Verdict on Heathrow runways Operational Freedoms trial – a ‘lot of pain for very little gain’
Campaigners against Heathrow expansion have said tests on using runways more intensively had been “a lot of pain for very little gain”. It follows an official verdict – by the CAA – that experiments carried out into methods of speeding up take-offs and landings had been “inconclusive”. John Stewart, of Hacan, said: “It appears that these trials brought little benefit to the airport. But they did deprive residents of their much-valued half-day’s break from the noise. To bring them back would be a lot of pain for very little gain.” Heathrow is seeking operational freedoms to make itself more resilient to disruptions. The two sets of trials held last year and in early 2012 failed to show clear-cut benefits, leading the CAA to conclude: “It is extremely difficult to reach any strong conclusions on the benefit or otherwise of the trial.” There had been a surge in complaints during the tests. Aviation minister Robert Goodwill has asked the Airports Commission to make a recommendation on the operational freedoms in its interim report in December.
the CAA report on the trials is at
It says that during the trial there were about 3.5% of flights arriving from the east that not on the expected runway. This compared with about 3% normally. Page 112
Heathrow runway trial ‘lot of pain for very little gain’
Campaigners against Heathrow expansion today said tests on using runways more intensively had been “a lot of pain for very little gain”.
It follows an official verdict that experiments carried out into methods of speeding up take-offs and landings had been “inconclusive”.
John Stewart, of the anti-third runway group Hacan, said: “It appears that these trials brought little benefit to the airport. But they did deprive residents of their much-valued half-day’s break from the noise. To bring them back would be a lot of pain for very little gain.”
Heathrow is seeking operational freedoms — where rules are relaxed for a temporary period to clear a backlog — to make itself more resilient to disruptions such as heavy snowfalls.
Trials were held into a series of possible measures including landing planes on both runways to reduce the number of aircraft stacked in the skies after a hold-up. However, the tests failed to show clear-cut benefits, leading the Civil Aviation Authority to conclude: “It is extremely difficult to reach any strong conclusions on the benefit or otherwise of the trial.”
The report said there had been a surge in complaints during the tests — but a similar increase on other days, too, which suggested that publicity about the trials could have triggered complaints.
Aviation minister Robert Goodwill has asked the Davies Commission into airport capacity to make a recommendation on the operational freedoms.
Matt Gorman, the airports’s director of sustainability, said: “The trials have shown that implementing these new procedures could help create a more punctual and efficient Heathrow.”
Ministerial statement to Parliament, on 18th October 2013
Operations freedom trial reports have been released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL).
by Robert Goodwill MP
I am announcing today (18 October 2013) the publication of reports by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) on the recent trial of operational freedoms at Heathrow Airport.
The trial, which ended in February, permitted the more flexible use of the airport’s runways and departure routes, in specified circumstances, in order to help improve punctuality, reduce delay and enhance resilience.
I would like to thank both organisations, as well as NATS, the airport’s air traffic control services provider, for all of their hard work on the trial, as well as local stakeholders who engaged with the CAA and HAL to help shape the exercise.
These reports will be relevant to the Airports Commission’s work on short and medium term options for the UK’s existing airport infrastructure. The Commission’s interim report covering such options is due to be published at the end of the year and the government has invited the Commission to review the CAA and HAL reports to help inform its work in this area.
Once the interim report is published, the government will consider the findings of the Airports Commission, CAA and HAL collectively to inform its next steps on the freedoms. In doing so, the government will also have regard to any wider package of short and medium term measures that might be recommended by the Commission in its December report.
The trial ran in two phases. The first phase ran between 1 November 2011 to 29 February 2012. The second phase began on 1 July 2012 and ran until 28 February 2013. More details about each phase can be found in the links below.
- Phase 1
- Phase 2
- There is a lot of very dry and impenetrable information on the trials at http://www.heathrowairport.com/noise/noise-in-your-area/operational-freedoms-trial
Heathrow submits another delay-busting plan
Heathrow is to push for more leeway to use runways as it wishes after a trial period earlier this year.
Under proposals known as Operational Freedoms, both runways would temporarily be used for arrivals or both used for departures. Currently, one runway is used for take-off and one for landing except during peak hours when the airport operates ‘mixed mode’ – allowing the same runway to be used for take-off and landing.
Heathrow has now abandoned the idea of mixed mode on a larger scale due to the potential opposition it will encounter from local residents – permitting take-off and landing on the same runway means disruption to those living on flight paths at both ends of runways instead of just one.
Instead, Heathrow is pressing for Operational Freedoms to minimise disruption at the capacity-restricted airport. It says the trial “delivered useful operational improvements in some areas” but admits these are limited.
“Whilst they did not provide benefits significant enough to facilitate recovery from the most severe episodes of disruption, they did help to mitigate against, and recover more quickly from, less serious disruptive events,” it said.
A Heathrow spokesman added that Operational Freedoms were “only there to deal with disruption, not to increase flight numbers”.
Heathrow wants Operational Freedoms used in conjunction with other adjustments when there is a risk of disruption. These include departing flights straying from the set route earlier than usual, making it possible for the next flight to leave quicker.
The airport also wants to earmark the southern runway for use by Airbus A380s, which create problems with increased wake turbulence, slowing down departures. Traffic from Terminal 4, which is located to the south of the airport, will also use this runway more often.
Plans have been put forward to the Davies Commission, which is examining the case for a third runway at Heathrow and expansion elsewhere in the South East. An interim report is due in December.
“Ultimately it is for the government to decide where it feels the balance lies,” said the Heathrow spokesman.
Hounslow Borough Council’s website said:
Operational Freedoms trial
As part of its operational freedoms trial, Heathrow airport has been operating aircraft take-offs and landing patterns outside of the normal rules that give residents much-valued periods of peace.
Phase 1 of the trial ran between 1 November 2011 and 29 February 2012. The second phase began on 1 July 2012 and ran until the end of March 2013.
Significant changes included:
- outside of an emergency situation, for the first time, departing flights were allowed from the northern runway to the east
- aircraft were allowed to land on the runway used for take offs
The government will consult on the implementation of the outcome of the trial before the end of the year.
We wrote to the Secretary of State expressing concerns and asking that the trials be delayed. We feel that this phase of the trial was hurried through. We wanted to see the outcomes reported openly and accurately.
You can tell us about your experiences by contacting our Heathrow noise line on 020 8583 5230 or by firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zac Goldsmith’s website said:
24 January 2013 by Zac Goldsmith
End of Operational Freedom Trials at Heathrow.
The Government announced this morning that the second phase of the Operational Freedom Trial at Heathrow is to end on 28 February 2013 – one month earlier than scheduled.
The Trial has enabled Heathrow to adopt different operational procedures for a limited period, to see whether the airport can be run more efficiently. For example, between July and December 2012 the airport was able to use both runways for arrivals during busy periods, to avoid ‘stacking’. This meant that more aircraft passed over areas of South West London during their scheduled respite periods. The number of noise complaints received by Heathrow was around four times higher than usual during this period.
Last year, the Chancellor announced that the consultation and ministerial decision on whether to make the Trial measures permanent would be brought forward. The early cessation of the Trial now enables this process to begin even earlier.
Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park commented: “I am pleased that the disruption caused locally by the Trial will end a month early. However, I am much more concerned about what happens next – whether Ministers plan to adopt some or all of the Freedoms permanently, or listen to the overwhelming majority of South West Londoners who have simply had enough. This Trial has made it harder for local people to predict when they can have some peace and quiet, and I hope this will be made clear during the consultation.”
You can view the Minister for Transport’s statement HERE [https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/early-completion-to-operational-freedoms-trial-at-heathrow].
Heathrow publishes its report on Phase 2 of its Operational Freedoms Trial
February 8, 2013 The Heathrow Operational Freedoms Trials will end on 28 th February, a month earlier than planned, as enough data has been gathered. The first report on the trials was produced in April 2012. Now the second report has been published, for the period July to October 2012. It is a complicated and technical document, that is not particularly accessible to the non-expert! However, in its conclusions it says that during the trial there were (on westerly operations) about 22 extra flights on the other runway, which would not normally happen, taking the number from an average of 15 to 37 per day, as this could be done if there was a 10 minute delay trigger. They also say there was a very tiny reduction in stacking time and thus fuel burned, though this may also be due to other factors. They also say the number of complaints was significantly up, that about 80% of the enquiries were accounted for by 10% of the callers, and about 60% of the callers made contact only once. Click here to view full story…
Mixed-mode at Heathrow not likely – “means a lot of pain for not much gain”
February 5, 2013 Heathrow Airport has dropped its support for mixed-mode. The Times reports that Heathrow is not likely to be able to greatly increase the number of flights using the airport, by bringing in more mixed-mode (where planes both land and take off on the same runway). At present, one runway is used solely for take-offs and the other for landings. The roles are swapped at 3pm each day, to give residents who are over flown some respite from noise. It is thought that in its submission to the Airports Commission, Heathrow will say that even though mixed-mode could increase capacity by some 10%, it would be more trouble than it is worth and there would be a huge public backlash. Ministers had hoped that Heathrow would introduce “mixed-mode” arrangements to boost flight numbers as an interim measure. Heathrow would require a planning inquiry to increase the cap of 480,000 flights a year. That could take 3 years, even judicial review. It would also need up to 2 years to build new taxiing routes to and from terminals, to use mixed-mode. Click here to view full story…