All change overhead

Written by

Olivia White


All change overhead

Recently the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) released its revised airspace change process, known as CAP1616. Following a consultation earlier this year, the updated version aims to make the process easier to understand and clarifies the requirements needed to be met to progress an airspace change proposal provide. On first reading, this seems to be achieved. The document (just 60 pages) is more accessible than the previous version and outlines what is expected to be delivered throughout the airspace change process, whilst maintaining some flexibility allowing change sponsors to be proportionate depending on the specifics of the air space change being taken forward.

The main document is then supported by the more detailed Guidance on Airspace Change Process for Permanent Airspace Change Proposals CAP 1616f, providing extra direction on the specific requirements and activities during the seven stages of the airspace change process.

Since its inception a key part of CAP1616 has been to provide transparency throughout the seven stages, allowing stakeholders to access submitted documents on the airspace change portal and to play an active part in the development of the design principles (stage 1), assessment of the design options (stage 2) and selection of the final design options (stage 3).

CAP1616 is clear that responsibility rests with the change sponsors to make sure airspace change doesn’t go over the heads of stakeholders and communities, and efforts must be made to explain, engage and listen to views.

At the different stages, information and ways of engaging should be tailored to different audiences. At stages 1 and 2 those engaged will have more technical knowledge or be community representatives, but at stage 3 consultation must take place with stakeholders and communities that are likely to be impacted positively or negatively by proposals; many of whom will never have even heard of airspace change before.

This provides a considerable challenge for the sponsor, who has to distill this complex and highly technical information into what is understandable and more importantly, make it relevant to the public, urging them to take time to consider and feedback into the process.

In our experience, a multi-channel approach works best, where you use a number of methods to target audiences effectively, based on the stakeholder’s level of interest, influence and knowledge. When developing the methodology, the change sponsor should engage with key stakeholders, who understand their communities, and with the CAA, including Gateways, to develop the most effective consultation strategy for the local area.

The CAP guidance also outlines that the consultation must have a particular focus on seldom heard communities and audiences, employing different methods to reach the widest audience possible in a range of accessible ways. The technical nature of the subject and resources of many organisations that often represent seldom heard groups can make this particularly challenging. Change sponsors should put effort into understanding the needs of these groups in the impacted area and offering tailored engagement for them.  

Through meaningful engagement, the change sponsor will achieve more considered feedback from the local community. Once received this feedback must be captured, considered and responded to in a fair and transparent manner. Developing response management processes early and embedding quality assurance checks for categorisation of responses helps to deliver robust analysis and consideration of responses captured in the Consultation Report.

In summary, for engagement and consultation the revised CAP1616 in large remains consistent with previous versions. The onus remains on the change sponsor to plan, deliver and report on effective engagement and show how stakeholders have been encouraged to influence the airspace change proposals. The CAA has successfully created more accessible guidance, it is now for the rest of the industry to follow suit in how they present their proposals to stakeholders.

Cavendish is at present delivering the airspace change engagement and consultation for a number of clients. Our best practice approach helps to mitigate the risk of failing to pass a CAP1616 Gateway, or a subsequent legal challenge. To find out more visit here.


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