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Plans to cut flight noise revealed

Flight path routes set to change

A plane in the sky

Plans to change the flight paths planes take when operating in and out of major UK airports have been unveiled by air traffic control company Nats.

Affecting a large swath of southern and eastern England, the plans are expected to reduce by 20% the number of people affected by noise from departing aircraft flying below 4,000ft.

But Nats stressed that the plans would not mean a reduction in the number of flights and that it was the company’s job to ensure the increasing number of those wanting to fly did so safely safely and without delays.

Heathrow, Stansted and Luton

The first fundamental overhaul in routes for several decades, the plans affect a number of airports including Heathrow, Stansted, Luton and London City.

Nats will now consult widely on the plans over a 13-week period and the company hopes to bring in the new routes around spring 2009 providing the go ahead is given by the Civil Aviation Authority.

More than 3,000 people and organisations will be consulted, including MPs, local councils, green groups, airlines and businesses.


Nats has divided the consultation region into five areas to make it easier for people to understand what effect, if any, the plans will have on them.

These five areas are Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and north-east Essex; the Chilterns and Luton; east Hertfordshire and west Essex; west and north-west London; and east London and south-east Essex.

Nats is proposing to:

  • reduce congestion over Brookmans Park in Hertfordshire caused by converging departure routes from Heathrow, Luton, London City and Northolt airports;
  • relocate and separate the holding facilities for Luton and Stansted to accommodate their growth. The airports currently share two holds; under these proposals each would have a dedicated hold and Stansted an additional hold;
  • introduce what are called continuous descent approaches where aircraft stay higher for longer, reducing fuel burn and noise, for Stansted’s easterly runway;
  • formalise arrival and departure routes for London City to reflect the growing number of jet aircraft using the airport, and to provide a new hold.

London City

Nats operations director Ian Hall said: ‘All these airports have grown considerably in the past 20 years – London City has grown from virtually nothing since the early 1990s – and we have simply accommodated this growth within the existing airspace infrastructure.

‘Just like bottlenecks on our roads, increased air traffic causes congestion in the airways meaning delay and extra fuel burn – and that has an impact on the environment.

‘Redrawing the routes enables us to make them more efficient to reduce delay. It also gives us the opportunity to reroute them to avoid flying over as many towns and villages as possible, especially at lower levels.

‘That means less noise for people living underneath. Overall we will reduce by some 20% the number of people affected by noise from departing aircraft flying below 4,000ft.’

‘Hundreds of flights a day’

He went on: ‘This region (of England) is currently overflown by many hundreds of flights every day and that will not change under these proposals. More and more people want to fly and our job is to make sure they can do so safely and without delay.

‘We also have to accommodate growth forecast under existing Government policy so now is the right time to overhaul the airspace fundamentally to ensure we maintain our high safety standards, reduce delays and minimise the effect on the environment.’

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