PBN – What is it?


Recently there’s been a lot of talk about “Modernisation of Airspace, concentration and Performance Based Navigation.” Below we describe and outline what PBN means and what effects it will have.



PBN. What is it?

Satellite based navigation technology for airliners.  A sort of SATNAV that concentrates planes in a straight line one behind the other – like cars on a motorway.   PBN is the biggest, noisiest, most toxic open technology  secret on the planet – after the emissions scam that is.  The introduction of PBN and flight concentration (RNAV1 or RNP) at airports is not optional but has been legally mandated by the Civil Aviation Authority as part of their Future Airspace Strategy. (FAS)  PBN is an essential part of the London Area Management Plan. (LAMP)


What’s different from the way things used to happen?

Noise Preferential Routes (NPR’s) are now beginning to look quaintly old fashioned.  NPRs are 3 kilometer wide swathes in the sky with names like SAM and MID.  Planes taking off from the airport used to head vaguely along one of these ‘corridors’ up to a height of 4000 feet when they would be ‘vectored off’ by air traffic controllers.  As long as the plane was within the swathe everything was tickety boo.   Heathrow’s neighbours have rubbed along with this system since the 1960’s.

So what changed?

Government policy dictates that as few people as possible should be affected by aircraft noise.  Some bright spark reckoned that concentrating aircraft in a very narrow line – now that technology has made this possible –  is a great idea, as in theory it means less noise on the ground for people further away from that centre line.

Heaven help the folks right underneath?

There has been an exponential rise in complaints to airports, CAA and Dft about noise. No-one except campaign groups seems to have worked out that there might be a connection.  The aviation people also worked out a plan for departing aircraft that saves on engine wear, flying the planes lower for longer.  So the flight path used may be narrower but it affects are heard much, much further out.

So this is all about the nice Department for Transport trying to help communities on the ground?

Of course not.  Its about the Single European Sky and SESAR.  The Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority fail to take due account of the interests of the communities around the airport.  The UK governance of Aviation is out of date, ineffectual and partisan.

Caesar?  You can’t blame the Romans for aircraft noise!

No not Caesar. SESAR – a program of Single European Sky initiatives.   The ‘modernisation’ of European airspace which is supposed to be ‘simplifying’ air traffic streams.  For simplifying read concentrating and intensifying airspace usage.  This is all being done to triple current flight levels to increase aviation profits at our expense.

Oh.  I thought we voted to leave Europe!  

Well yes.  But its difficult to vote to leave airspace.   Everyone still has to fly through the same sky.   NATS has stuff about ‘building skies’ on its website.  You can’t build skies.  There is only one and when its gone its gone.

Airspace Trials are conducted by airports, airlines, NATS and overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in response to the industry’s perceived need for modernization.  Modernization is to decrease costs and increase capacity at any environmental cost.

And for ‘modernization’ read trying to make room for another few million planes in the sky?

You said it.  Concentrating paths allows them to stick more paths in.  The CAA estimated that 3 PBN paths could exist happily within 1 NPR.

I keep hearing that modern planes are quieter, right?

Wrong. Eight out of ten cats found the Airbus A380 noisier than the plane it is meant to replace, THE 747.   Noise is not being properly assessed.  The industry uses averages which masks true noise impacts.  Noise metrics are out of date, Airports ‘monitor’ their own noise impacts and there is no independent body responsible for aviation noise or emissions impacts.  As a result of this, the residents around UK airports have suffered enormous increases in noise recently that is damaging to health and mental stability.

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