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No public disclosure of flight paths until after consultation

Gatwick Chairman confirms no public disclosure of flight paths until after the public consultation of the Gatwick Arrivals Review closes

The Chairman of Gatwick, Sir Roy McNulty, has confirmed to CAGNE that the ‘mapping’ of the proposed flight path routes in the Arrivals Review will not be disclosed to the public until after the Arrivals Review public consultation closes. Arrivals Review team member, Graham Lake, confirmed this at the Gatwick Arrivals Review community meeting last week. 

Established in 2013, CAGNE represents communities east and west of Gatwick and fights for ‘fair and equitable distribution’ of aircraft noise on departures and arrivals.

Other important facts from the meeting:

  • The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) confirmed that there is nothing in the Arrivals Review to stop arriving flights joining the final approach to continue to be placed in narrow ‘swathes’, as they are now.
  • CAA also confirmed that this would enable more airline slots for Gatwick.
  • NATS (that owns and operates air traffic control) confirmed that those communities that suffer arrivals above 4,000ft might not see any change either, as Government policy above that height is ‘concentration and to save CO2’, NOT ‘noise’.
  • Gatwick intends to work with NATS to decide upon the arrival routing without reference to affected communities.

In response to the findings, Chair of CAGNE, Sally Pavey, said, “Expecting communities to agree to undisclosed flight paths is asking them to trust Gatwick. Sadly, due to Gatwick’s past performance, we do not trust them to be ‘fair and equitable’ with the distribution of arrivals”.

She added, “Residents were assured that if ‘concentration’ on departures had adverse effects on communities, flights would go back to how we use to know them – randomly distributed. However, after many organisation have requested a reversal, ‘concentration’ remains unchanged and those on the ground are inflicted with unacceptable levels of aircraft noise”.

Mrs. Pavey continued, “Gatwick is expecting us to agree to a blank sheet of paper as the CAA has confirmed that the placing of arrivals could remain narrowed on the final approach, and neither will the CAA detail the frequency of the number of flights per route. We could well end up with permanent  ‘concentration’, (PBN), on arrivals as this is described as ‘aspirational’ in the Arrivals Review as a long-term target.”

Gatwick Airport staged another Arrival Review public event on 27th April, 2016) offering speakers from the review team, Gatwick, the Civil Aviation Authority, NATS and EasyJet. Mr. Graham Lake, a member of the review team, hosted and gave an introduction to the timetable of the review.

Also discussed at the meeting was the highly intrusive ‘whine’ made by the engines of A320 aircraft. CAGNE has worked with EasyJet on this problem but learned that while a large proportion of the airline’s fleet at Gatwick has been modified to reduce noise, completion of the work on all the fleet will fall outside of the 2017 deadline set by the Arrivals Review.  CAGNE asked if a fine had been set for those airlines that do not comply, but learned this had yet to be set.  EasyJet aircraft make up 47% of all the A320s that operate in and out of Gatwick.  This type of aircraft represents 60% of all Gatwick flights.

In the meeting, questions were asked as to why the Arrivals Review had not tackled night flights, as they are a major problem with sleep deprivation; and why Gatwick effectively encouraged night flights by charging little, if anything, for night landings. Responding, Gatwick’s Mr. Charles Kirwan-Taylor, surprised the meeting by saying, “But we do charge for night landings.’ 

CAGNE can reveal that in the Gatwick ‘Conditions of Runways use 2016/2017 Final Schedule’, it states that there are no charges for landings from 00.00-04.59 hours.  See attached scan.

An additional major concern for CAGNE is that Mr. Lake said that the mapping of arrival routes would not be disclosed until after the end of the Arrivals Review public consultation period.

This was confirmed by the Chairman of Gatwick Airport Limited on Thursday, thus it will only be NATS and Gatwick that have any say over how the mapping of flight paths is set for arrivals.

CAGNE also asked the CAA to confirm that the Arrivals Review recommendation to move the ‘join’ (where arriving aircraft meet the final approach to the runway) to 8 miles out from the runway (from its current 10 miles) would be adopted, and if dispersal on routes would be implemented, or would flights remain in concentrated ‘swathes’ (the width of the flight path).  The CAA confirmed that there is nothing in the Arrivals Review to change the narrow placing of arrivals onto the final approach by air traffic control.  This will mean that those that already suffer ‘concentration’ of departures would then also suffer arrivals.

Sally Pavey, Chair of CAGNE, who was present at both meetings said: “We are being asked to trust Gatwick but with the leader of the review confirming at the CAGNE AGM that departures had been ignored. Is it reasonable to expect us to agree to a blank sheet of paper on which NATS and Gatwick can draw flight path with impunity?  And will they actually give us a fair and equitable distribution of aircraft for all on arrivals and departures?”

Much was asked about the formation of the Noise Management Board as Gatwick presented it as an original idea. However, Heathrow set up a group some time ago with many more community groups represented than Gatwick proposes, thus allowing more community voices to be heard.

“Gatwick seems to have set out to split councils and community groups that suffer the impact of aircraft noise, by only allowing two representatives from each”,  Mrs. Pavey said. “There are, however, many representatives from aviation and from those that stand to benefit from aviation growth such as Gatwick, the airlines, the CAA, NATS and the Department for Transport”.

Furthermore, she said that the community groups may not be nominated by individual members of the public but must be nominated by councils or other organizations. “It is totally un-representational to have only two community groups on the board, when there are so many community groups from different areas and with different, legitimate, concerns, be they arrivals or departures, in the east or in the west. This is certainly not ’fair and equitable’”, Mrs. Pavey said.

Mrs. Pavey added that many residents had also pinned their hopes for quieter skies on CDA (Continuous Descent Approaches) but NATS disappointed them by explaining that it is up to aircraft pilots to decide at what height they start Continuous Descent Approaches, although it could be set at 7,000ft. NATS confirmed that it only relies upon posters and leaflets to educate pilots and it is not always the same pilots who fly into Gatwick, so they are unable to guarantee CDA approaches.

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