Last year many residents to the west of the airport complained to Heathrow about plane height and noise during the trials. After these ended in November, residents in in particular in Ascot, Binfield, Virginia Water and Bracknell were certain that flight paths hadn’t returned to normal. Heathrow were insistent that everything was back to how it was, they even went as far as providing evidence including maps that ‘proved’ that planes were back to pre-trial paths.
To the astonishment of many, Heathrow have now released a hugely embarrassing admission and have backtracked on this position, in fact flight paths HAD changed in 2014 but this was not related to the trials. The National Air Traffic Control (NATS) had decided to concentrate planes on the Compton (CPT) route from a previously 14 mile wide area into 7 miles for safety reasons at an altitude of between 4-7,000 feet, but didn’t inform Heathrow of this important change.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye: “I am very concerned that NATS made this change without informing the airport or affected communities about its potential impact, particularly given its effects on some of the same areas to the west of the airport that were affected by the airspace trials we ran last year. Because of the assurances we received, we in turn told residents in good faith that no changes had occurred. That is unacceptable and I unequivocally apologise to local residents. At my request, the Chief Executive of NATS has agreed to urgently review his company’s processes to ensure that NATS shares this information with the airport to prevent this happening again in the future.”
From the residents point of view, in-fighting about who didn’t tell who doesn’t matter, what is apt is that they brought an important issue to light and Heathrow wasn’t equipped enough to correctly answer residents pleas for information. This further erodes trust in Heathrow, it’s ability to communicate with relevant parties and more importantly brings up some very serious questions:
1. Why didn’t they at the very least check with NATS that paths hadn’t indeed changed?
2. Why didn’t their own detailed analysis find that paths had changed?
3. How did NATS change a flight-path without informing Heathrow or considering that it might adversely affect the communities underneath it?
You can see the changes that occurred here:
Residents in the affected areas around Ascot are calling for Heathrow to switch the paths back to how they were, this is echoed by HACAN’s John Stewart “We stand shoulder to shoulder with Heathrow in saying NATS now need to revert to the pre-2014 flight paths. Residents have suffered for too long.”
Residents to the east of the airport also believe that plane traffic isn’t back to what it was before the trials. In Teddington, Twickenham, Strawberry Hill and Hampton Wick when Heathrow is operating Easterlies, planes sound louder and appear to be lower than we are used to. If you feel that planes aren’t back to how they were, email Heathrow via their general noise complaints address email@example.com.