Back in June, I wrote about how NATS had been working with Heathrow, BA and community group HACAN on a noise respite trial for people living under the airport flight paths.
Today, the results have been published and they make for interesting reading. With our air traffic controllers instructing pilots to avoid flying over specific areas on alternate weeks, the trial was able to provide 100,000 people with some respite from noise.
However, there were winners and losers. By providing respite for people in the south-east and east of London and Berkshire, the scheme resulted in an increase in early morning over-flights for people in other areas, such as Brockley. As a result, the report recommends that the procedures should be further tested before being taken forward.
Providing respite for 100,000 people is no small achievement, and beyond that being able to work together with HACAN was an important example of proactive community engagement, but I think the findings prove that providing relief from noise is far from a straightforward proposition.
We will use the findings of the trials to see what lessons we can learn, but I do believe that the idea of creating noise relief zones continues to have merit. It will always be a balancing act, but the advent of precision navigation technology is an exciting opportunity for the aviation industry.
Being able to route aircraft along carefully designed pre-defined tracks gives us another tool to help minimise the impact of noise around airports. And there can be other benefits too. Using this form of pre-defined routes can reduce pilot workload on the flight deck, as well as potentially saving fuel and CO2 emissions.
That is why we’re working with our aviation partners to explore how we can best harness this technology. A vital part of this, as the trial has shown, is engagement with communities so we can tailor the solutions to best suit them.
We’ve got some further trials using this approach coming up later this year and I’ll be back to share some more information on those nearer the time.
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