What is happening with the Gatwick Aircraft noise story
TUNBRIDGE WELLS SKIES UNDER FURTHER THREAT Gatwick’s Master Plan 2018
TWAANG’S COMMENTS ON BEHALF OF THE TUNBRIDGE WELLS CONURBATION
This exhibition at the Royal Victoria Place Shopping Centre on Saturday 10th November was held to promote Gatwick’s plans for the future and as such needs to be viewed with care. Gatwick’s comments should not be accepted at face value. We wonder if it is realistic to describe these plans as 'sustainable'.
We think that the ‘consultation’ process is flawed as exhibitions were held in only a small number of places affected by Gatwick’s operations and publicity in the media has been very limited. Nor were there public meetings where people could articulate their concerns and question Gatwick.
Below is the Consultation Document for the Master Plan, which is a summary of the full Draft Master Plan. The list of questions raised in the Feedback Questionnaire is on the last page.
Our comments on the various issues are as follows:
USING NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO INCREASE CAPACITY ON GATWICK'S EXISTING MAIN RUNWAY:
Gatwick plan to use an air traffic control system, already in use at Heathrow, which will enable arriving aircraft to follow each other more closely, increasing the maximum capacity from the present 55 to around 60 an hour (nearly 10%). They also plan to increase the number of flights in the less busy parts of the day, making the disturbance more relentless.
A PLAN TO BRING THE AIRPORT’S EXISTING STANDBY RUNWAY INTO ROUTINE USE ALONGSIDE THE MAIN RUNWAY:
This will require Planning and Government permission following the 2019 expiry of an existing agreement that the Standby Runway can only be used in emergencies or when the Main Runway is unavailable. To meet safety standards the Standby Runway will have to be widened to take it further from the Main Runway. When in operation it would be used for short-range departures, and is expected to increase capacity by 80,000 flights a year by 2027, an increase of 28% over the present 280,800 flights.
We know from experience that higher traffic levels force arrivals to the East over the centre of Tunbridge Wells, and this happens especially in the busy evening and night period when people are trying to get to or are in the important early stages of sleep. The World Health Organisation is working on a report on the health impact of aircraft noise, but it is already clear that noise at night is a particular and significant problem. Again, we think that the numbers affected should be minimised, and as the aviation industry’s definition that the controlled night period does not start until 11:30pm, Gatwick’s suggestion that they might consider reducing flights at night is of little reassurance.
Gatwick claim that this expansion can be achieved ‘without increasing the airport’s noise footprint’. This seems an ambitious claim, and we currently have no sanction should it prove wrong. It is Government policy that the benefits of aviation growth should be shared, but it is unclear if those increasingly disturbed will experience anything other than loss.
The Times pointed out on Thursday that ‘Gatwick station was recently named in Which? magazine as one of Britain’s worst, with 60 per cent of its services failing to run on schedule. The burden on the M23 spur serving the airport is becoming unsustainable. Road and rail links between Gatwick and Heathrow are far from satisfactory. Any credible expansion scheme needs to address these issues.’ The Gatwick Plan fails to mention these issues, how they are to be addressed and who will pay.
CONTINUING TO SAFEGUARD THE LAND FOR AN ADDITIONAL RUNWAY IN THE FUTURE:
Gatwick is not actively pursuing what would be a third runway today but it is clearly their ambition, and it would enable a three-runway Gatwick to rival the expanded Heathrow for size. The entire area around Gatwick would become unrecognisable. Our concerns over the implications of the regular use of the present Standby Runway apply with even greater force.
Other concerns we have include:
Gatwick's plans include funding for infrastructure improvements only within the airport site. The cost of any improvements needed outside that will have to come from the public purse, and the local Councils do not have funds for this.
The draft Master Plan maps do not cover Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge at all. Gatwick think that their activities are not significant for us - we beg to differ, and the Complaints statistics bear this out. Overflights, especially at night, cause significant disturbance and Tunbridge Wells is the largest conurbation in the area with a concentration of Schools and other sensitive sites.
The Times on Thursday 18th October had this informative article based on an interview with Stewart Wingate:
Again, we encourage response. The consultation period lasts 12 weeks and ends at 5:00pm on Thursday 10 January 2019.
The commercial aspect of Gatwick’s plans should not be forgotten. Those who pay the price for the expansion suffer not just for the national economy, but for overseas investors who stand to benefit hugely from these ambitions. The article, below, is from the Mail on Sunday of 14th October, it is just one of many providing the same story:
This ambitious project involves the major restructuring of the airspace above SE England by the Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority. The area to be considered runs from Exeter in the West to Norwich and the East Coast. It is a long-term project, intended for implementation around 2024 and to last until 2070. The process starts with airspace above 9,000ft, and will progressively involve integrating those plans with the flight patterns required by all the airports in the area. Active Community involvement starts in the later stages.
We attended a presentation at Gatwick on 3 November. A Briefing Paper was published which explains the plans, you can see and download it here.
This plan will replace existing arrangements in due course, we think that it will offer real improvements but there will inevitably be issues such as the concentration of flight paths that will have to be addressed.
GATWICK EXPANSION: Gatwick’s CEO Stewart Wingate recently announced the airport’s latest figures for the numbers of aircraft movements and passengers in the past year. He was happy to boast that both have increased, but he did not mention the impact this is having on local communities. He also announced his ambition to continue to increase passenger numbers and the number of flights, which would include freight.
What he does not mention is the price in disturbance to those on the ground who are not yet experiencing any significant improvement, and the congestion on roads and railways with the consequential effect on air quality and noise from sources in the air and on the ground.
The Community Groups are concerned that the benefits for Gatwick are not being balanced with benefits for the communities as has been promised, and have written to object; see the letter, below.
Where the expansion will come from?
Making greater use of night flights where existing permissions are not fully used, especially during winter months. The Government’s night-time regime could allow Gatwick’s winter arrivals to grow by 60% - a nightmare for us.
Increases during the day when the airport is not already fully occupied. This could include the ‘shoulder’ periods just before and after the controlled night flight period (formally 11:30pm to 6:00am), although the hour leading up to midnight can be the busiest in the day during the summer. The bar chart, below, shows an example. Most complaints are made about morning and evening flights.
More flights overall in the winter months. Gatwick are increasing their long-haul traffic, including flights to destinations attractive to those seeking winter sun.
Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent of the Independent Newspaper, wrote on 10 August 2017:
"Gatwick handled as many passengers in July (4.7 million) as airports such as Belgrade, Pisa and even Newcastle handle in a year. With an average of 150,000 people in or out each day in July, the Sussex airport is extracting an absurd amount of capacity from its single runway. How much more can be squeezed out – and what are the consequences in terms of resilience, or lack of it? I shall be watching."
SECOND RUNWAY: Gatwick have made clear their continuing ambition for another runway. They like to say that there will be no cost to the public purse, but at the same time they are encouraging Government investment in rail and road systems serving their area.
The implications for the increasing number of flights that would result are clear enough. Our concerns include:
The airspace in the South East is already congested, contributing to Gatwick’s poor punctuality performance (the worst in the country).
Gatwick are already failing to improve matters for those on the ground, a second runway will exacerbate the situation.
The congestion and pollution problems on the ground would increase substantially, they are bad enough already.
Substantial costs would arise for the public purse if these problems are to be addressed.
In summary, Gatwick is in the wrong place for further expansion.
NIGHT FLIGHTS: A trial of P-RNAV (called ‘Quiet Night Arrivals Trial’ by the NMB) is being proposed at the Noise Management Board and we and the Community Groups have been looking at it more closely. We have a number of concerns about the idea, which is also a trial for the introduction of P-RNAV during the day.
A workshop was held by aviation representatives and the resultant paper summarising its conclusions is to be discussed at the next NMB meeting.
Community Group concerns centre around the exact route(s) that might be used in the trial, bearing in mind that P-RNAV navigation is more precise than existing methods so noise is concentrated along a narrower corridor. There is the offset that there is better control of height, reducing the risk of low flying, although we note that night arrivals are already flown higher than during the day.
CAA CONSULTATION: The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have launched a nationwide public survey of views on aviation noise. PLEASE MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD.
The survey does not take long to complete. Follow this Web address or click HERE to start the survey:
AIRSPACE REVIEW AND GOVERNMENT POLICY: Community representatives have been keeping track of developments in Government policy and proposals under the current Airspace Review. You can see and download a document, below, which contains interesting information on the current position.
TWAANG AGM HELD ON 25 APRIL 2017 CHAIR'S AND TREASURER'S REPORTS
The Reports by the Chair and Treasurer can be read and here.
PRESENTATION GIVEN AT THE AGM
You can download the presentation as a PowerPoint file, or view or download the slides and notes as a PDF document file.
The presentation includes an animation of arrivals speeded up to illustrate how Air Traffic Controllers are managing flights, we hope that you will find this of interest. This will not run in the PDF display so you can download it separately by clicking on the video download button below.
Please note that your ability to see any of these files may depend on the software you have installed.
Sir David Higgins became Chairman of Gatwick Airport from 1 January 2017, replacing Sir Roy McNulty who will remain on the Board as Deputy Chairman.
Sir David is Chairman of HS2 and a Board Member of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
He is quoted as saying of Gatwick: ”...like all airports, it does adversely impact some of its local communities with aircraft noise. This is one of the biggest issues facing aviation around the world and I am keen that the airport builds on the good work it has done over recent years in mitigating these impacts.”
We think that there is a great deal of unfinished business for the NMB and look forward to engaging with Sir David with the aim of making real progress. He is likely to be an assertive promoter of Gatwick’s interests.
Greg Clark met Stewart Wingate to express the discontent so widely felt at the failure of any perceivable improvement to emerge in the disturbance from arriving aircraft following the change of nearest Joining Point from 10 to 8 nautical miles on 15th August. We are most grateful to Greg for his intervention, it may well have played a part in the NMB's preparedness now to extend their monitoring (see the MONITORING section). Here is his letter:
ROYAL TUNBRIDGE WELLS TOWN FORUM Meeting held on Wednesday 23 November 2016
Town Forum November 2016 Report by TWAANG
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to report back to you.
Heathrow was chosen for expansion but Gatwick continues to have ambitions for a second runway. We shall continue to oppose Gatwick expansion.
Gatwick Airport Ltd accepted all twenty three recommendations of the Arrivals Review Report and implementation began in June this year. The Noise Management Board was formed to oversee this process and to do further work on continuous improvement. TWAANG is a member alongside GON, HWCAAG and ESCANN for the eastern side of Gatwick.
ARRIVALS REVIEW IMPLEMENTATION: A. NOISE ABATEMENT:
1. Flight Paths: In 2013 Gatwick narrowed the arrivals joining point swathe from 7-12nm on the east to 10-12nm. The Arrivals Review agreed to recommend the use of joining points 8 to 14nm in the hope that the widened joining points would produce a widened approach to the ILS and therefore offer a less concentrated and less noisy approach swathe. It was also hoped that the widened swathe would move traffic westwards as found in pre 2013. Unfortunately this has not proved the case so far.
Gatwick started to use the 8nm joining point in mid August but can only do so at quiet times. TWAANG has monitored the outcome across the arrivals swathe using the route of the A264. We have found that initially, in September, flight paths moved further east over Tunbridge Wells. Langton Green and Rusthall continue to experience the heaviest traffic. At times western and central Tunbridge Wells also experience concentrated flight paths for long periods. The situation continues to be very unsatisfactory. Initially, Gatwick were only prepared to monitor the use of joining points but have now agreed to look at the effect of changing joining points on the flight paths over the population, with a view to further work to improve the situation. If nothing more is done we face another very noisy summer in 2017 and thereafter.
Gatwick are already thinking about replacing the current radar vectoring navigation system with possibly three concentrated flight paths using satellite navigation (PBN). Tunbridge Wells Borough Council will need to take a view on whether it wants concentrated flight paths over the town with the health, educational and quality of life consequences on a large population. PBN will definitely be with us by 2022 and possibly before.
Rural protest groups wish to see the concentrated routes shared equally between town and countryside. The government currently advises the avoidance of densely populated areas whenever possible. TWAANG supports the current government policy.
2. Airbus 320 series whine: The promised modification to eradicate this awful noise present in 60% of Gatwick Airbus 320 planes is happening but slowly.
50 % of easyJet’s total fleet have been modified, not all fly into Gatwick.
49% BA fleet modified
Most other smaller airlines have done no modifications. The Turkish Airline has all new planes not needing modification.
easyJet did promise Greg Clarke that their Gatwick Airbus 320s would be modified by July this year. The sunset date for all airlines to address this problem is now the end of 2017 with financial penalties from Jan 2018.
30% of all planes flying in to Gatwick still have the whine.
3. Continuous Descent Approach -CDA CDAs should provide a much quieter approach with the aircraft descending with minimum use of power towards the ILS. Gatwick maintain that they have achieved a 92% compliance with CDAs but the quality of CDAs is poor and not up to the ideal international standard.
Unfortunately for Tunbridge Wells most planes start their CDA too early and so arrive at Tunbridge Wells one to two thousand feet lower than they could have, if only they had stayed higher longer before starting their CDA. We are taking this up with NATS. There is a genuine commitment to improve CDAs, so we are hopeful.
Planes now leave the stacks some 1000ft higher (at 7000ft) than previously and it is the intention to raise that to 8000ft before starting the CDA but there are technical airspace problems creating delay . It may prove to be too difficult.
4. Night Flights: 11:30pm to 6:00am We have found that between 8:00pm and 1:00am, flights per hour can equal that of daytime frequency. In addition, planes are obliged to fly over the town using joining point 10nm by a CAA rule which does not permit using a nearer joining point at night. This rule is under challenge by communities currently.
The Communities are also challenging Gatwick’s encouragement of night flights by means of advantageous pricing. The NMB communities have protested to the new Secretary of State and have been supported by eight local MPs.
B. COMMUNICATION WITH COMMUNITIES
1. Gatwick Noise Management Board- NMB The NMB has now had 3 meetings. The NMB is chaired by Bo Redeborn with secretary Graham Lake both of the Arrivals Review Team, NATS, ANS, CAA, Dept of Transport, Airlines attend, and with two County Councillors. TWAANG, ESCANN, GON and HWCAAG represent communities on the east. TWAANG and ESCANN are partnered with an urban, as well as a general remit. The west of Gatwick have their own four community representatives.
HELIOS oversees the implemention of the review recommendations.
The NMB has a website and is due to have its annual public meeting 31 January 2017.
2. Complaints Management: You can now make more than one complaint per day.
You can complain by letter or via the Gatwick Casper Noise Line which is accessible from Windows, Apple PC or Laptops but not accessible from Smart phones or Tablets.
The Freephone line has been withdrawn and complaints by email are no longer accepted.
NEXT RUNWAY IN THE SOUTH-EAST TO BE BUILT AT HEATHROW
The Government’s decision announced on 25 October to build an additional runway at Heathrow in preference to Gatwick was made on business grounds for the sake of the national economy. We received the letter, below, in response to an enquiry we made:
TWAANG welcome this decision. We have been saying for a long time that Gatwick is simply in the wrong place for effective communications with the rest of the country and this appears to have been a significant factor in the decision. We are, of course, also very relieved that the threat of a second runway at Gatwick, with all the environmental consequences this would have on the area, has receded - at least for the time being.
Before the decision was announced Gatwick’s CEO Stewart Wingate was saying that he would go ahead with a new runway at Gatwick even if the Government’s decision went against him, and we would be unwise to ignore this. Even so, we think that he would have great difficulties in realising his ambition. Planning approval might be difficult and, in spite of claims otherwise, public funding would be needed for infrastructure work and this is unlikely to be forthcoming. He will, however, be determined to develop Gatwick in any way that he can and we need to be aware of the consequences of his plans.
Gatwick's determination to maximise capacity on a single runway drastically curtails options for noise mitigation.
Independent Transport Commission Report on Sustainable Aviation
The Independent Transport Commission published a report in March entitled: ‘The sustainability of UK Aviation: Trends in the mitigation of noise and emissions’.
In the Forward it makes the following statements:
‘Noise could be reduced if the airport approach paths were managed with that objective, rather than, as for the rest of the flight, fuel economy.’
‘.. clearly the measured noise impact is greater in areas of denser population..’
‘(The report) flags the need to build public confidence and trust, for example through a regulator with independence and powers to monitor and control sensitive issues such as noise.’
We are delighted that these points have been made by this independent body and its expert advisers. Gatwick, CAA and NATS please note.
The Report is optimistic about the progress it thinks is possible from continuing technological improvement. We are cautious about extrapolation from past improvements and aware of the law of diminishing returns, as well as being concerned about ‘jam tomorrow’. Also, there is the question of whether any improvements will be counterbalanced by increases in traffic, a particular issue where another runway is a threat.
Nonetheless we think that this report is a useful contribution to the debate, gives hope for the future and it contains some very interesting material. You can download it from our DOWNLOADS section.
PRESS RELEASE 5 AUGUST 2016 Waiting for Gatwick
Sleepless residents of Tunbridge Wells are impatiently awaiting improvements to aircraft noise promised by Gatwick Airport.
TWAANG (Tunbridge Wells Anti Aircraft Noise Group), the town’s pressure group set up a year ago, intends to hold Gatwick to task. It has just published a 34-page report entitled Monitoring the Skies over Tunbridge Wells (available to see and for download from the MONITORING section).
The report exposes in detail what people are complaining about regarding flight patterns over the town. These include excessively low altitudes, too much concentration of flight paths, planes that follow each other within minutes, and air traffic over areas that were previously left quiet. It will be updated regularly in the future to monitor Gatwick’s progress.
TWAANG are represented on the new Noise Management Board (NMB) at Gatwick, and intend to use this ongoing work alongside various other efforts to confront the airport with solid facts about what the local population is going through.