Heathrow press releases

14 August, 2013

100,000 get noise respite from night flights

Aircraft Blue Sky 2

During the five month ‘Early Morning Noise Respite Trial’, which ended in March of this year, air traffic controllers were instructing pilots to avoid specified areas on alternate weeks in order to give residents a break from the noise. The scheme only involved flights arriving before 6am. There were very few infringements of the designated areas.

The trial, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, did though have some unforeseen consequences. Some areas, such as Brockley in South East London saw an increase in night flights. Also during the trial aircraft joined the approach paths further from touchdown in order to avoid overflying the exclusion zones. This in turn resulted in the areas between the zones being overflown more during the trial. The Helios report recommends that the trial should not be taken forward in its present form and adds that, in future, pre-trial assessments should be undertaken to predict likely outcomes to better understand the balance of likely the benefits against the unintended negative outcomes.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability Director, said, “The results of this trial are very encouraging, showing that by working with local communities and our partners across the airport we can find new ways to bring noise respite to thousands of residents. We will now examine what improvements we can make to retain the benefits of this trial whilst addressing the challenges.”

John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, said, “This is the first time we have worked with the aviation industry in this way. Although the trial had some problems which would need to be addressed in any future experiments, to bring relief to 100,000 people is a considerable achievement.”

Ian Jopson, Head of Environment and Community Affairs at air traffic control firm NATS, said, “The trial was a very positive example of how the industry and community can work together to look for ways to limit the impact of noise. The latest precision navigation technology makes it more feasible to provide respite through innovative air traffic control procedures, and this trial has been an important first step in understanding how we can best take advantage of it.”

Captain Dean Plumb, Strategy and Environment Manager, British Airways, said, “British Airways is glad to have played a role in trialling these innovative procedures to reduce early morning noise. We are entering an exciting era where modern aircraft are capable of flying more flexibly and quietly than ever before. It is particularly satisfying to be working with local communities, through HACAN, to understand how to best use these new capabilities.”

(1). To see the full report visit www.heathrowairport.com/noise

(2). The trial was specifically aimed at places around 15-25 miles from Heathrow as they areas currently get no official respite day or night. The do not, for example, benefit from the runway alternation enjoyed by West London.

About the Early Morning Noise Respite Trial

On 5th November 2012, Heathrow, in partnership with HACAN, NATS and British Airways, launched a new trial to test whether creating ‘noise relief zones’ for communities under the flight path could ease disturbance for residents. On average, around seventeen flights arrive at Heathrow each morning between 04.30 and 06.00. As air traffic controllers route these aircraft through the sky to achieve the safest and most efficient arrival routes, the flight paths are spread across areas of London – there is no set route. The Early Morning Noise Respite Trial was designed to explore whether the flights – particularly at the beginning of their approach into Heathrow - can be routed in a more defined way, offering more predictability for residents living below.

There were four trial areas, two to the east of the airport and two to the west. These areas covered places such as Vauxhall, Wandsworth, Battersea, Clapham Common, Westminster, Bermondsey and Streatham to the east of the airport, and Binfield, Reading, Purley on Thames and Winnersh to the west of the airport.

For further information about the Early Morning Noise Respite Trial visit:

For more information:

Heathrow press office: 020 8745 7224/ media_centre@heathrow.com

John Stewart, HACAN, 0207 737 6641; 07957 385 650

Paul Beauchamp, Senior Press Officer NATS, 01489 616425; 07909 686 142


Heathrow Airport media centre
Heathrow Airport
Email: media_centre@heathrow.com
Telephone: +44 (0)20 8745 7224