LETTER: Implications of flightpath rulings

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Phil Roberts of the CAA takes space in your edition of November 19th to explain the new, concentrated, flightpaths for departures from Gatwick.

In general, it is a useful introduction for the uninitiated.

However, may I amplify what he says in certain areas.

He states ‘Aircraft flying the new routes are more focused, with any associated aircraft noise affecting less people.’ That sounds fine and seems plausible. But it is by no means as true as it sounds.

To demonstrate this, here is a pre-PRNAV situation:

3,000 people are overflown. Of these,

1,500 people are on the fringes and are hardly and infrequently disturbed.

1,000 are moderately and regularly disturbed.

500 are severely and frequently disturbed.

Here is the likely post-PRNAV situation:

2,500 are overflown. Of these,

250 are on the fringes and hardly and infrequently disturbed.

1,250 are moderately and regularly disturbed.

1,000 are severely and frequently disturbed.

So the 500 not now overflown were hardly suffering, but the situation has been made worse for 750 and, of these, 500 are suffering a great deal more.

That is why Mr Roberts’ organisation received 3,400 letters from the public after the writers had been exposed to the new system.

What is more, no compensation is due to those 500 people, whatever the depreciation in the value of their houses, thanks to the Air Navigation Act 1920, originally passed to get the fledgling civil aviation industry ‘off the ground’ 95 years ago and perpetuated since thanks to the power of the airlines and airports lobby.

In confirming that six of the routes have met their aim and two almost so, the CAA has been able to shelter behind two shields provided by the Department for Transport.

The first is the outdated Leq16 system of noise measurement, criticised by acoustic experts in a governmental committee in 2006 but unreformed since.

Leq16 smooths out the noise level over a 16 hour day ending at 11.30pm and takes no account of how frequently a decibel level is reached.

So if your ears take a hammering at 63 decibels 16 times as you are trying to get your last bit of sleep between 6 and 7am, whereas before PRNAV this happened four times, it does not matter from the CAA’s point of view.

The second is the rule that noise does not count if the plane is above 7,000 feet. And on this occasion the CAA have used this rule for route 7 in the case of Slinfold to say that as the average level was over 7,000 feet, noise does not matter.

Of course to achieve an average of 7,000 feet, 50 per cent of fights can be below that height and 50 per cent above.

These changes were proposed by Gatwick Airport Limited. In its consultation document GAL frequently stated that the new routes would ‘replicate’ the old ones, a term used again by Mr Roberts in his article.

They do not. In the case of Slinfold the now focused flightpath is 400 yards nearer to the centre of the village than the old one.

CHRISTOPHER ALLEN

Nowhurst Lane, Broadbridge Heath

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