Monday, September 28, 2009

LCYs New Flight Path 'Surprise' Erodes Leyton and Wanstead's Peace

For some months now we have been getting a steady stream of emails from residents in the Leyton and Wanstead areas. All the residents emailing have been saying the same: that whilst not having been affected by aircraft noise in the past, they suddenly found themselves to be in the past few months.

Why? Well most of the residents know something has changed just by the noise and the sight of London City Airport flights crawling over their rooftops. But in so far as the residents being told what has happened, and why things have/or were to change - the vast majority were told nothing.

To help explain we need to turn the clock back to last summer.

Last year the government asked the aviation industries National Air Traffic Systems (NATS work out the flight paths and form air traffic control) to look at making some changes to flight paths. It wasn't a favour of course, money was exchanged for the service.

London and the south east are identified by NATS as Terminal Control North (TCN). TCN is one of the most complex and busiest airspaces in the UK, and probably Europe. Put this into context with a government that can't get enough flights into the sky, and the aviation industry who want the same and suddenly a plan is needed as to how all these extra flights could be fitted into our already overcrowded skies.

So NATS launched a consultation last year, though not many people knew about it, especially those that might be affected by the changes proposed. NATS placed a few consultation packs in local libraries at a time when libraries appear to be in terminal decline, and online. By some sheer accident NATS did receive some feedback on the proposals: and the feedback was so negative that NATS made the following statement:

"In February 23 2009 NATS announced that it is to conduct a new consultation on revised proposals for the TCN region".

Within those original proposals was a set for the change of flight paths for London City Airport. Because London City Airport is now using more and more larger planes, mostly jets, whilst propeller plane use is reduced the Civil Aviation Authority told us that flight path changes would have to be made. This is due to the fact that a jet cannot follow the same flight path as a propeller plane - particularly when arching - or turning in layman's terms. This is 100% a choice of London City Airport to increase the use of these bigger jets over propeller planes, and it is because of this that the flight paths have changed. LCY will tell you they are not responsible - yet the responsiblity lies very much on their runway.

The Civil Aviation Authority and London City Airport have been giving out interesting and conflicting responses to residents who have been complaining for the first time, and both have produced their own internal conflicting responses. They mention SIDs (Standard Instrument Departures) and in one sentence say there has been no flight path change, only in the next to state their has been a 'shift' and in another response admitting there has indeed been a change.

Take it from us, and your own ears: there has been a change, and the Civil Aviation Authority paperwork confirms this. Flight paths have changed over the Wanstead and Leyton areas - they have moved to affect homes which had previously not been affected. The CAA's authorisation of this change acknowledged that the change was not ideal, but pretty much stated that there was nowhere else for London City Airports big jets to fly over, so it's just tough luck.

You might be asking, why did this change go ahead though, when NATs issued a statement saying that "In February 23 2009 NATS announced that it is to conduct a new consultation on revised proposals for the TCN region". Well exactly!

NATS made that statement and then the Civil Aviation Authority promptly went and signed off the TCN proposals for change at London City Airport. Sneaky eh? One of our seasoned technical colleagues made the following comments on this whole smoke and mirror affair:

This is a splendid example of what lawyers termed "suppressio veri and suggestio falsi" until dog-Latin disappeared from the courts.

The routing of flights HAS been changed. Maybe not by a lot, bit it has changed. What they've done is develop a line of argument that the departure routes "are not designed for modern aircraft" (that's code for "heavier aircraft, flying faster, and with FMS settings designed more for passenger comfort than carrying out tighter turns").

Note that any consideration of the obverse: not permitting the use of aircraft which cannot follow the established SIDs; never enters their consiousness.

And it is downright shameful to claim that the required airspace change has gone though ALL of the stages of CAA's Airspace Change Process as defined in CAP725. What seems to have happened is that these changes for City were included in the TC North proposals, which got a severe kicking from the public and were withdrawn - EXCEPT that CAA were persuaded that despite accepting that TC North proposals were dead in the water, they could nod through the City component of those proposals in isolation, without telling too many people about it, nevertheless claiming that they'd followed the CAP725 rules. Disingenuous, or what?

What more can we say? Don't forget if you are a resident in these areas please check out our information on 'what you can do' and the meeting this Friday in Leyton.

Useful Links:

CAA Authorisation to change LCY flight paths:

CAA Announce Changes to flight path at LCY: