Fair Flight Paths for Heathrow

Brockley resident and London Assembly Member Darren Johnson writes:

At present, over 700,000 people live under the Heathrow flight paths; that is, 28% of all people impacted by aircraft noise across Europe.  For many people it can mean more than 40 planes an hour passing overhead at the busiest times.  People are crying out for respite.  Fair flight paths would mean most communities getting respite for 50% - 70% of the time without noise becoming a serious problem in new areas.  It would benefit residents with no disbenefit to the airport.

You can find the petition here. I do hope you sign and share amongst friends and neighbours: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/fair-flights-paths-for-heathrow

I have also tabled a question to the Mayor of London, calling on him to add his support to this initiative but have yet to receive a response. Please be assured I remain committed to ensuring the problem of aircraft noise is dealt with. I continue to work closely with campaigners to put pressure on the relevant bodies to ensure they take their responsibility seriously as well as being an outspoken critic of airport expansion.

Do please continue to register any specific noise complaints with Heathrow Airport at noise_complaints@heathrow.com  in order to keep up the pressure.

31 comments:

St asaph said...

Signed. The noise around here has become constant and unbearable. I really hope something can be done to make this fairer. It's starting to really spoil the area.

Aricana said...

Agree. The Fair flight paths campaign is definitely worth supporting. Thanks Darren.

Dave said...

Well let's hope all those people who sign this petition will stop using aircraft !
Even if there is no increase in flights ,they have to fly over some where.

Anon said...

Perhaps we should build all the motorways through brockley too dave since we like to drive?

Gill said...

I'm a bit confused by this campaign - the link to the petition says that new technology "allows aircraft to be guided much more precisely. Used well, this technology will enable aircraft noise to be shared more equally than it is today. We urge you to permit the introduction of fair flight paths." And that's it. Where would these other flight paths be? How will aircraft noise be shared? A google search of 'fair flight paths' only takes me back to the petition. Guidance & information welcome.

Gu Est said...

The campaign shoudl be for stopping Hethrow new runaway and increasing Gatwick.

The noise this year has become constant in Brockley.

Dave said...

Anon ..Perhaps you should try living near the river in Greenwich then you would know more about aircraft noise .
Traffic noise of all types is part of living in a big city , if you don't like it move into the countryside !

Damian said...

After moving here earlier this year and reading a few comments on this subject, I've yet to notice any aircraft noise. Surely this isn't an issue this far from Heathrow. Out of interest roughly what parts of SE4 have a problem with it?

Mackerel Sky said...

I'm not sure where you live Damian but aircraft join the Heathrow flight path all over Brockley. Some people don't notice it so much - that's human nature - but especially if people live near a busy road that will mask other noises. I've spoken to people much closer to Heathrow that barely notice it. I wish I didn't.


Speaking to residents who have lived here for 20+ years the planes are individually often quieter these days, but it's the sheer numbers that have significantly increased. When both runways are open for landing, as they often are from 6am to 8am in the morning, you've potentially got two planes over us at any one point in time. Early mornings are bad because flights are coming in from the Far East and these are going to be the bigger long-range aircraft and hence the noisy ones.


But more to the point I'm sceptical about this petition because, as Gill says, there is very little detail. In fact without this detail I feel this petition could be worse for Brockley. As Heathrow is at full capacity there is an understandable pressure for planes to join the flight path some way out and stabilise their speed and flight path for safety reasons. 20 miles (which is about how far we are) does seem excessive, and that's around 6 minutes for a plane. If you draw two lines eastwards from the Heathrow runways one passes over Brockley Cross and the other just north of the New Cross train stations. 'More accurate' flight tracking could mean a lot more planes following these paths and hence flying over Brockley, whereas at the moment a bit of less accurate tracking means they join the flight path further west, say over Peckham, or sometimes over Brixton. It's only this behaviour, which most often happens when the runways are less busy as planes can make a more direct descent from their holding stack to the airport, that gives us periods of no planes.


Like everyone it's the early morning flights that annoy me more. I got woken up by British Airways 747-400 at 4:30 this morning. Luckily these planes, the noisiest of anything that generally use Heathrow, are being phased out by BA over the coming few years, and it's BA who use them the most. So that's a piece of good news for everyone.


Another piece of potentially good news is that if you've flown into City Airport you feel the plane arrive much more steeply. Heathrow, like most world airports, guides planes in at 3 degrees. At City it's 5.5 degrees. BA have questioned whether this could rise to 3.2 degrees and still be safe (it can). Planes joining the flight path over Brockley, by my very rusty trigonometry, would be 500 feet higher, giving a small but noticeable drop in noise. Beware of the boss of Emirates who wants a steeper angle, but so that they can justify flying aircraft in during the night. Often planes come in at lower than 5000 feet, which is against the arrangements and should be complained about. Beware BA generally also, who strongly support a third runway.


Finally, as you'll have noticed, on certain days there are blissfully no planes at all, which is when the wind is coming from the east and is more than a light breeze. If it's only a light breeze planes still fly in over SE London, but this is due to an arrangement between the government and the airport called the 'westerly preference'. This may be scrapped at the time of the next government review. and would reduce aircraft over us by around 5% in the average year. Small but it's something.


Overall, as was highlighted at a meeting in Brockley earlier this year, Heathrow recognises the problem for us but doesn't wish to do anything significant about it for people further from the airport like us. Yes, people in Hounslow and Richmond have it far worse but it's a big issue for SE London too.

Damian said...

I shall keep my ears peeled then! All sounds like more ticks in the box for Boris Island to me, solve all this for good

plane geek said...

Agreed ... but ... the European airspace modernisation program requires all EU airports to fly PBN (concentrated) routes by 2020. This is why Heathrow are starting to do trials (mostly on departures). The trials will soon be on arrivals as they are mandated to have precise paths implemented in the next few years ie we will no longer have the less accurate paths than give us "some" relief. This petition calls for these precise paths to be alternated and shared, rather than just concentrated on one particular path. For this reason it's very important for people in Brockley to sign it or it could end up as one big path all over us, with no alternation or relief.

ErmineHan said...

These Hacan blogs: http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=336 and http://hacan.org.uk/blog/?p=300 are well worth reading for some background to the petition and the campaign for fairer flight paths, which I definitely support. Varying the final approach routes could bring much-needed relief to parts of London like Brockley that don't benefit from runway alteration.

Anon said...

Which part of Heathrow do you work at, Dave?

Brockley Nick said...

Please let's not get into the habit of accusing anyone with a different opinion of being a secret shill. That way lies madness.

Dave said...

I live in the Greenwich part of Heathrow

Dave said...

I am retired

Tamsin said...

It does vary - but is definitely an issue. A friend who visits occasionally from Bristol (so not like the depths of the countryside) comments on it waking her up (but she actually quite likes it). The problem is once you are aware of it post 5am or whatever you can't get back to sleep again. And it is a real problem if you are wanting to listen to specific sounds in the environment - totally ruined the last dawn chorus walk that I went on. Half hoping that another Icelandic volcano might blow its top next May.

terrencetrentderby said...

I live in a tin shack of a house and don't notice the noise, am I missing something?
I find Nigerian car music more distubing at 3am than the planes.

Pizza snob said...

I'd quite like to continue flying without descending over one of the most densely populated places on Earth (whether that's my house or someone else's). I'm not fan of his, but the pig-headed hatred of anything Boris means we're all missing out on the only logical solution. Nowhere else on the planet are they stupid enough to have an airport the size of Heathrow with descent paths over a massive city. It's literally madness.

Danja said...

At 3.00am that isn't surprising. The planes start at 4.40am or thereabouts. If you can't hear them, no, you aren't missing anything.

Dave said...

Impressive ! you can distinguish between Nigerian and other West African music at 3am ?

local n vocal said...

Very happy to support this proposal. I appreciate Dave's comments below and accept that noise pollution is part of the parcel of living in a big city. However, a] it has definitely got worse (especially in summer with no wind and windows open), and b] its nuts to inflict this via one route when a more equitable solution is availble.
Finally, big yes to Boris Island. Logical long term solution and big cities should always have big projects- its what makes them great.

Monkeyboy said...

if billions are being speant id rather they prioritise the Bakerloo extn

Anon said...

So you don't live in brockley but feel you can comment on what people here can hear at 4:30am in the morning?

David said...

Greater accuracy in navigation mean all the planes don't have to fly in roughly the same straight line; they can be varied - and therefore spread out across a larger region (all of London, for example) rather than plough up a narrow corridor - without accident.

David said...

It varies from street to street because the corridor they use is pretty narrow. I've lived on Manor Avenue, Whatman Road, Salehurst Road, Harefield Road and Tyrwhitt Road without noticing it all. Moved to Ermine Road 18 months ago and it is quite evident, you can ever see the plans, from the hill, backing up over Lewisham. (Although it also depends on your tolerance - my wife is far more conscious of it than I am).

Mackerel Sky said...

That's useful information. Do we know what kinds of paths are being (or might be) considered? I assume some of these would be paths where planes would join the main straight line further west of us?


Lovely quiet night last night and this morning of course. Long live this spell of southerly winds :)

anon said...

It won't cost billions - concentrated routes have to happen anyway, they're mandated by the EU airspace programme. This is just to make sure they don't all go over us and are shared across London

Monkeyboy said...

it will, twenty four of them billions apparently.

plane geek said...

It was a blissfully quiet evening, more of those easterly winds please!


Heathrow have confirmed in their noise plans that they will give people respite where possible, as government aviation policy requests. Heathrow's reports indicate that planes can join the final approach "straight line" as far west as Richmond, so there are many possible routes to go. They have suggested they will avoid massively populated areas where possible, but where they can't they will provide respite where possible. I imagine because Brockley is between Lewisham and Peckham (two highly populated areas) we might be spared masses of noise in the future, but we do need to campaign and "make some noise" so they know we need the respite.

Mackerel Sky said...

It sounds like you're an expert on the subject :) But for those who aren't I thought this was useful:

http://www.heathrowairport.com/static/Heathrow_Noise/Downloads/PDF/indicative_trial_timeline.pdf

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