Airspace redesign: collaboration to reduce noise impact and create more airspace capacity

The use of Dutch airspace increases and intensifies. Its capacity however is not increasing. This calls for large-scale airspace redesign in order to boost efficient use of airspace and to reduce noise impact and emissions. Safety is key in this respect. New users – such as drones – will be accommodated.

In the Draft Preferential Decision, Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen (Infrastructure and Water Management) and State Secretary Visser (Defence) present how the Dutch Airspace Redesign Programme prepares Dutch airspace for the future.

The essence of the redesign programme is that closer collaboration between civil and military aviation will allow for more efficient use of airspace capacity. This will result in shorter “motorways” in the air, and in shorter routes to and from airports, thus reducing fuel consumption as well as CO2 and airborn nitrogen deposits. In addition, faster climbing and descending aircrafts will also reduce noise impact.
According to an independent strategic environmental assessment report, which is based on current insights, the airspace redesign and its increased airspace capacity can be expected to produce positive effects. New air traffic handling methods can limit noise impact (by an order of magnitude of 20%), reduce CO2 and airborne nitrogen deposits (cutting down fuel consumption per flight by approx. 8%), and shorten flight times (by approx. 9%), in combination with expanding airspace capacity. The precise effects depend on further elaboration of the Draft Preferential Decision, which will be completed by 2023.

The main elements of the redesigned Dutch airspace are:

  • Redesign of the eastern and south-eastern parts of Dutch airspace, which will create room for improving the accessibility of the airports Schiphol, Rotterdam-The Hague, and Lelystad via more direct, shorter routes. This will reduce CO2 emissions;
  • Restructuring the Schiphol Airport approach area to create fixed routes enabling continuous climb and descent by aircrafts. This allows for approaches from higher altitudes and shortens the time required to reach higher altitudes upon departure. This reduces noise impact on the ground;
  • Expansion of the existing military training zone in the northern part of the Netherlands which will allow for the closure of the existing training area in the south-east. The area that will thus become available can be adapted for civil air traffic. The northern zone will enable efficient training with the new generation of fighter aircraft, such as the F-35. The aim is to incorporate this training areainto a cross-border Dutch-German training zone;
  • Step by step renewal of the operational air traffic management concept. This mainly pertains to maximising options for continuous climb and descent, and to flying according to fixed and shorter routes. This will reduce CO2 emissions and noise impact on the ground.

With the Draft Preferential Decision, the Dutch Cabinet has outlined the new Dutch main airspace structure and concept. The Draft Preferential Decision is currently open for formal public consultation . Its further elaboration is scheduled to be conducted in this year and the next year. Airspace users, provincial authorities, municipalities, NGOs, and residents’ groups will continue to be closely involved in this process. The airspace redesign will be implemented step by step from 2023 onwards.