Dear GACC member
Concentrated flight paths
You will be pleased to hear that the Government has promised a change of policy. This should eventually bring some relief to those of you who have suffered from the new concentrated flight paths introduced in recent years.
Because aircraft have switched to using satellite navigation (like satnavs) for departures they all tend to fly along a single narrow route which is hell for those underneath. When we have argued that the flight paths should be dispersed, in order to replicate the previous situation, we were told that concentration was in accordance with Government policy: the 2013 White Paper, Aviation Policy Framework, stated that the policy was ‘to reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise.’
A delegation from the Aviation Community Forum met the Minister for Aviation, Lord Ahmad, on 16 November. On behalf of GACC, I asked him to confirm that the new draft White Paper to be consulted on next year would amend this policy to permit dispersal or respite where local circumstances make it appropriate. He and his civil servants agreed.
We made it clear that this should only revert to the situation as before 2013 (ie within the Noise Preferential Routes for departures) and should not involve new flight paths over peaceful areas. They concurred.
They also agreed that the new White Paper would introduce a new range of metrics to measure aircraft noise. At present the authorities tend to rely on the 57 leq contour with the implication that people outside that area have no problem with noise. The new metrics will include a measurement related to the number of aircraft. Also, perhaps, a measurement related to ambient noise: that would be an important step in recognition of the disturbance caused by aircraft in the quiet rural areas and AONBs around Gatwick.
The Aviation Community Forum brings together community groups from around the UK and is organised by Charles Lloyd. Also on the delegation were representatives from groups at Heathrow, Stansted and Edinburgh.
The Government is planning to produce two documents early next year: one the policy statement on the Heathrow runway; and the other a consultation on a new white paper on aviation policy. In addition a consultation on night flights is due this month.
The period for objections to the new Route 4 will end shortly and it is not clear whether any decision will be affected by this change in policy.
Don’t hope for too much! This change of policy will only be a consultation, and it may be some years before new routes are introduced. And even if aircraft are spread within the 3km wide Noise Preferential Route you would still be able to hear them.
We may not succeed in getting dispersal – NATS (air traffic control) say it is too difficult. But we may be offered respite, that is aircraft using different routes at different times. At our GACC annual meeting we discussed whether this should be an alternation between morning and afternoon – in a straw poll that got little support. Or the use of different routes on different days, eg Monday one route, Tuesday the other; or preferably Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – that got almost universal support. Changing the route from week to week got virtually no support.
We passed on these results to the civil servants who are drafting the new white paper.