August 14 2013

British Airways has been part of a trial that has successfully reduced aircraft noise for almost 100,000 people living under Heathrow’s flight path.

The findings from the trial, detailed in the Helios Report, are that over a 5 month period from last December, changes to the routes taken by early morning flights arriving at Heathrow resulted in 100,000 people living under the flight path experiencing less noise from aircraft. Some 17 aircraft land at Heathrow every morning between 04:30 & 06:00.

The trial was a joint venture between Heathrow Airport, the National Air Traffic Service, British Airways and HACAN which campaigns against further runways or flights at the UK’s busiest airport.

Despite the success of the trial, the report states that it should not be continued and that ”pre-trial assessments should be undertaken to predict likely outcomes to better understand the balance of the likely benefits against the unintended negative outcomes”.

Commenting on the trial, John Stewart, long-time head of HACAN stated:  ”This is the first time we have worked with the aviation industry in this way. Although the trial had some problems which would need to be addressed in any future experiments, to bring relief to 100,000 people is a considerable achievement.”

Of course any co-operation between HACAN and both Heathrow / British Airways is likely to be short-lived as the latter 2 press on with their campaign to have a 3rd runway built at Heathrow. Even if permission for a 3rd runway is eventually granted, it is unlikely that it would be ready until 2025 at the earliest which leaves some 12 years of Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport airport, operating at 99% capacity.

The only short-term solution to this problem would be to allow Heathrow to use its 2 runways for mixed-mode operations, ie allowing both runways to be used for both landing and take-off at the same time. This would significantly increase the airport’s capacity but would lead to residents living under the airport’s flight path to endure traffic noise for almost 20 hours a day, far in excess of what they currently endure.

British Airways Heathrow