‘Intensely unpopular’ Gatwick flight path confirmed

Gatwick Airport 5-1-15 (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150601-100518001
Gatwick Airport 5-1-15 (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150601-100518001
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An ‘intensely unpopular’ flight path for planes leaving Gatwick Airport has been confirmed as permanent by the aviation regulator.

Changes to all nine departure routes were approved by the Civil Aviation Authority back in August 2013, switching from ground-based navigation to satellite-based systems.

However a post-implementation review completed in December 2015 found that one of thew new routes had not delivered the aim of airspace change, and was modified by Gatwick Airport in May 2016.

But according to the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Route 4, where aircraft fly east on a narrow and highly concentrated path between Horley and Reigate, has proved ‘intensely unpopular’ with nearly 17,000 complaints from almost 2,000 addresses in a six-month span.

Last week the CAA confirmed the new Route 4 would be made permanent.

Brendon Sewill, GACC chairman, said: “We are appalled that the CAA suggest that these complaints can be discounted because they come from places not within the 57 leq noise contour.

“That measurement is discredited: it measures average noise which is inappropriate for intermittent events; it is out-dated – the current Airspace consultation by the Department for Transport suggests that it should be replaced by the 54 leq contour; and, as GACC has constantly stressed, it does not take into account background ambient noise.”

However GACC did recognise there were some good features in the CAA report including solving the problem of aircraft flying over Horley, which was due to faulty instructions given to air traffic controllers.

The report instructed Gatwick Airport to investigate the possibility of a second route further north to be used, perhaps on alternate days, but according to GACC this would be unpopular with those affected.

Mr Sewill added: “That is the problem with all flight path issues – they tend to set one community against another.

“Because GACC represents the whole area around the airport, we have never taken sides in arguments about moving flight paths from A to B.

“We have, however, supported the principle of dispersal (where aircraft are spread across the sky) or respite (where different routes are used on different days) – but not over areas previously unaffected by aircraft noise.”

The CAA said it recognised airspace changes can have an impact on communities and in making this decision, has asked Gatwick Airport to give a number of undertakings including:

- To investigate the potential of meaningful respite, the airport will consider options for additional Route 4 departure designs, from the points where the route heads east.

- To consider the potential for obtaining respite by alternating or switching a proportion of Route 4 departures onto another route.

A full list of undertakings can be found on page 10 of the report [include link].

Stuart Lindsey, airspace regulation manager at the CAA, said: “We have been reviewing data on Route 4 and considering in detail the feedback received from local communities to assess whether this route is now performing as required by us. We are satisfied the modified Route 4 is achieving this performance and it will therefore remain in place.

“We absolutely understand that airspace changes can impact communities and that aircraft noise can disturb many people.

“As we have done throughout this entire review, we will continue to consider the environmental impact of all our airspace decisions and have called on the aviation industry and other decision-makers to be much more ambitious in confronting aviation’s environmental challenges.”

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