We’re very aware of the impact aircraft noise has on those who live under flight paths. That’s why we work with airports and airlines to help them minimise the effect of noise and provide respite in the vicinity of the airport.

New, quieter engines and smarter procedures are helping, and Sustainable Aviation’s recently published Noise Road Map sets out how traffic levels can continue to grow to 2050, without any increase in noise.

Noise Respite Trial at Heathrow

But there are also practical things that we can be doing now. Last year we started a trial at Heathrow designed to provide defined periods of noise respite to people living directly under the flight path. The concept was formed in partnership with the noise community group HACAN, BA and the airport itself.

On average, around 16-17 flights arrive at Heathrow each morning between 4.30am and 6.00am. The trial explored whether routeing these flights in a more defined way – particularly at the beginning of their approach into Heathrow – could offer more predictability for the people living below.

The trial, which began in November 2012, had defined zones in the approach area above London and over Berkshire that were ‘active’ sequentially week by week. Pilots were directed by our controllers to avoid flying through the zone that was active for that particular week.

Inner and outer quiet zones were established for each of the two runways which resulted in eight zones in total (four over West London and four above Berkshire for east/west operations). The active areas appeared as shaded boxes on controllers’ displays which were to be avoided unless in exceptional conditions or for safety reasons, for example, in the event of low visibility.

Trial now complete, results in the Autumn

The trial, which completed at the end of March, is a good example of the importance of air traffic management in tackling noise. The results, including community responses, will be available in the autumn. We’re looking forward to seeing the results and understanding better how we can shape air traffic management to tackle the issue of noise.

The diagram below shows the noise relief zones trialled. Click to enlarge it.
Noise Respite zonesFind our more about our Environmental work and Corporate Responsibility programme at http://www.nats.co.uk/environment.


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Gary Gray. TC Swanwick

I would like to see the results of the trial please, as I came up with the idea.
Gary Gray

Absolutely Gary – you were instrumental in the project! As soon as we receive the results, one of the team will be in touch.




We live in Lewisham and am worken up very early on some mornings by planes overhead. How do we know when these mornings occur so we can take measures to ensure undistrubed sleep ie closed windows, ear plugs etc?

Hi, Georgie. Thanks for your comment. This arrivals noise respite trial has now finished so the airport is back to normal operations. But, you can find out about the current arrangements with regard runway alternation at night, including the planned runway alternation schedule, on Heathrow’s website at:
http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/what-we-do-about-it/measures-already-in-place/runway-use/runway-alternation. I hope this helps.




As a ‘recipient/ victim’ of the current airspace trials at Heathrow, – introduced with no consultation – We have gone from almost no aircraft noise to almost 200 planes yesterday… I trust NATS will be instrumental in stopping this bottched trial, given that Heathrow is hiding behind this being a ‘NATS’ requirement.


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