly meeting each of the criteria
  • between 29% and 43% of respondents rated the guidance as not meeting the proportionality criterion, with the poorest results on Stage 5 (CAA decision-making) and on the process overall
  • between 24% and 32% of respondents rated the guidance as not meeting the comprehensibility and transparency criteria, except on Stage 5 (CAA decision-making) where 39% of respondents rated the guidance as not meeting the transparency criterion

Detail about how different stakeholder groups responded, and the reasoning they gave in their written answers, is set out and analysed further in our consultation report.

In response to the remaining questions:

  • between 59% and 77% of respondents rated the guidance on temporary airspace changes (formerly Tier 1b) and airspace trials (formerly Tier 1c) as meeting or mostly meeting the three criteria
  • for the proposed new category of a permanent and planned redistribution of air traffic, where we sought views pending a government decision on whether to go ahead with it, there was almost unanimous support to adopt all stages of the airspace change process and (if we exclude a high number of ‘don’t knows’) for scaling it based on potential noise impacts
  • between 55% and 69% of respondents rated the draft best practice guidance on what we now call airspace information (formerly Tier 3) as meeting or mostly meeting the three criteria. 45% of respondents thought this guidance was not sufficiently proportionate.

Free text boxes on each question allowed respondents to give their reasoning and explain how the draft guidance could be improved. Recurring themes were:

  • adverse comments, mostly from residents, about the length and complexity of our guidance, and requests for a more accessible, easy-read version.
  • significantly more comments – from every stakeholder group – on the need for more detailed information to be included in most areas of the guidance document about how the process will work
  • suggestions, mainly from industry, that case studies or illustrative examples would be useful
  • comments that the draft guidance would not improve stakeholder engagement considerably outweighed those that it would; it was suggested that engagement needed to be more prescriptive or should be included at additional steps in the process
  • responses were almost wholly supportive of the use of a third-party facilitator
  • responses regarding the role of the CAA varied from suggestions that the CAA is too heavy-handed and the process disproportionate, resource-intensive and too lengthy (mainly from industry), to the CAA needing to regulate the industry more firmly (mainly from residents) citing a lack of trust in the CAA, or our process, or the industry
  • many respondents (mainly residents), took the opportunity to share their frustration about aviation noise in general, or with the way industry engages with stakeholders, or with matters which are Government policy on airspace and noise to which the CAA, and our airspace change process, must adhere, and which are not in our gift to change.
  • there were many recommendations concerning the actual airspace change process itself (for instance the length of stages, or the process relating to gateways), rather than the draft guidance that supports it.

We Did

To understand why some responses said that our guidance was not good enough, we need to understand what respondents would want to see instead. We have therefore gone into great detail as to what respondents said and our responses to specific issues in our consultation response document CAP 1615. We have rated every recommendation made to us as green, red, blue or amber – green means a change we have accepted and made to the guidance and red means one that we have not; blue means that we believe that the recommendation is already reflected in our guidance; and amber means either that a slight clarification is need to the guidance to produce the outcome we intended, or that it is a suggestion we will treat flexibly (we have not amended the guidance to mandate it, but believe it is currently a potential option in light of the wording).

We have taken on board the conflicting sentiments in responses that the guidance is too complex yet needs to be more detailed on certain aspects of the process. This highlights that the guidance needs to be transparent about a detailed and complex regulatory process while also being as accessible as possible.

Below is a high-level summary of the changes we made to the draft guidance to produce the final guidance. There are a large number of text changes, too numerous to list here, but many are just tweaks to language or clarifications.

We published all responses to the consultation unless permission was withheld.


Change made to CAA process and guidance document

Department for Transport policy framework


We have made a number of changes as a result of the outcome of the Department for Transport’s airspace consultation published on 24 October 2017.

We are no longer categorising types of airspace change as Tier 1a/b/c, Tier 2 and Tier 3, as the Government has dropped this categorisation in the light of its consultation. This also removes confusion with Stages 1 to 7 of the process and Levels 1 and 2 of the scaling. The Government has also temporarily removed what was called Tier 2.

The Government has clarified its definition of ‘significantly affected by aircraft noise’ by specifying that this refers to both the number of people affected and also the extent to which people could be subject to adverse health effects. This is a clarification of existing policy, which builds in an assessment of health impacts. As a result, outputs from the WebTAG model will be used to assess the respective noise impacts of different options within airspace change proposals. Our guidance reflects this change.

Guidance document structure

New material for informing non-expert audiences

We will separately produce additional, simplified communications materials to better explain the process to non-experts such as local communities.

New case studies and examples

We aim to invite sponsors to develop a case study with us and with other stakeholders to show how the new process will work in practice. The case studies would be unrelated to any live airspace change proposal to avoid any conflicts of interest.

New examples of drivers of airspace change

A list of examples of issues or opportunities potentially leading to a proposal to change airspace design, including noise mitigation.

Online portal

Publication of consultation responses in batches

Consultation responses will be published on the portal while the consultation is taking place. We will do this regularly during the consultation, at intervals that best manage the resources required for moderating those responses. We may allow the change sponsor to see the responses before they are published (normally 24 hours in advance), so that it has an opportunity to prepare ‘frequently asked question’ responses should it deem this necessary.


Our specification for the full portal development includes the ability to provide notifications, for example showing when a proposal passes through a gateway or begins consultation.

Scaling the process

Greater clarity

We have amended flowcharts to show at which points in the process the CAA considers the appropriate Level. We are adding greater clarity on Level 0 (changes to AIP nomenclature or qualifying remarks only) and unusual aerial activities.

Process gateways

Status of gateway sign-off

We have clarified how the CAA’s sign-off of a gateway may or may not affect our final decision.

Consultation and engagement by change sponsors

Sponsors can go beyond the minimum required by the guidance

We have clarified that sponsors should regard the CAA guidance on consultation and engagement as the minimum required, and may want to go further, without the guidance specifying how.

Sponsor may consider awareness raising or pre-consultation

We see value in industry maintaining ongoing contact with stakeholders, including about changes being considered, prior to the regulatory process commencing.

Clarifying CAA moderation of consultation responses

Guidance and portal text makes clear that consultation responses are moderated for inappropriate language and defamatory comments only, not for factual accuracy.

Categorising consultation responses

We are provide more detail and clarity around what we require of sponsors in assessing and categorising consultation responses. We will require sponsors to:

(a) provide a qualitative summary of the consultation and the issues respondents raised. This could take the form of ‘We asked; you said; we did’, or other written formats.

(b) provide a reason for categorising each response. This could take the form of a list of reasons with a tick-box system.

When categorising a response as one that ‘may impact final proposals’ the sponsor will be able to specify which part(s) of the response are deemed relevant and which are not.

Documenting evidence of two-way sponsor/ stakeholder conversations

Sponsors will be required to publish a record of formal engagement activities and outcomes, and may wish to consider publishing minutes of other meetings beyond what is mandated.

Sponsors may consider a ‘Statement of Community Involvement’, a useful tool to detail the consultation and engagement approach intended throughout Stages 1, 2 and 3, similar to the planning process.

Planning authorities, ACCs

We clarified references to sponsors engaging with planning authorities and/or airport consultative committees at appropriate points in the process.

Environmental assessment

Introduce additional optional metrics

Many people asked us to consider using additional environmental metrics. Subject to consistency with government guidance, where these will clearly add to the evidence base we included them, but, for proportionality reasons, as a recommended best practice.

More guidance on options appraisal and use of WebTAG

We cross-refer to new Government guidance on the key elements of WebTAG (Transport Analysis Guidance) that are useful for conducting an appraisal of noise impacts for an options appraisal of an airspace change proposal.

Options appraisal

More clarity on the use of a base case and ‘do-nothing’ option

We are clearer about the requirement for a baseline and how it should be used. We will expect sponsors to do a baseline to understand the current impacts. This baseline will include any changes that have been agreed but not yet fully implemented. Where ‘do nothing’ is not an option because a change is unavoidable for regulatory or system-wide reasons, a ‘do minimum’ assessment is made, i.e. what is the minimum required to comply with the regulatory change. This does not remove the need for sponsors to assess a baseline.

Decision-making process

Adding more detail on Public Evidence Sessions

We have added more detail on elements of procedure at these sessions, including the role of the Chair and the change sponsor, and who can attend.

Post-implementation review

More timescale flexibility

Where justified, we are allowing more time for stakeholder submissions.

Temporary airspace changes/airspace trials

Monitoring complaints

We have developed suitable criteria for monitoring complaints.

Excluding very short-term airspace restrictions from the process

We have included a list of short-term restrictions imposed for safety or national security reasons that do not require the usual process for a temporary airspace change.

CAA acting on unexpected effects

We have clarified that the CAA may urgently investigate any impacts of an airspace trial, not just noise impact.

Permanent and planned redistribution of air traffic (formerly Tier 2)

Deferred implementation

The Government has for the time being deferred introducing a decision-making role for the CAA for this new category of airspace change.

Airspace information: transparency about airspace use and aircraft movements (formerly Tier 3)

Clarified definition

The Government has clarified the definition of this category.

Identifying potential noise mitigations

We suggest that airports (a) engage stakeholders about whether information they publish reveals any noise issues for which there could be a potential mitigation, and (b) discuss these as part of the airport’s five-yearly noise action plan.

The following documents set out how the process will work from 2 January 2018:

We Asked

For comments from industry on the following main proposals:

A general price increase of 1.5% across all Schemes of Charges in 2017/18;

Proposals of specific charges to cover our costs in four areas where we are undertaking new activities, being:

  • Airspace Change Process (ACP)
  • Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)
  • Aviation Security
  • Medical

Proposals to review the charging structure under the General Aviation Scheme of Charges concerning regulatory activities relating to the unmanned aircraft systems and small unmanned aircraft.

You Said

This document includes the comments received and the outcome:  CAA Response Document

We Did

We are grateful for the submissions received and after CAA Board discussion, we have implemented all proposals made subject to one amendment relating to the Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing Scheme of Charges. Please see the CAA Response Document for details.

We Asked

Following a comprehensive review of CAP 699 - Framework for the competence of rescue and fire fighting service personnel - we carried out a short consultation in October and November 2016 to seek views from industry on a draft of CAP699.

We had previously consulted with Industry following changes to RFFS training brought about by the introduction of EU Aerodrome Regulation (Commission Regulation (EU) No. 139/2014) communicated in IN-2014/133. This showed a strong desire by Industry to retain CAP 699 as guidance material for Aerodrome RFFS personnel, but to bring it up to date.

We invited review of the draft CAP 699 and welcomed your comments on:

  • Chapter 1 – Establishing a training and proficiency check programme, and comment as required
  • Chapter 2 – Managing a training and proficiency check programme and comment as required
  • Chapter 3 – Do the core and role related units detailed in the Firefighter framework adequately cover the requirements of CAP 168 & EASA?


You Said

This document includes the comments received and the outcome: www.caa.co.uk/CAP699R


We Did

Edition 3 of CAP 699, published in January 2017, is available online: www.caa.co.uk/CAP699

We Asked

The UK’s airport and airspace capacity is constrained, and there will be no new significant airport runway capacity until 2025. Our busiest airports are regularly among the worst performing in Europe in terms of on-time performance. Although passengers benefit from increases in capacity, such as those which arise from higher runway utilisation, they also suffer if that leads to more delays and worse reliability.

The purpose of this consultation was for the CAA to explore two key areas from a UK perspective, recognising that the issues are likely to be more severe in the South East of England:

  • How can the performance of the aviation network be improved or optimised?
  • How effective is the current regime and how are consumer interests represented?

You Said

We had 23 formal responses to the consultation, which we have published where we have permission to do so. Submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

In general, repsonses to the request for information were based on opinion or experience rather than evidence. The main points can be summarised as follows:

  • Agreement that the current capacity declaration process works well at Heathrow, where various parties are aligned in improving performance as opposed to being able to increase flights (8 responses)
  • Capacity/airspace decisions should take account of more information from more/all airports (7 responses)
  • The need for UK airspace modernisation and improvements in Europe (7 responses)
  • Mixed views about the declaration process at Gatwick (5 positive responses Vs 5 negative)
  • Call for the effect on residents to be taking into account (3 responses)
  • Ground-handler market is not working - they are under-resourced (2 responses)
  • Mixed views on greater transparency of information (some agreed in principle, some that issues are too complex for consumers to find useful)
  • Other themes around airports' market power, incumbent airlines' incentives to protect their interests, and the use of regional and GA airports.

We Did

Some of the issues raised in response to this consultation are being addressed by other areas of our work, or are down to purely commercial decisions, such as the distribution of commercial and general aviation traffic at airports.

However, we also believe that further investigation is merited into planning, scheduling and operational processes and that there are opportunities for consistency and better cross-industry collaboration.

There are currently no collective rights and responsibilities concerning resilience in the aviation system, potentially leading to inefficient outcomes for industry and consumers. Indeed, there are many complexities, such that it may be difficult for a single entity to guarantee improvements to its own operation, even where it chooses to spend more money on resilience.

The CAA believes that in the period up to and following the provision of new runway capacity in the South East, action needs to be taken to mitigate the risks to consumers arising from a lack of resilience which we have highlighted in this report. 

Given resilience problems are likely to require collective cross-industry action to resolve, in early 2017, the CAA decided to test industry appetite for forming a voluntary group to consider how best to tackle these issues. In April 2017 a group of airports and airlines based in the congested South East of the UK, along with NATS, ACL and the CAA formed the Voluntary Industry Resilience Group (VIRG) to pool their expertise and recommend actions (for industry itself or the Government, as part of its review of Aviation Strategy) to address current and future resilience issues. 

Notwithstanding the recommendations of the VIRG, there are still opportunities for the CAA to consider or formalise resilience issues through the appropriate airport economic licence process.  However, CAA regulation may not be the most appropriate mechanism, as for airports it only applies currently at Heathrow and Gatwick, and we can only introduce licence conditions at airports where we have deemed that they have sufficient market power to require a licence. 

The CAA could also consider NERL licence conditions to cover traffic prioritisation, airspace change, airport schedule oversight and staffing level resilience. Any such changes must be implemented through the appropriate licence process involving consultation with NERL and its stakeholders, and considered in the context of relevant European wide airspace targets.

Government intervention would take time, and there is an opportunity as a likely new aviation strategy and legal arrangements for a new runway are developed.  The CAA believes that the Government should consider options for structural reform as it develops its aviation strategy. In particular what beneficial changes (if any) could be made to the airport capacity declaration responsibilities (or oversight) or to the UK slot legislation, and the potential benefits of a network system manager who could plan, co-ordinate and make decisions to improve resilience.

The CAA also intends to review its information duties and punctuality statistics reporting during 2017 and could take the opportunity to introduce new or modified measures that better capture resilience or the factors which affect it.

Published responses

Submitted responses where consent has been given to publish the response are available below. Submitted responses with consent given which were provided to the CAA as documents are published on our website.

Our consultation response document, CAP 1515 - Operating resilience of the UK's aviation infrastructure and the consumer interest, can be viewed on our website.


We Asked

The purpose of this consultation was for the CAA to learn your views on some changes we are considering making to our airspace change decision-making process.

Our objective is to ensure that it meets modern standards for regulatory decision-making, and that it is seen as fair, transparent, consistent and proportionate. The process should be impartial and evidence-based, and should take proper account of the needs and interests of all affected stakeholders.

You Said

We had 110 formal responses to the consultation, which we have published, where we have permission to do so. On the whole, stakeholders were supportive of the proposed new process.

In the ‘closed’ (yes or no) questions we found overwhelming support for the introduction of gateways into the process; engagement on design principles; the options appraisal concept; a single online portal; and the publication of consultation responses online. In addition there was broad support for the publication of airspace change submissions as early as possible, and for the Public Evidence Session.

In the ‘open’ (free text) responses we found there were overwhelmingly positive sentiments about the potential improvements to transparency; engagement (such as the introduction of the design principles stage, although there were also cautions about getting it right in practice) and certainty (such as the introduction of gateways). In addition, there were broadly positive sentiments about the potential improvements to fairness and proportionality (while the majority of sentiments were positive, there were significant numbers raising concern). 

There were however areas of concern or disagreement. Two thirds of those responding, across all categories of respondent, were opposed to responses to an airspace change consultation being made solely through the online portal. We noted some negative sentiments about flexibility and scalability. There were also differences of opinion between stakeholders on certain topics, including independent third-party involvement, appeals, and whether increasing costs were proportionate. We identified and categorised 363 recommendations as to how we could further improve the process.

We Did

We are maintaining, for the most part, the process proposed by our consultation, but with some modifications. We will now draft revised guidance on the new process, on which we will consult in spring 2017.

Some changes remain dependent on greater policy clarity from the Government, but the main outcomes are:

  • Fourteen-step process based on the existing process, with gateway sign-offs by the CAA to improve certainty
  • Single bespoke website forming an airspace change portal for anyone to view, comment on and access documents for every airspace change proposal, with offline submissions also accepted for the time being
  •  Airspace change sponsor early engagement with stakeholders on design principles
  • Formal options appraisal for each proposal where the sponsor shows how it has assessed the impacts of different designs at three stages in the process, building in detail as the number of options decreases
  • Recommended use by sponsor of an independent third-party facilitator to make early engagement with stakeholders on design principles more effective, and potentially also for formal consultation
  • Publication of airspace change consultation responses online as they are received
  • Categorising airspace change proposals by ‘Level’ according to the scale of the potential noise impact, to keep the process proportionate – including Level M for some military changes
  • Use of a standard template for formal submission of an airspace change proposal
  • Publication of final airspace change proposal on receipt, or as soon as possible thereafter  
  • Public Evidence Session for some changes with greater impact (‘Level 1’) allowing stakeholders to address the CAA decision-maker once a proposal has been submitted
  • Publication of a ‘minded to’ decision for public review for changes on which we believe there could be a risk of misinterpretation or misunderstanding of some of the evidence
  • CAA timescale commitments for gateway sign-offs and final decision
  • No formal appeal against a CAA decision
  • Clearer timescales and objectives for the Post-Implementation Review
  • No Oversight Committee
  • CAA recovery of additional costs through the en-route unit rate from 2020, and until then through a statutory charge on NERL and airports
  • New process implementation date not before August 2017
  • The immediate introduction of two procedural improvements, in the form of an Airspace Change Process Information Pack including a Regulatory Decision Template.

See also:

We Asked

Whether NERL should be required to produce detailed technology and airspace programmes for the remainder of RP2 by 31 March 2017 and an outline technology programme and airspace proposals for RP3 by 30 June 2018.

We also asked whether we should have the ability to appoint an Independent Reviewer to review the accuracy of NERL’s reporting on its technology and airspace programmes.

You Said

You largely supported our proposals, although some of you commented on the detail. Some wanted the proposals amended to remove the ability of us and NERL to bilaterally agree later dates for the programmes and options, and some of you wanted additional requirements on NERL to report on noise and, possibly, air quality as well.
You largely supported our proposal to appoint an independent reviewer. Although one of you did not have enough understanding of the proposal to support it. NERL said it would engage constructively and positively with an Independent Reviewer.

We Did

We modified NERL’s licence as proposed, but clarified that we would not agree later dates with NERL unless there were compelling reasons for reasons for doing so. In particular, we would not agree to later dates without first taking views from users. We considered that robust reporting on noise was important , but thought that this Licence modification, on the development of and reporting on airspace and technology programmes, was not the appropriate mechanism to introduce noise performance indicators.

We modified the licence to allow us to appoint an Independent Reviewer. As this is the first time that such a role has been envisaged in ATM, we said we would take a proportionate approach as all parties learn how such a role can add value to oversight of capital programme delivery. We said we intended to appoint the Reviewer initially for a one year period.