Heathrow, in partnership with HACAN, NATS and British Airways, has 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 will 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.
The trial will work by defining two zones over each trial area that will be ‘active’ sequentially week by week. Pilots will be directed by air traffic control to avoid flying through whichever zone is active for that particular week. The aim is to provide communities with definite periods of relief from early morning aircraft noise.
Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability Director said: ‘We are very pleased to be working with HACAN to find innovative solutions to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on residents. Working with the air traffic controllers at NATS, we are testing whether aircraft can be directed around specified areas to provide some respite and certainty for local residents. A relatively small adjustment in terms of the flight path can have a big impact on those living underneath it.’
HACAN chair John Stewart said: ‘Periods of respite are very important for residents under the flight paths. We welcome this initiative’. Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environmental and Community Affairs, said: ‘NATS has unparalleled expertise in designing and managing airspace. We are delighted to have been able to use that expertise to work in collaboration with Heathrow, British Airways and HACAN to explore opportunities to improve the day to day experience of people living under the Heathrow flightpaths.’
Whether the aircraft land from the east or west depends on the wind direction so there will be four trial areas, two to the east of the airport and two to the west (please see attached map for more details). These areas cover 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. The trial began on 5th November and will run for five months.