Heathrow residents say peace is blissful
17.4.2010 (Mirror – and others)
People living under the Heathrow flightpath are enjoying the peace and quiet
after two days without planes flying overhead.
While having some sympathy for stranded travellers, residents described the clear
skies as “bliss”.
Roshan Shrestha of Hayes, Middlesex, spent the afternoon reading a paper outside
in his garden.
“I can’t describe how blissful it’s been,” he said. “It’s like another world.”
John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which
represents residents living under the flight path, said he had been inundated
with phone calls and emails.
He said: “The message is that this is what life should be like. The peace and
quiet is absolutely wonderful.
“It makes you realise how noisy the planes are. It’s hugely significant for the
quality of people’s lives.”
Christine Shilling, of the No Third Runway Action Group, who lives under the
flight path in Harmondsworth, said: “I’ve lived here more than 40 years and I’ve
never known such peace.
“People are feeling a huge sense of relief, including the Queen, I should think,
if she’s at Windsor.”
Something strange at Britain’s airports… the sound of silence
Daily Mail 17.4.2010
by Beth Hale
It was a respite so unexpected that at first it was barely noticeable. As dawn broke around the country yesterday there was one sound missing from the
daily hubbub. The ever-present hum of passenger jets flying overhead.
For anyone living anywhere near any of the nation’s major airports, or beneath
the flight path, the steady hum of aircraft passing through the skies above has
become so much a part of the daily routine that it is background noise.
Those living close to the runway have had to become accustomed to the roar of
take-off drowning out the dawn chorus.
But the ashy fury of an erupting volcano some 700 miles away in Iceland did what
terrorists, blizzards and ice have all failed to do – and brought the nation’s
airways to a grinding halt.
Residents living near airports from Bristol to Birmingham and Southampton to
Stanstead all remarked on the strange new sound: of silence.
Save for the odd burst of oddly jubilant birdsong (who could blame them for enjoying
a moment of unexpected free reign) it was as if someone had turned the clock back
to an age before the passenger jet.
In the population dense streets surrounding Heathrow, the world’s busiest airport,
the silence was even more unnerving. Residents living under the flightpath without the ever-reliable wake-up call
of a passing jet.
Commuters on the M4 and M25 looked to the skies and wondered just what was missing,
and even central London seemed muted.
That’s what happens when you go from 1200 flights a day to none.
‘It is really strange,’ said an airport security worker. ‘You don’t think about
it when you hear it every day, but when it stops you really notice it.’
A group of British Airways customer service workers enjoying an unexpectedly
peaceful cigarette break overlooking the runway said they had never known anything
‘Normally you would hear engine noise all the time, I’ve never heard it this
quiet, said one. ‘Even on Christmas Day it’s busier than this.’
The silence extended well beyond the skies.
The roads leading to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 were empty, with nothing flying out
the yellow-vested attendants at the car park gate were bemused to see anyone driving
At 8.30am there was one man parking his car in the short stay car park. Was he
hoping to catch a flight? No, he was just meeting a friend for a coffee.
Inside the shiny new terminal, anyone wanting to admire the latest addition to
the airport facilities could do so with ease, a bright spot that retired precision
engineer Barrie Shelley remarked upon on as he sat writing in his diary about
a night spent roughing it at T5.
My Shelley, 72, arrived at the airport on Thursday morning from Rugby, in Warwickshire
hoping to catch a flight to Turkey to meet up with a Saga holidays tour group.
But his flight was cancelled, so he optimistically overnighted at the airport
in the hope of catching a flight yesterday, before realising that too was impossible.
‘It’s not a hardship I’ve overnighted in airports a number of times before,’
For a pensioner who had just spent a night sleeping rough – one hour in the 24-hour
coffee shop and a few more stretched out on some chairs in the arrivals hall –
Mr Shelley looked remarkably bright-eyed. ‘It does give you a good chance to get to know the terminal,’ he said.
Equally good-spirited were the group of American and Canadian tourists who were
supposed to be on their way to view game in Kruger National Park, but found themselves
viewing life in a departure hall several thousand miles away instead.
Retired teacher Mavis and Richard King and others on their flight from Seattle
to South Africa – via Heathrow – discovered they were going to be having an extended
stopover half an hour before they landed at T5.
They stayed at hotel on Thursday night, and returned to the terminal yesterday
morning to pick up vouchers for a second night and are hoping to fly on this morning.
‘Hopefully we’ll make it to South Africa soon,’ they said.
There was one short-lived queue, but only for morning coffee. Travellers slowly gave up and left the terminal for hotels and home as the day
‘It’s the first time in 27 years that I’ve know the airport to close,’ said Mark,
a customer services advisor with British Airways.
Despite the shutdown there was still some business to be done.
At one baggage storage office, a bored worker insisted yes she had seen some
customers yesterday morning. Four bags had been dropped off, ‘but we normally
have about 130 by now,’ chipped in her colleague.
In a mobile phone store there were two customers – one of them a police officer
and one a stewardess.
At Carluccio’s cafe it the doors were open. The waitress ushered arrivals to
tables with the words ‘anywhere you like’.
In Marks & Spencer staff optimistically restocked the shelves.
Meanwhile down at the arrivals hall, there was one arrival.
Cathy had arrived by hire car, a Ford Focus booked by her and three colleagues
when they realised they would not be able to fly from Edinburgh back to London.
‘I need to catch a train for the last stage of journey but thought the trains
in London would be chaos so it would be easier to catch one from here,’ she said.