Yesterday, I met with officials from NATS in my office in Westminster.
I explained that aircraft noise in the local area has increased significantly over recent years due to changes in the flight routes.
The NATS officials contend that they have only made a minor change to the Compton route by narrowing the Compton gate (through which all local air traffic between 6,000 to 8000 feet passes) from 13 miles to 8. However, the officials conceded that this has resulted in more concentrated air traffic through the route.
Another issue that came up is the impact of the Ockham Hold, situated at 7,000 feet above Chobham in Surrey. The Ockham Hold is one of four holding “stacks” supporting Heathrow where aircraft circle, at busy times, until there is a place for them in the queue to land. The hold is the likely cause of much of the noise in this area.
When on easterly operations, arrivals for Heathrow from the Ockham hold fly west above Crowthorne and Wokingham in order to be sequenced for landing, at which time they are at 5,000 to 6,000 feet. They fly beneath the departing aircraft, which pass through the Compton gate. I was told that once aircraft leave the Ockham Hold they should achieve a continuously descending approach which reduces noise levels.
The NATS officials explained that they have already acted to slow down traffic at 350 nautical miles from Heathrow as it comes across the Atlantic. NATS are slowing down traffic in co-operation with their Irish and European counterparts to reduce the need for planes to use the Ockham Hold.
With modern technology it should be possible to avoid stacks and pointless flying around in circles, keeping places well out and flying at slower speeds so they arrive when a landing slot is available.
The officials also confirmed that the Government intends to begin a consultation on aviation noise in 2016 with a view to issuing new guidance to NATS.