Correspondence with Carolyn McCall (easyJet) illustrates the desperation caused by Gatwick’s new flight paths
One component of the problem of aircraft noise now being inflicted on people of West Kent and Sussex by newly concentrated Gatwick flight paths, is the “Airbus whine”. This is an unpleasant additional noise, at a particularly annoying frequency, due to air passing over the Fuel Over Pressure Protector (FOPP) cavities. This is relatively cheap and easy to put right. However, easyJet has not taken steps to make the changes, as it would slightly cut profits. Now infuriated residents have asked Ms Carolyn McCall, the CEO of easyJet, to take action on this. She has replied to say: “easyJet will do whatever it can as we take noise and environmental issues very seriously. I am looking into already how we can accelerate our programme to address this issue.” She has actually been aware of the problem for a long time …. Below are some emails to her, giving a flavour of the desperation, anger and exasperation of people whose lives have been changed, seriously for the worse, because of altered and concentrated Gatwick flight paths – about which they were not consulted or informed. Their determination to reverse the deterioration in their quality of life, from the noise intrusion, is palpable.
Carolyn McCall response:
Carolyn McCall, the CEO of EasyJet, has sent a brief response to someone living in the West Kent area who asked when her airline plans to re-fit its planes with the simple device to prevent the “Airbus whine”. The initial request, copied to many MPs, staff at Gatwick and Heathrow etc, had expressed the desperation its writer felt.
Dear Mr XXXXX
….easyJet will do whatever it can as we take noise and environmental issues very seriously. I am looking into already how we can accelerate our programme to address this issue.
Responses to Ms McCall
Several people, among the many thousand who are now adversely affected by newly concentrated flight paths for arrivals to Gatwick airport, have replied to Ms McCall’s email. Below are 3 of the emails, to give an impression of the degree of feeling that the flight path changes have caused:
Dear Ms McCall,
I don’t know Mr XXXXX but suspect that was a response from a perfectly normal person completely at his wits end. Your company is partly responsible for that I’m afraid – and if you do not know why, which I would be surprised to hear, you should.
You cannot imagine how horrific life in West Kent has become for two years since multiple arrival paths were concentrated into one, sending low flying whining and howling planes over Chiddingstone, Hever and Penshurst, and many other previously unaffected Areas of Outstanding Natural beauty.
This happened with zero permission, consultation or even offer of any material compensation whatsoever.
We are being emotionally and financially terrorised and have seen at least 30%, perhaps 50% of the value of our properties vanish. Someone has literally built a motorway above our properties, properties where one cannot chop a branch off a tree without permission.
And you wonder why people are angry, furious and disgusted? Words cannot express it. We live [12 – 15] miles from the airport and paid a whopping premium to live in a no-through road which, when low flying aircraft are not clipping the trees, is silent – literally.
It is sad that often one only hears from people in responsible positions when such extreme correspondence [referring to the initial email to Ms McCall] is seen and read.
At least you had the decency to reply which is more than can be said for NATS, the CAA and even [less endearing] Gatwick. The obfuscation created by Gatwick, NATS and the CAA is indeed reflecting very badly on your company and brand. Indeed you will not be surprised to learn that anyone or any company associated with the one-per-minute horror, 19 hours a day, of Gatwick arrivals overhead, quickly ends up in the ‘reviled’ category.
Perhaps you can help us.
It is not fair, it is certainly not right, and it will not be tolerated that Gatwick and those associated with it can wilfully rape the South East, stealing our health and our wealth. That is effectively what has happened and it is absolutely disgraceful.
You run a successful business and I hope can understand how utterly furious tens of thousands of Kent and Sussex residents are.
I’d be grateful to hear from you on this topic.
The single arrival path is not fair, and it has increased, not decreased Go Arounds. It is destroying previously peaceful villages and causing people who have never complained about anything before to raise an army, to fight against the injustice being perpetrated against their families and communities.
Your planes are willing contributors to what, genuinely, sounds almost like a missile attack. One per minute, 19 hours a day. The economic and emotional damages claim would be in the £ tens of millions, at the very least.
Those responsible should revert to previously acceptable multiple paths with planes as high as possible or purchase affected properties under this ghastly path at prices commensurate with their value before the noise ghetto was created. What do you think about that?
Please take a moment to think about this.
We are being treated abominably by these interested parties. Don’t let EasyJet become, or remain, one of them or it may be your company that humiliates itself.
If you can help, we welcome your assistance.
XXXXXXX (Name given)
Chiddingstone, Hever, Penshurst, West Kent area.
Another response to Ms McCall
Dear Ms McCall
As the current Councillor for YYYY district] I am disturbed by the platitudes as expressed in your email.
During the lead up to the elections, I was able to talk to a large number of residents in my Ward, and the overwhelming concern, that was expressed, was one of utter frustration over the way that the air management was being dealt with, in our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Our residents are extremely proud of our area and have every right to be so: but do not be deluded into thinking that the extreme views expressed by a few are foreign to the many – they are not. It is just that some people believe that fair play will prevail and are leaving it to the more vociferous to air their concerns.
As time progresses this attitude is becoming less and less tenable.
We are continually being fobbed off by lies, damned lies and statistics. Our residents are reasonable, moderate people – not given to trivial complaining or causing trouble. But before too long the middle road will begin to erode; any trust will be completely undermined. And, yes believe it or not, the residents will hit your organisation hard where it hurts, that is in the market place.
Even icons are susceptible to the public’s fury.
The moderates are beginning to feel abused and nothing that the main players say or do, is doing anything to change their minds.
It is so simple, all you have to do is to listen to the strong concerns, expressed by the majority of the residents in the West Kent, High Weald and adjoining areas, and do something positive about it.
The time for platitudes has gone. and only a figurehead who has the courage to put the people before the pennies, will regain the trust and respect of the residents both now and for the future. It is time to be proactive in understanding the frustrations of an extremely angry but genuinely fair cohort.
Chiddingstone, Hever, Penshurst, West Kent area.
Another response to Ms McCall
You will no doubt have received a few emails by now, in the main expressing an exasperated tone of frustration mixed with anger and incomprehension.
There are thousands of residents affected by this illegal and non consultative change in the use of airspace. I have lived in [XXXX] for the last 18 – 22] years. The last few years I have found myself flicking through ‘RightMove’ whenever I get a few minutes in the hope that I can move out of [this area] to escape the continuous bombardment that my family and I are now accustomed to.
It is truly awful, almost soul destroying and definitely unhealthy.
Unfortunately, you have an email address with the ‘word’ easyjet attached, so please allow me to explain why you’ve probably received a bit more email traffic today. I’m now an expert on the airspace above my house because I like thousands of others have to live with this commercial vandalism day in and day out.
The ‘whine’ [Airbus whine, typical of theA320 family, a certain distance from touch down, on landing when it is most acute] starts about 40 seconds out from when the plane eventually passes overhead. The ‘whine’ is an issue that easyjet are aware of and will or won’t be addressed in the UK, depending on a board of assorted directors and a finance director analysing the cost and associated benefits of a retrofit.
We all know that, so I for one won’t hold my breath to any early change in easyjet spending a bit of money to appease a few people who’ve emailed you this evening. That may sound a tad cynical but please stay with me on this one for my last few paragraphs.
Since about 2013, there has been a change in the arrival pattern of aircraft into Gatwick. It’s now a concentrated continuous bombardment, day and night, of low flying aircraft – some below 3,000ft – that is making a large community angry and tired, and yet energised to fight back until this nonsensical operational ‘change in the use of airspace’ is reversed, changed, cancelled…….
It is simply and purely unnecessary. Planes don’t need to fly at this low altitude over areas such as Hever, Penshurst, Chiddingstone, High Weald and many adjoining areas, this far out from Gatwick.
I’m not that interested in the superficial rhetoric of companies’ noise and environmental policies, and following Gatwick Airport’s appalling behaviour, I have lost faith anyway. The world is littered with companies who preach this and then hide when asked awkward questions.
However, I felt your reply to Mr XXXXX sounded sincere and I hope very much that you’ll be able to add value to help find and action a solution.
Ironically, before the toxic companies and organisations dealing with Gatwick airspace flicked a switch that resulted in dropping the height of inbound aircraft into a concentrated motorway above our heads, I barely noticed the ‘whine’ from the ‘easyjets’.
Food for thought perhaps?
Chiddingstone, Hever, Penshurst, West Kent area.
Ms McCall has been very much aware of the problem of the “whine” for a long time. This is a letter she was sent about it in November 2013:
Letter to EasyJet
Ms Carolyn McCall
Chief Executive Officer
London Luton Airport
Bedfordshire LU2 9PF
14 November 2013
Dear Ms McCall,
In the towns and villages across West Kent and East Sussex concern is being expressed over the debilitating high pitched whine emanating from the Airbus A318/319/320 etc., series of aircraft. For some time it was thought that this was a fault of the high bypass turbofan engines but this was denied by the manufacturers and in any event Boeings equipped with the same engines do not emit this awful and far reaching noise. It is noticeable on the long low flight path to touchdown apparent at least 20 miles from the airport and across a variable corridor 2 to 3 miles wide.
As your fleet has expanded over the past few years many people’s daily lives have become
intolerable because of this noise nuisance. You can imagine then how they are affected when your wailing sirens fly overhead at night. The World Health Organisation has for many years considered that sleep disturbance can lead to fatigue, hypertension, greater risk of heart and respiratory problems, poor performance at work or in school, greater difficulty in concentrating and thinking clearly, an increased likelihood of accidents, depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse. This is particularly the case if people become annoyed about the impact night flights are having on their health and quality of life. These symptoms can also be found in those people suffering excessive noise disturbance during the day.
Much of the nuisance created by your aircraft from Gatwick Airport is over the High Weald
registered as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is on these hills and in the tranquil river valleys and upper reaches of the rivers Rother, Arun, Medway, Eden and Ouse that are used for holidays and weekend recreations of hiking, boating, bird watching, horse riding, golfing and other quiet and peaceful pursuits. All are now disturbed by this deep and penetrating noise, mostly from your airline. Many of those troubled, apart from local people in towns and villages, are day trippers from London and other built- up areas all seeking their own refuge from the intrusive noise of daily urban life. In the green parks of inner cities there is also no respite where you and other low cost carriers operate these aircraft.
This annoyance, we are now told, by the CAA has been recorded on the Airbus series since 2005 yet it was only announced on the 13 October 2013 that the ERCD had discovered that the fault was an airframe noise caused by Fuel Over Pressure Protector (FOPP) cavities in the wings. They also confirmed that the “Tone is emitted around 500-600Hz, close to peak sensitivity of the human ear, hence it is very perceptible and very noticeable.”
Purely from a humanity point of view ‘Do you care? If you do please tell me what you propose doing about rectifying this unfair and intolerable burden across much of our country and abroad. Your decision will make all the difference to so many people’s lives.
Michael Knowles OBE
cc The Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP
– The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP.
There is a lot more information about the “whine” and the relatively inexpensive retrofit to prevent it here:
Lufthansa retrofitting A320 planes with simple, inexpensive, noise-reducing device to stop the “Airbus whine”
The Airbus 320 series of aircraft, many of which are used by the low cost carriers – easyJet in particular – have been known for many years (by the CAA since 2005) to have a particularly irritating high pitched whine. This is caused by air rushing across the under-surface of the wing, where there are Fuel Over Pressure Protector (FOPP) cavities. This generates noise, in the same way as blowing air over the mouth of a bottle.Every A320 series aircraft emits a signature howling noise while approaching to land. It is heard most when the plane is travelling at around 160 knots, and the frequency is around 500-600Hz, which is close to peak sensitivity of the human ear. There is a relatively simple and inexpensive retrofit, to attach a small aluminium “vortex generator” in front of the cavity. Then can be done at routine aircraft maintenance, though the fuel tanks need to be emptied. Lufthansa is in the process of retrofitting all its A320 series planes. Air France will also do so. EasyJet has been reluctant to do much, as it sees no commercial advantage in doing so.