Heathrow unveils some minimal, largely cosmetic, noise reduction measures to try to reduce runway opposition
Planes landing at Heathrow are being told to delay the lowering of landing gear as part of attempts to cut the amount of plane noise. Pilots are being told not to lower the wheels until about 4.6 miles from the runway, instead of the average of 8 miles now, and this would not pose any safety risk. Planes will thus be slightly less noisy for those from around 8 – 4.5 miles from the runway. Heathrow is trying to find ways – and they are all tiny ways – to give the impression it is cutting plane noise, in its attempts to persuade the government that it can deal with the added noise burden with a new runway and 50% more flights. Heathrow has also said it will reduce the landing charges for the latest, less noisy aircraft, phasing out older noisier planes eventually. It also plans to install 50 more noise monitors around the airport (which, of course, do not in themselves reduce noise at all). Heathrow calls its new package a Blueprint for Noise Reduction, with 10 supposed measures. These include the launch of a “web based tool xPlane for residents to access flight data specific to their locations”, again in the hope that measuring the noise and giving residents information, somehow make the noise go away. And Heathrow plans to introduce an unspecified “voluntary Quiet Night Charter” – no details, but no reduction in night flights.
Heathrow’s press release says:
50 new noise monitors installed around Heathrow
– 50 new noise monitors are being added to more than double the airport’s existing network
– New figures show a 5.5% increase in the proportion of quieter, new generation aircraft using the airport [since last year]
– Heathrow launches its second ‘Blueprint for Noise Reduction’ today
Heathrow has begun the installation of 50 new noise monitors in local areas as well as upgrades to its existing monitoring network. The action, one of 10 practical steps set out in the latest version of Heathrow’s Blueprint for Noise Reduction published today, [but where? not linked to this press release. Maybe this press release is all there is? AW note] is the direct result of the airport’s engagement with resident groups through the Heathrow Community Noise Forum.
The new monitors will help the airport and residents to gain a better understanding of the impacts of noise in local areas, and will complement the modelling of the existing fixed and mobile monitors. The data gathered will be shared publicly through the Heathrow noise website and the Heathrow Community Noise Forum. [They will, of course, do absolutely nothing to reduce the noise – just enable people to measure it. Again. AW note].
In the future, Heathrow plans to use the monitoring system to provide real-time noise measurements to residents. [Is that meant to achieve something? Other than creating some impression that something, however minimal and cosmetic, is being done? AW note]
Other measures outlined in the Blueprint include:
– Fitting quiet technology to A320s aircraft [This is the hated “Airbus whine.” It is something that is meant to have been happening for several years, and is nothing new. It is done by the airlines, and not by Heathrow. AW note]
– Establishing a voluntary Quiet Night Charter to reduce the impact of Heathrow’s night operations [But not, of course, actually reducing the night operations at all. AW note]
– Launch web based tool xPlane for residents to access flight data specific to their locations
In its bid to encourage quieter aircraft, from January 2017 the airport will introduce lower landing charges to incentivise airlines to prioritise their quietest types of aircraft – known as Chapter 4 aircraft – to use the airport. The move will make Heathrow the first airport in the world to differentiate charges for aircraft like A350s. The anticipated move is already having an effect, with the first daily A350 XWB service – an aircraft which boasts the latest, top-of the range, ultra-quiet technology – having launched on Sunday by Ethiopian Airlines.
As a result of incentives and evolving technology, Heathrow is now quieter than its been at any time since the 1970s, despite the doubling of aircraft movements. [That very much depends on how you assess “quieter.” Certainly not in terms of the number of noise events, the flight paths and the way the planes are flown. AW note]. New data released today in the Heathrow’s Fly Quiet League table shows a 5.5% increase in the proportion of quieter, new generation aircraft – such as the A350 – being used at Heathrow compared with the same period last year.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Chief Executive said: “Heathrow shares a common objective with local residents: we want to make the skies around us quieter. The arrival of new, quieter aircraft and the start of our programme to install 50 new noise monitors will help us to accelerate the reduction in the noise impacts of Heathrow. [How, precisely? AW note]
“Our new plan for a third runway means that we will reduce the number of people affected by noise even with expansion, while increasing the social and economic benefits that Heathrow provides. [Anyone who believes there will be less noise overall with 50% fewer planes has to have taken leave of their reason. The only way this can be claimed is by making dishonest use of noise contours and the figures of those living within them. The claim of reduction is merely done by forms of sleight of hand with the statistics. AW note]
“Heathrow expansion is no longer a choice between the environment or the economy. It will deliver for both. That’s why the Prime Minister can make the right choice and expand Heathrow.” [This just not true. It is sound bit that Holland-Kaye has become fond of using. It actually means nothing whatsoever. AW note].
Heathrow’s “New Plan” for expansion, balances the national and local economic gain from expansion with the environmental impacts. Heathrow has committed to meet and, in most cases, exceed the conditions set out in the Airports Commission’s recommendation for Heathrow expansion, including on noise mitigation. [No, it really has not. This is just spin. AW note].