Meeting with Heathrow Airport management


Dr Lee, MP for Bracknell, and I met with representatives of Heathrow airport on Wednesday 18th March to discuss airport noise.

We had asked for the meeting on discovering that changes were made to flight routes last year without telling the local community. Readers of this site will know that I and others challenged the airport when it was conducting experiments with new routes last autumn. The airport accepted that these trial routes were thought too noisy by many of us and ended the trials early. However, noise levels still seemed different. Heathrow denied there had been any other changes.

They now inform us that NATs did indeed make operational changes last year which concentrate more flights over Bracknell and Wokingham during easterly operations. The airport apologised again, but said they did not know of this change. Apparently it is an operational change for safety reasons which NATs may do without consultation.

Dr Lee and I pressed the airport to do more to control noise. I raised the following issues

1. Can very early arrivals be delayed to a more civilised hour ? A first flight can come at 4.30am, though outbound flights start at 6am.

2.Can airlines be encouraged or made to use quieter planes for the early or late flights?

3. Can plans be advanced to get planes to climb higher sooner, or descend on steeper paths, to cut noise further from the airport?

4. Can more incentives be introduced to encourage use of quieter planes by airlines?

5. What action is taken to deal with poor flying by the occasional pilot who uses too much thrust/airbraking/banking and turning in a way which increases noise?

I was told work was going on with all of these matters. I asked for a report on what we should expect by way of improvement.


  1. James Sutherland
    March 21, 2015

    “Can plans be advanced to get planes to climb higher sooner, or descend on steeper paths, to cut noise further from the airport?”

    There’s a lot of work on this area at the moment – the “Continuous Descent Approach” (or Continuous Descent Operation) is supposed to be best, where the aircraft descends at a constant rate all the way in. A bit like a car changing gears, it’s the transitions which cause most noise. There’s a corresponding departure path, Continuous Climb Operation. Airlines want it, because it saves them fuel, and NATS reported in last year’s annual report that they’ve now tried it in Edinburgh and Bristol, with a view to wider use in future.

    I suspect that addresses point 5 too: I think most of the noise-increasing maneuvers are not the pilot’s choice, but the result of current ATC policies: descend to one altitude, slow down, hold that for a minute, then descend a bit further, level out again… Airlines already care about this, because it costs them fuel and hence money.

    Have you met with NATS about these issues, or just Heathrow airport?

    Reply Yes, I have met NATs and have asked them to send me more information about the possibilities.

  2. Sue Doughty
    March 22, 2015

    It is complicated by the military flight paths also crossing the area that can sometiems take precedence without much prior notice.

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