Heathrow ‘Operational Freedoms’ trials to be extended by 6 months – with surprise change to night flights
Theresa Villiers has agreed to significant changes to the second phase of operational trials at Heathrow. As well as the 6 month extension, Air Traffic Control will be allowed to vary the routes some planes take on departure. And, in a surprise move, the trials will also allow some aircraft currently scheduled to arrive after 0600 to land between 0530 and 0600 provided that the same number of flights scheduled to arrive between 0430 and 0500 are rescheduled to after 0500. She stressed that the trials would result in no overall increase in the number of planes using Heathrow each day. HACAN is surprised by the extent of the changes which have been made to the second phase of the trial. John Stewart commented that “The big concern of local people is that they will lose their half day’s break from the noise. It is this which makes life bearable for so many people. There will also be a lot of anger that more flights are being allowed before six in the morning”.
Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers has agreed to significant changes to the second phase of operational trials at Heathrow. The trials, due to begin on 1st July, will be extended by six months. They will now end in March 2013. Air Traffic Control will also be allowed to vary the routes some planes take on departure. And, in a surprise move, the trials will also allow some aircraft currently scheduled to arrive after 0600 to land between 0530 and 0600 provided that the same number of flights scheduled to arrive between 0430 and 0500 are rescheduled to after 0500.
The trials allow planes to land on and take off from the ‘wrong’ runway during busy periods in an effort to avoid delays at the airport. Under normal circumstances planes landing over West London switch runways at 3pm to allow residents a half day’s break from the noise. During the first trial (November 2011 to Feb 2012) an average 34 flights a day landed on the wrong runway. During that phase there was very little change to departures.
In her statement Theresa Villiers said that the longer, more comprehensive trial would give BAA time to get a more accurate picture of the impact of the impact of operational freedoms on delays. She stressed that the trials would result in no overall increase in the number of planes using Heathrow each day.
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, campaigning against noise on behalf of residents under the flight path, said, “We are surprised by the extent of the changes which have been made to the second phase of the trial. The big concern of local people is that they will lose their half day’s break from the noise. It is this which makes life bearable for so many people. There will also be a lot of anger that more flights are being allowed before six in the morning”.
Before any trial became permanent the Government has said there would need to be full public consultation on the proposals.
Notes for Editors
(1). The full text of Theresa Villiers statement: http://www.dft.gov.uk/news/statements/villiers-20120515a (see below)
Comments from AirportWatch members:
AA are winning more and more concessions although the key thing is that is all within the 480,000 cap, i.e. there will be no overall increase in flight numbers; simply the spread will be different.
This is likely to be a precursor to more night flights. As attempting to build a third Heathrow runway is political suicide, the easier option of more night flights will keep the industry happy(ish).
Even losing the key safeguard of full runway alternation may be political suicide. However they can still claim it is “mixed mode” if they have anything short of both runways being used for landings and takeoff at all times., and BAA get 50% or more increase in capacity for zero outlay. The only losers being the voters (who don’t get a chance to complain for 3 years) and the environment …
Surprise extension for Heathrow runway trial
Friday 18th May 2012
in Richmond local Guardian
Opposition: Lord True opposes the extension. Lord True is the Conservative leader of Richmond Council
Heathrow has been granted a surprise six month extension to the second phase of its controversial runway trials.
BAA’s first test, which lasted four months, led to a six-fold increase in the number of complaints about aircraft noise in November last year.
Its second phase – due to start on July 1 – had initially been due to last until September 30 but Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers announced this week it would continue for a total of nine months, ending in March, 2013.
Ms Villiers also granted permission for aircraft scheduled to arrive after 6am to land between 5.30am and 6am, in return for fewer flights between 4.30am and 5am.
BAA said the measures – which allow it to use one runway simultaneously for arrivals and departures when planes face a 10 minute wait to land or take off, or if 30 per cent of all aircraft are running more than 15 minutes late – would improve punctuality and reduce delays and give the airport “greater resilience” during the Olympics.
Tim Hardy, BAA’s airside director, said: “This trial does not mean an increase in the number of flights operating in and out of Heathrow.
“However, with Heathrow operating at full capacity, we need to look at ways to strengthen resilience, which will bring benefits to the local community through fewer late-running flights, to passengers by providing a more punctual service, and to the environment by reducing aircraft stacking and emissions.”
John Stewart, chairman of campaign group Hacan, said: “The big concern of local people is that they will lose their half day’s break from the noise. It is this which makes life bearable for so many people. “There will also be a lot of anger that more flights are being allowed before 6am.”
BAA said the Civil Aviation Authority’s report on the first phase, between November 2011 and February this year, noted the airport achieved improved punctuality, reduced aircraft emissions and a lower number of planes having to taxi across runways. The air operator said it could not be sure the higher number of residents complaining about noise was a direct result of the test.
The Conservative leader of Richmond Council has said he “totally disagrees” with fellow Tory peers who have called for the Government to abandon its opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.
Lord Spicer and Lord Tugendhat both warned of the consequences of refusing to expand the airport.
Lord Tugendhat, speaking at Lords question time this week, said: “If the Government refuses to allow a third runway at Heathrow it will be imposing a brake on the growth of the British economy.”
Lord True, the Conservative leader of Richmond Council, said: “I totally disagree with the view of those peers and so do the vast majority people of all parties in west London.
“There should be no Heathrow expansion – period. It was this Government that ruled out, and continues to rule out, the third runway – and I would oppose any attempt to resurrect it.”
“Operational freedoms” trial at Heathrow to be extended by 6 months to March 2013
The trial that was originally planned for three months over the summer from 1st July is now to be extended to March 2013. It also looks as if there will be more early morning landings between 0500 and 0600 in exchange for fewer between 0430 and 0500. Theresa Villiers’ statement says: “Aircraft scheduled to arrive after 0600 will be permitted to land between 0530 and 0600 provided that the same number of flights scheduled to arrive between 0430 and 0500 are rescheduled to after 0500. This is expected to delay the onset of noise disturbance to local communities in the early morning period and enhance the resilience of the schedule”. Also departing aircraft may be re-directed (radar vectored) by air traffic control from their normal routes of departure. And the cap on the more flexible use of dual arrivals allowed as part of the trial will be raised from 6 to 12 per hour.
Operational freedoms at Heathrow Airport
|Delivered by:||The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP|
|Publisher:||Department for Transport|
|Delivered date:||15 May 2012|
The Minister of State for Transport (Theresa Villiers): My statement of 14 July 2011 (Column 55WS) announced a phased trial of operational freedoms at Heathrow Airport to gather evidence in relation to the greater use of tactical measures, in defined and limited circumstances, to prevent or mitigate disruption and to facilitate recovery. The trial is run by BAA, the airport operator, with oversight provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the independent aviation regulator.
These measures are consistent with the Government’s commitment to runway alternation at Heathrow. I would also emphasise that the trial will not increase the number of flights at Heathrow which remains capped at current levels.
Phase one of the trial ran from 1 November 2011 until 29 February 2012. An interim report on the first two months of phase one was published by the CAA on 21 February 2012 . The CAA has today published its final report on phase one, alongside a report by BAA, assessing the impact on operations at the airport and on communities around Heathrow.
The CAA’s report is encouraging about the benefits of the measures trialled so far, but suggests that more detailed data and analysis is required from phase two to draw definite conclusions on these and the impacts on local communities.
The CAA report concluded BAA ran phase one of the trial within the parameters agreed with Government and generally collected and published data for analysing the trial in an appropriate and transparent manner. The CAA noted that the broad spectrum of interested parties, and the technical nature of the measures trialled, made successful engagement with local communities challenging; and they made suggestions for improvement.
The report also accepted BAA’s analysis that phase one of the trial recorded:
- dual arrivals were deployed for 3.2% of westerly arrivals at the airport (1802 out of 56260 arrivals); an average increase of 13 de-alternated flights each day on westerly arrivals, from 21 to 34 per day;
- dual departures were deployed for 0.07% of westerly departures at the airport (38 out of 55860 departures);
- operational improvements in relation to arrival punctuality and delay, stacking (under specific circumstances) and taxi times following arrival;
- A large increase in complaints, although it was not clear whether these were generated by the use of operational freedoms, as a proportion appear to correlate to a prolonged period of easterly operations which was due to weather conditions rather than the trial;
- generally low awareness of the trial but some support for it from residents surveyed when its objectives were explained; and
- no detriment to safety.
In my previous statement, I also set out the timetable for phase two of the trial. Following advice from the CAA, I am announcing today that I have agreed to a six month extension of phase two which will now run from July 2012 to March 2013.
The CAA concluded that the relatively short duration of phase one meant that the evidence it provided on the impact of operational freedoms was more limited than anticipated, partially as a result of an unusually high level of easterly operations. The extension until March 2013 will increase the amount of data generated enabling a more robust analysis of the benefits and impacts, allowing a direct comparison between phases one and two.
A longer trial will also reduce the risk that external factors (such as easterly winds) significantly limit the amount of usable information. This will ensure that the eventual consultation with local communities on whether a more permanent operational freedoms regime is adopted at the airport is based on a sufficient level of evidence.
Phase two will also mean that Heathrow will benefit from greater resilience during the Olympic and Paralympic Games period when the airport will be under more pressure than usual.
Improving punctuality, tackling delay and strengthening resilience at Heathrow would improve the quality of the UK’s international connections and enhance the reputation of our largest international gateway. Phase one has shown that, without prejudging our views on the associated impacts, there is potential to deliver operational benefits without increasing capacity. We therefore have grounds to believe that there is still more that can be done to deliver a better Heathrow, while continuing to protect communities affected by aircraft noise.
I have therefore agreed to the continuation of the trial of tactical use of dual arrivals and departures measures agreed for the first phase. I have also agreed that the following freedoms should be added to phase two:
- Aircraft scheduled to arrive after 0600 will be permitted to land between 0530 and 0600 provided that the same number of flights scheduled to arrive between 0430 and 0500 are rescheduled to after 0500. This is expected to delay the onset of noise disturbance to local communities in the early morning period and enhance the resilience of the schedule;
- During “segregated” operations departing aircraft may be re-directed (radar vectored) by air traffic control from their normal routes of departure (mostly within pre-determined noise preferential routes). This is expected to improve the reliability of the schedule by increasing the departure rate from a single runway and improve the scope for reducing the number of unscheduled night flights;
- Subject to approval of the safety case by CAA, it is intended to apply the same principles to enable dual departures later in phase two, but only within the pre-determined noise preferential routes;
- The cap on the more flexible use of dual arrivals allowed as part of the trial will be raised from 6 to 12 per hour;
- The proactive tests used briefly in phase one will be continued. The periods during which these tests will be undertaken will be announced on BAA’s website during the first month of phase two.
BAA will shortly begin a further period of engagement with local authorities, communities and other stakeholders around the operation of phase two, particularly on the monitoring of noise impacts. Once the trial is complete, the evidence collected will provide the basis for a consultation with local communities.
This will consider whether an operational freedoms regime of some form should be adopted on a more permanent basis at Heathrow and if so what safeguards should apply in relation to its use. This consultation will inform the subsequent decision by Ministers.
Jury still out on Heathrow operational freedom trials
March 16, 2012 Heathrow has been running its ‘operational freedoms’ trial for several months, from November 2011 to February 2012. This is the first of two trial periods, with the second during the Olympics, from July to September this year. BAA produces results of the trials, and a daily report, which are very difficult indeed to interpret. The trials are to allow Heathrow to use both runways for takes offs or landings, if a delay builds up, so flights do not suffer more than a minimum delay. It appears that an average of 23 aircraft landed on the ‘wrong’ runway each day during the first two months of the ‘operational freedom’ trials at Heathrow, which compares to a daily average of 12 during the same period in 2010. The number of complaints received by BAA rose significantly but more analysis is being carried out on the reason for this. Click here to view full story…
Wandsworth residents worried over possible Heathrow emergency flight measures abuses
24th July 2011 Campaigners have warned they will be “up in arms” if BAA abuses new emergency measures at Heathrow to introduce more flights. John Stewart said the Government’s task force has proposed granting BAA more flexibility to land planes on both runways to avoid disruption at critical times, such as severe weather and the Olympic Games. But it is vital that there are safeguards which to ensure BAA does not abuse its new-found freedom. Click here to view full story…