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Evidence on how the 57 Leq noise contours for Heathrow fail to fully reflect aircraft noise impacts

In a blog on the anomalies of how aircraft noise is currently measured, John Stewart writes of the odd situation where roads in London are regarded as quiet, ignoring the obvious impact of Heathrow flightpaths overhead. This arises in areas such as Clapham, which are well outside the 57 Leq contour, which it is wrongly alleged,  is the limit at which aircraft noise is a problem, or annoys/upsets people. The number of complaints about aircraft noise that come from areas well beyond the 57 Leq contour are evidence that it is not a measure that reflects reality. A better system for measuring aircraft noise experienced is Lden (day, evening, night) with noise in evening and night given a higher weighting, to reflect the greater impact, and greater annoyance, it has on those overflown. The European Commission requires member states to use 55Lden when drawing up their noise maps. That is more realistic than 57 Leq. It is understood that  Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, is looking seriously at a more realistic noise metric.


Unsound Measurements


 By John Stewart

They won’t know whether to laugh or cry this weekend, the residents of Sabine Roadin Battersea.  Their street has been named one of the quietest in London.  “Sorry you did say ‘quietest’ didn’t you?”  They’ll be asking each other over breakfast as the next plane roars overhead.

Sabine Road, not far from Clapham Junction, is in an area where there have been countless complaints about aircraft noise the years.  It’s on the flight path to Heathrow.

So what is going on?

The researchers, from the noise consultancy firm 24 Acoustics have fallen into the classic trap of using the official UK method of measuring aircraft noise. 

“To determine the quietest streets, researchers used existing data to locate which ones were outside of the 57 decibel noise contours for airports, and had a night road traffic noise level of lower than 35 decibels”

This reliance on the 57 decibel noise contour has made a mockery of their results.          It has meant that aircraft noise can be heard in just about all their top quietest streets.  Streets in places like Fulham and Putney make it into the top 10.

The blame lies not with the researchers.  I imagine that in good faith they accepted the official measurement of noise annoyance from aircraft.  It was a mistake waiting to happen.  For years HACAN, along with many other bodies, has argued the measurement is utterly misleading.

We wrote in our response to the Airport Commission’s consultation on noise:

“The current 57 db Leq contour – the official area which defines where community annoyance sets in – excludes places like Putney and Fulham in West London!  Not the real world!”

The European Commission agrees with us.  It requires member states to use a different metric – called 55Lden – when drawing up their noise maps.  That is more realistic.  It extends the noise boundaries to places like Vauxhall and Clapham.  But even it does not cover all the places where people are annoyed.  The ANASE Study, commissioned by the last Government but quietly buried when it found the findings were not to its taste, found that there is significance noise annoyance well beyond the 55Lden contour.

Of course the current 57 decibel cut-off point suits the aviation industry down to the ground because it minimises and underestimates the numbers affected by noise.

However, here are distinct signs the tide is turning.  Sir Howard Davies, who heads up the Airports Commission, is known to be looking seriously at a more realistic metric.

In their responses to the Commission’s noise paper, MPs queued up to criticise the current cut-off point:

 Mary Macleod MP: “There is widespread evidence that the existing measure of the threshold of annoyance is inaccurate and misleading.”

Zac Goldsmith MP“The measurement of noise – and of noise annoyance/disturbance – needs revising. Currently it is misleading.  Any noise measurement that does not reflect reality lacks credibility”.

Former Transport Secretary Justine Greening MP: “I believe this strongly shows that taking a traditional 57dB approach to assessing the level of noise annoyance from any new aviation strategy will exclude a large number of people who will be annoyed and affected but live outside of the 57dB noise contours.”

John Randall MP: “Clearly, a 57dB threshold is unhelpful if it excludes population areas that are experiencing significant annoyance from aviation noise”.

Murad Qureshi for the London Assembly Labour Group: “The committee has previously recommended the adoption of an Lden measure and the use of lower thresholds for identifying the areas most affected by aircraft noise”.

 Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London:   “The development of a new noise metric is strongly supported. It must fully represent sensitivity to and the impacts of aviation noise and how individual aircraft events are experienced during different times of day and night”.

 Even the Government in its Aviation Policy Framework, published in March, recognised the current measurement was flawed:

“Average noise exposure contours are a well-established measure of annoyance and are important to show historic trends in total noise around airports. However, the Government recognises that people do not experience noise in an averaged manner and that the value of the LAeq indicator does not necessarily reflect all aspects of the perception of aircraft noise. For this reason we recommend that average noise contours should not be the only measure used when airports seek to explain how locations under flight paths are affected by aircraft noise.”

The Airports Commission has been charged with reassessing the way aircraft noise is measured.  A change to a more realistic noise metric could be the most lasting    decision it will make.  It will ensure that future aviation policy decisions are based on sound measurements.

And it will save future researchers falling into the same trap that ensnared the benighted people from 24 Acoustics.




“Lden” (day-evening-night noise) is a measure of noise (see how it is defined on page 25 of link ) that attempts to give a different weight to noise in the evening  period, and the night period, to noise in the day.  It presumes a day of 12 hours, an evening of 4 hours, and a night of 8 hours – though those times can be varied.  It counts noise in the evening to be greater than the same noise in the daytime, and night noise as even greater – so there are different weightings to each time  of day. It thus attempts to average noise out, but giving particular weight to noise at times of day that particularly trouble people.

Lden : Day-evening-night equivalent level

A-weightedLeqnoise level, measured over the 24 hour period, with a 10 dB penalty added to the levels between 23.00 and 07.00 hours and a 5 dB penalty added to the levels between 19.00 and 23.00 hours to reflect people’s extra sensitivity to noise during the night and the evening.

Leq :

the Equivalent Continuous Sound Level is the preferred single decibel value to describe Sound Levels that vary over time and would produce the same Sound Energy over the same period of time T.

Leq is the preferred method to describe sound levels that vary over time, resulting in a single decibel value which takes into account the total sound energy over the period of time of interest..

Leq – equivalent continuous noise level
Noise levels often fluctuate over a wide range with time. For example in the middle of the night the level might go down as low as 30dB(A) with occasional passing vehicles of 70dB(A) or more. Later comes the dawn chorus followed by the general noises of the day before relative peace returns in the late evening.

Alternatively it may be a factory with different noise emissions throughout the day or week, with deliveries, intermittent compressors, and lots of varying noisy processes on top of the routine production noise levels.

How do you measure these noise levels and come up with an overall value?

This is where the Leq noise or equivalent continuous noise level meter comes in. This meter faithfully follows all the fluctuations, stores them in it’s memory and at the end of the measurement calculates an ‘average energy’ or Leq value. When we say average, this is not a simple arithmetic average because we are measuring in decibels which are Logarithmic values. So our meter converts the dB values to ‘real numbers’, adds them all up then divides by the number of samples and finally converts this equivalent level back to decibels – dBs.

LAeq - It is common practice to measure noise levels using the A-weighting setting built into all sound level meters. In which case the term is properly known as LAeq and the results should say so – for example LAeq = 73 dB or Leq = 73 dBA

A good Leq sound level meter samples and ‘captures’ the noise levels 16 times a second which means over an hour it makes 16 x 60 x 60 = 57600 calculations, not difficult for a modern meter but quite an achievement a few years back.

Leq noise levels are Logarithmic (dB) values and cannot be added directly. A doubling of sound level results in a measured increase of 3 dB, four identical sources in a room would increase the noise level by 6 dB and so on. This works both ways, say 10 similar machines in a room produce 100 dBA then removing one machine completely will only reduce the overall noise level to 99.5 dBA, you would need to silence or remove 50% of the machines to achieve a 3 dB reduction. See also our dB page for more details on adding and subtracting decibels – Leq Calculation.

Leq is also used in the assessment of Noise Dose or Sound Exposure in the workplace and the 3 dB ‘doubling rule’ applies to time and/or level. For example an Leq level of 85 dBA over 8 hours is currently assessed as 100% dose in the UK. Using the doubling rule then 85 dBA(8 hour) = 82 dBA(16 hour) or 88 dB is only acceptable for 4 hours a day. Similarly if 85 dBA = 100% dose then 88 dBA = 200% dose. A note of caution – the Leq assumes an Exchange Rate of 3 dB and applies to all ISO and British Standard measurements. In some Countries, for example the USA OSHA Standards use a 5 dB exchange rate.




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Heathrow has highest weekly number of (noisy) 747 flights of any world airport

Figures from Anna aero, which celebrates routes, flights, links etc and associated airports, show that  Heathrow continues to have by far the highest number of Boeing 747s of any other global airport. 747s are noisy planes, as well as being huge. They are likely to be as noisy as – or even noisier than – the A380. Some studies show the A380 being up to 5 decibels quieter at some measurement stations, though it depends on which engines the planes are using; the noise is both from engines and airframe. The 747 – 400 is ranked as Quote count 4 on departure and 2 on arrival. By comparison the A320 series is ranked at about 2 and 1 respectively.  Anna aero shows Heathrow has 298 weekly departures of Boeing 747s, with the next  highest airport Taipei with 174. Then third is Frankfurt, with 150.  Now the A380 has taken over for new orders, there have been fewer and fewer new 747s being delivered, with just 20 ordered in the past 5 years and zero ordered in 2013.



London Heathrow Airport – still #1 for Boeing ‘jumbo’ jet ops

7.11.2013 (Anna Aero)
Old jumbos home: London Heathrow Airport is still the world’s #1 airport for the veteran 747 with almost twice as many weekly departures as its rivals. But Heathow is only #3, after Dubai and Singapore, for A380 operations, the plane which could make the most of its incredibly hard-to-come-by slots.

With new aircraft such as the 787 now well established, and others such as the A350 and Bombardier C-Series coming soon, it is only natural that some aircraft types are gradually disappearing from the world’s airline passenger fleets. This winter will probably see the last scheduled passenger flights on MD11s as KLM retires its final aircraft, while SAS is phasing out its MD80s (though some of these will find a new home elsewhere).

With the Airbus A380 now the undisputed ‘king of the skies’ in terms of size, was wondering what was happening with the world’s fleet of its predecessor, the Boeing 747. Although an updated version of the aircraft, the 747-8, is being manufactured and sold (to Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa), four-engined aircraft are not ideal when fuel prices are high – just ask the world’s operators of A340s. So at which airports are you most likely still to see 747s, and from which airports has the type disappeared in the last 12 months?

While Dubai is by far the leading airport for A380 operations (thanks to Emirates’ fleet of almost 40 of the type), well ahead of Singapore Changi, analysis of Innovata / Diio Mi schedule data for this month reveals that London Heathrow Airport is still the world’s #1 airport for 747 passenger operations, with almost 300 weekly departures, well ahead of its nearest rival Taipei Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan. Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi round out the top five, with San Francisco in 8th place the leading US airport.

Top airports for 747 passenger operations Top 12 as measured by weekly departures

Source: Diio Mi / Innovata for November 2013

Six of the top 12 airports for 747 operations have actually seen in increase in operations of the type during the last 12 months, with Seoul Gimpo (+47%), San Francisco (+17%) and Tokto Narita (+15%) seeing the biggest gains.

A comparison with November 2008 reveals that Heathrow was #1 then as well, ahead of Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita. Since last November the number of 747 flights has fallen globally by a relatively modest 4.9%, suggesting that the global 747 fleet still has many years of active service ahead of it. However, 15 airports that welcomed at least one weekly 747 service last November are now no longer receiving flights from this aircraft type. These include Colombo, Copenhagen, Perth and Stockholm Arlanda.



Wikipedia says, of the Boeing 747 family at

In November 2005, Boeing announced it was launching the 747 Advanced as the Boeing 747-8.  The last 747-400s were completed in 2009. As of 2011, most orders of the 747-8 have been for the freighter variant. On February 8, 2010, the 747-8 Freighter made its maiden flight.  The first scheduled delivery of the 747-8 went t oCargolux in 2011. Eventually, the 747 may be replaced in Boeing’s lineup by a new design named “Y3“.

Wikipedia says of 747 deliveries and orders of 747s:

Year    Total 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
Orders    1525    0 7 7 1 5 2 25
Deliveries   1474 31 9 0 8 14 16 16


Wikipedia says, of the Quota count system, in relation to the Boeing 747:

From 1962 until 1993, operations at Heathrow were subject to a simple limit on the number of aircraft movements that were allowed to take place during the night period.

In 1993 a new Quota Count system was introduced based on aircraft noise certification data. Each aircraft type is classified and awarded a quota count (QC) value depending on the amount of noise it generated under controlled certification conditions. The quieter the aircraft the smaller the QC value. Aircraft are classified separately for landing and take-off. Take-off quota count values are based on the average of the certificated flyover and sideline noise levels at maximum take-off weight, with 1.75 EPNdB added for Chapter 2 aircraft. Landing quota count values are based on the certificated approach noise level at maximum landing weight minus 9.0 EPNdB.

Aircraft were originally divided into six QC bands from 0.5 to 16, but following a review by the Department for Transport a seventh category – Quota Count 0.25 – was added in March 2007.

Noise Classification Quota Count
Below 84 EPNdB Exempt
84 – 86.9 EPNdB 0.25
87 – 89.9 EPNdB 0.5
90 – 92.9 EPNdB 1
93 – 95.9 EPNdB 2
96 – 98.9 EPNdB 4
99 – 101.9 EPNdB 8
Greater than 101.9 EPNdB 16

The quota count doubles with each increase of 3 dB which corresponds to an approximate doubling of noise power. However, due to the logarithmic nature of human aural perception, this 3 dB change is perceived as only a small change in the noise level.

Airports operating the system have a fixed quota for each of the summer and winter seasons. As each night-time aircraft movement takes place, an amount of this quota is used depending on the classification of the aircraft. For example, the Boeing 747-400 is classed as QC/2 on landing and QC/4 on takeoff, while the larger yet quieter Airbus A380 is rated QC/0.5 on landing and QC/2 on takeoff.

Each A380 therefore uses approximately 42% of the quota of a 747, while potentially carrying more passengers, thus providing airlines with an incentive to operate quieter types of aircraft.  Field measurements suggest the approach quota allocation for the A380 may be overly generous compared to the older Boeing 747. Rolls-Royce is supporting CAA in understanding the relatively high A380/Trent 900 monitored noise levels.

Some QC examples

Aircraft type QC Departure QC Arrival
Airbus A320 family 0.5 – 1 0.25 – 0.5
Airbus A380 2 0.5
Boeing 737 Classic 0.25 – 0.5 1
Boeing 747-400 4 2
Boeing 747-8 2 1[9]
Boeing 757-200 0.5 0.25
Boeing 767-300 1 – 2 1
Boeing 777-200ER 2 1
Embraer 145 0.25 0.25



There is a noise comparison study from Los Angeles in 2009 at which shows sometimes a 5 dB difference in noise between the A380 and a 747 .However, there is other data indicating the A380 is sometimes little quieter in reality.


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Heathrow pays £1.8m for noise-reducing adobe huts in playgrounds of 21 schools under its flightpaths

It was reported in April 2013 that four adobe domes had been put  up in the grounds of Hounslow Primary school, which is under the southern runway at  Heathrow, in order to enable the children to use the playground despite the plane noise. Now Heathrow says it will spend £1.8 million to extend the scheme to 21 schools that are badly affected by aircraft noise. Heathrow is desperate to try and persuade London residents that aircraft noise is being dealt with, and a 3rd runway will not cause intolerable noise to those overflown. The 21 schools, which have not been  named, will each get around £85,000 for the building of these structures. The largest can hold 30 children, and the level of noise can be 17 decibels lower than outside. Children can hear the teachers inside the domes, so teaching does not have to stop for a considerable time every 90 seconds or so, when planes go over. Children can also hear each other, and so develop their language skills. However, the domes do not solve the problem of providing ventilation and soundproofing of classrooms.



Heathrow pays £1.8m for adobe huts to protect pupils’ ears from aircraft noise

Superadobe domes designed for the moon cut jet noise at school where one flies 180 metres over every 90 seconds

Pupils of Hounslow Heath school play around the huts in the playground as another low jet flies in

Pupils of Hounslow Heath school play around the huts in the playground as another low-flying jet comes in to land at Heathrow airport. Photo: Frantzesco Kangaris

Heathrow is to pay for building earthquake-proof shelters in local school playgrounds to protect children from the rumble of overhead aircraft noise.

The £1.8m scheme follows the experience of a primary school in Hounslow that lies under one of the two main Heathrow flight paths. In April this year, it erected four of the “superadobe” domes, originally designed for earthquake and emergency zones in Asia and Africa. The striking white structures – made from coiled bags of earth with plaster walls – cut the noise of incoming aeroplanes by about 17 decibels. The original domes at Hounslow Heath infants school, where incoming planes pass 180 metres overhead every 90 seconds at peak times, can accommodate up to 30 young pupils.

The airport is to pay 21 local schools for the cost of building the shelters to reduce noise for outdoor lessons or during breaktimes. Heathrow said the scheme, under which each school will receive £85,000, was part of its commitment to exploring innovative solutions to reduce the impact of aircraft noise.

Kathryn Harper-Quinn, headteacher of Hounslow Heath, said the school had been delighted with the adobe buildings and welcomed Heathrow’s new scheme.

Since 2005, the airport has provided some noise insulation for schools, although local councils have argued that the money has not gone far enough to provide ventilation as well as soundproofing, leaving teachers to choose between being too hot or too noisy in summer.

Matt Gorman, sustainability director at Heathrow, said: “We know that aircraft noise has an impact on local communities. This innovative scheme has already proved a great success in providing pupils with noise respite,and we hope all 21 schools will enjoy the buildings as much as Hounslow Heath has.”

The shelters were designed originally by the Iranian architect Nader Khalili as a potential low-tech, low-cost building should man ever start building settlements on the moon. However, they were first used in large numbers for a refugee crisis after the 1990-91 Gulf war, before coming to Hounslow via other emergency zones in Africa and Asia.

Julian Faulkner, who built the Hounslow Heath structures, had previously erected about 70 of the domes, which can withstand tremors of a magnitude up to 5.7, in regions of Nepal.

Aircraft noise has become an important factor in the political debate over the expansion of Heathrow: 750,000 local people are affected by the disturbance, according to European measures. The airport has set out a strategy to tackle aircraft noise, including quieter planes and operating procedures. Heathrow has also published its first league table of the noisiest airlines: Poland’s LOT, Israel’s El Al and Thai Airways are the worst offenders.

Plans submitted this year by Heathrow to the Davies commission, which is considering if and where airports in the south-east should be expanded, laid out options for up to three additional runways, potentially putting many new areas of west London under flight paths.



See also  Daily Mail


Heathrow pays £1.8m for school earthquake-proof moon huts to protect pupils’ ears from aircraft noise

  • Heathrow will give 21 primary schools average of £85,000 each
  • Huts allow children to play and learn outside without noise interference
  • Originally designed for lunar landings and used in refugee camps


Some extracts from a long article, below:

  • Hounslow Heath children
  • Students from Hounslow Heath infants school play around one of four adobe huts designed to help minimise the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow airport
  • The playground is directly under the flight path of Heathrow's southern runway The playground is directly under the flight path of Heathrow’s southern runway and outside play for the children is interrupted every two minutes or so by landing aircraft passing over their headsThe airport, which is the fourth busiest in the world, sees on average 1,288 flights arrive and depart from its five terminals – the equivalent of 471,000 flights a year.

    Primary schools that are affected by 63 decibels and above are eligible for the adobe building funding as Heathrow says they recognise the importance of outdoor learning.

    Another educational establishments will be given financial help to sound proof their buildings, a Heeathrow spokesman said.

    The number of schools and colleges affected is 43, Heathrow said.

    Seven nurseries, four libraries, four community/village halls and six hospices/nursing homes also fall within the zone.

    The domes, an invention of Iranian architect Nader Khalili, were originally meant for lunar settlementsThe domes, an invention of Iranian architect Nader Khalili, were originally meant for lunar settlements

    ‘For play time it’s fantastic that they have somewhere to withdraw – even the ones that are too young to articulate that they’re feeling concerned about the noise,’ Ms Harper-Quinn said.

    The domes have no doors so are an open space but with a ‘strong psychological and physical barrier’ against the noise, she said.

    She estimates that when outside, teachers are inaudible to pupils for 25 seconds in every 90 because of the jets.

    ‘You can still hear the planes in the huts but you can also hear your own voice,’ she said.

  • Options for increasing capacity at London Heathrow airport include a third runway and allowing planes to land and take-off on its two runways at the same time instead of the current alternating pattern.‘Having quiet time is absolutely critical. To lose runway alternation would be a disaster,’ said Harper-Quinn.

    Heathrow has been making efforts to tackle the noise the inevitably arises from its airport.




See earlier:

Adobe earth houses in school playground give pupils refuge from Heathrow noise

Edit this entry.Pupils at the Hounslow Heath Infant school ( children aged 3 –  7) just under a Heathrow flight path, have very loud and intrusive aircraft noise from the planes flying some 180 metres approx overhead. The problem is so bad that BAA (as it was) paid for the construction of some adobe structures in the playground, so the children can spend at least part of their time outdoors in places where they can hear each other speak. At some times of day, there is aircraft noise for 25 seconds out of every 90 seconds. Classes of up to 30 children can be seated inside the main dome, and inside the noise is reduced by some 17 decibels. Outdoor learning is valued by teachers and is also a statutory part of the national curriculum. The headteacher said the adobe structures are important as refuges because  ”When kids are playing they are also developing their language skills, and in the playground again they’re being interrupted.” Schools should not be located under flight paths where planes are low.



Earth houses give pupils refuge from Heathrow noise

Superadobe domes first used for Gulf war refugees rise up at Hounslow schools coping with lessons under flight path

bv , transport correspondent

Hounslow School

Pupils of Hounslow Heath infants school play around the adobe huts designed to help minimise the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow airport. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for the Guardian

Buildings originally designed for earthquake and emergency zones in Asia and Africa are now being erected in London playgrounds to shield schoolchildren from the noise of aircraft landing at Heathrow.

Four “superadobe” domes have gone up at a primary school in Hounslow, under the flight path for Heathrow’s southern runway, and two other schools in the area plan to build similar structures. Constructed from coiled bags of earth with white plaster walls, the domes reduce the roar from incoming aeroplanes by 17 decibels for pupils inside.

The domes’ builder, Julian Faulkner, said he had constructed about 70 homes and shelters using the same materials and techniques more common in Africa and Asia, predominantly in Nepal’s earthquake-prone Kathmandu valley.

Planes pass 180 metres (600ft) overhead at Hounslow Heath infant school on their way to land at Heathrow. Faulkner said he was shocked by the sight of children clasping their hands over their ears in the playground. He said the buildings helped to mitigate the planes’ impact, “both of the noise and psychologically”. Classes of up to 30 can be seated inside the main dome, which has a diameter of 5.2 metres, with space for more in a sunken amphitheatre outside.

Another Hounslow primary nearby and a school in neighbouring Slough have commissioned their own adobes from Faulkner’s firm, Small Earth.

The superadobe design was an invention of the Iranian architect Nader Khalili, originally with a view to lunar settlements but first employed in a refugee crisis after the 1990-91 Gulf war, before answering the needs of west London’s noise-afflicted schoolchildren. The buildings can withstand tremors with a magnitude of up to 5.7. Their domes are also immune to the damage occasionally wrought on local homes’ tiled roofs by vortices from incoming jets.

The headteacher, Kathryn Harper-Quinn, estimates that when outside, teachers are rendered inaudible to pupils for 25 seconds in every 90. “I’ve been very concerned about the effects of the noise on the children’s learning,” she said.

In the huts, she added, “you can still hear the planes but you can also hear your own voice”. She said that as outdoor learning was both valued by teachers and a statutory part of the curriculum, staff had developed strategies to deal with aircraft noise, including the use of whistles to alert children who could not hear when teachers were speaking.

She said it was also important that the adobe structures were a refuge for children outside lesson times. “When kids are playing they are also developing their language skills, and in the playground again they’re being interrupted.”

Within the main building of the school, which teaches 520 infants aged between three and seven, special soundproofing measures are in place which diminish, but do not eliminate, aircraft noise.

Hounslow council has launched a public consultation on the effects of aircraft, sending 100,000 questionnaires to its residents, to form its submission to the Davies commission on airport capacity in south-east England. The commission will report in 2015 on the need for new runways, but may also propose measures later this year to permit more flights at Heathrow.

The council has decided against a simple yes-no referendum on Heathrow expansion, as favoured in neighbouring boroughs, as it recognises that the airport is a key local employer and most residents’ views are nuanced. However, it has backed calls from the London assembly member Murad Qureshi for a total ban on night flights.

It also wants to see improved noise mitigation measures. Under a current scheme, Heathrow pays for the installation of double glazing in the bedrooms of houses within a designated “noise contour”, where aircraft noise regularly exceeds 63 decibels. The airport has also funded the soundproofing of certain public buildings, although the council argues that the money is inadequate for both soundproofing and ventilation.

In many schools, that means summer brings a choice of stifling heat or noise in some classrooms. Hounslow Heath has had ventilation installed and Heathrow also eventually chipped in around £10,000 for the adobe shelters. However, Harper-Quinn said: “For the government to consider a third runway is very irresponsible. It will subject even more communities to the unacceptable levels of noise we suffer.”



one of the comments under the  article:

The article refers to children’s learning – not actual damage to their hearing.

Just to provide a context, normal conversation is equivalent to a level of 60 decibels (not loud enough to cause damage) and we are told here that if aircraft noise regularly exceeds 63 decibels then there is a scheme whereby Heathrow will pay for the installation of double glazing in bedrooms. The noise level needs to be about 85 decibels before damage occurs (new safety regulations in the UK necessitate the wearing of hearing protection above 85 decibels).

However there is some evidence here to suggest that the children are being exposed to higher levels than that of, say, a normal conversation (60 decibels). I think that it would be a good idea if someone actually measured the noise levels in their playground over a period of time – just to be sure that this problem is not only hindering the learning process but actually causing long term damage to their hearing.





Fear that ‘Heathrow noise reduces pupil learning by third’ – as Hounslow opens its Heathrow consultation

15.4.2013The head teacher of an infant and nursery school directly under a Heathrow flight path, close to the airport in Hounslow, has been speaking of the impact of the planes on the learning of children at her school. Kathryn Harper-Quinn, who runs Hounslow Heath Infant & Nursery School said a recent study had highlighted the dramatic impact planes thundering 600-feet overhead have on children’s learning. Asked to recall factual details from an outdoor lesson, she said, a class of 7-year-olds could remember about a third less than those hearing the same lesson in a specially built noise-insulated hut. When the study was repeated with a fictional story, there was no noticeable difference in performance – a result Ms Harper-Quinn put down to pupils being able to fill in the gaps more easily.  Speaking at the official launch of Hounslow Council’s consultation on Heathrow, she claimed a 3rd runway would blight thousands more children’s education. The consultation questionnaire contains 11 questions, and the deadline for responses is  May 16th.


Heathrow noise ‘hinders pupils’ reading progress’ – would only worsen with more runways and fights

March 28, 2013       Children living under the Heathrow flight path are suffering two-month lags in their reading development as a result of aircraft noise. Hounslow council says pupils in the borough have to put up with “continual disruption”, and warned the problem will worsen if the airport expands to three or more runways. Around 40 schools are directly under the Heathrow flight paths with planes landing every 90 seconds or so much of the day. The council cites an international study by London University into aircraft noise which found it led to a “significant impairment” in reading development, as well as affecting long-term memory and motivation. As well as a 2-month delay in reading, the children’s education is suffering from the continual disruption from low-flying jets. If schools don’t have triple glazing the interruptions to lessons can be relentless. One school near the airport has had shelters installed in the playground so children can escape the noise. A 2010 ECRD study suggested that chronic aircraft noise has a deleterious effect on memory, sustained attention, reading comprehension and reading ability.   Click here to view full story…




See earlier:

The Soundscape Project for children around Heathrow to experience peace and quiet

October 2011

A new project to give children the outdoor sensory experience they are missing
in school settings where incessant aviation noise prevails.
… Thousands of children endure their school days under Heathrow flight paths,
often subjected to very high levels of noise from planes overhead.… Finding appropriate settings which are not affected by air traffic has been Soundscape’s
first priority.

… 33,000 children in one neighbouring borough, alone, have diminished use of
their school grounds owing to overflying.( London Borough of Hounslow head of
children’s services 2009)

… Hearing the sounds of birdsong, grasshoppers, water flowing, or wind rustling in trees is a rare experience when the natural sounds are drowned by NOISE POLLUTION.

Soundscape wants the children to have the right to be heard, and to hear sounds of nature in a quiet setting








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Sec of State for Wales says South Wales to Heathrow rail link would provide major economic boost

Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones, has said a £500m direct rail link between Heathrow and South Wales would be a major economic driver for the area.  He said better infrastructure would play a  crucial role in growth of the Welsh economy.  Last year the UK Government outlined its commitment to the Western Rail Access scheme  – a new rail link which will cut 30 minutes off the journey times from South Wales.  Network Rail is currently looking at options for the proposed spur, including direct services from South Wales on the Great Western Main Line into Heathrow, or providing a separate shuttle service from Reading.  And David Jones added the standard speil about “Fast and convenient links to our major airports are crucial as we look to compete in the global race.” What race?  Colin Matthews said 8.8% of the 1.3 million people in the UK working for foreign-owned firms that use Heathrow are from Wales. 



South Wales to Heathrow rail link would provide major economic boost

By Sion Barry (Wales online)

Secretary of State for Wales David Jones [the principal minister of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom with responsibilities for Wales] said a £500m direct rail link between Heathrow and South Wales would be a major economic driver

Secretary of State for Wales David Jones at Heathrow Airport's terminal 2
Secretary of State for Wales David Jones at Heathrow Airport’s terminal 2

A £500m rail link from Heathrow Airport to South Wales would provide a major economic boost, Secretary of State for Wales David Jones said today.

Mr Jones met senior executives at the airport yesterday ahead of flying out on a UK Government trade mission to Indonesia and Singapore

Last year the UK Government outlined its commitment to the Western Rail Access scheme  – a new rail link to Heathrow which will cut 30 minutes off the journey times from South Wales with a spur from Reading Station to the UK’s current only UK hub.

Mr Jones highlighted the crucial role such an infrastructure development will play in the growth of the Welsh economy during a tour of the airport’s new terminal 2.

Mr Jones said: “Wales, like the rest of the country, benefits from access to the UK’s excellent aviation networks.

“Heathrow plays a vital role in this, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to see the very latest developments taking place at this important economic hub.

“Fast and convenient links to our major airports are crucial as we look to compete in the global race.

“This Government is determined to improve the ability for passengers to access Heathrow and has committed to take forward the Western Rail Access scheme.

“This will allow direct rail access into Heathrow from south Wales and further enhance Wales’s ability to benefit from the economic opportunities Heathrow creates.

Network Rail is currently working on a number of engineering options for the proposed spur, including whether it could accommodate direct services from South Wales on the Great Western Main Line into the airport or provide a separate shuttle service from Reading.

While the UK Government has made a commitment to the project a final decision on its funding and a construction timescale for when work might start has yet to be confirmed.

However, it has been included in Network Rail’s five year infrastructure spending period from 2019-2024.

Mr Jones said: “Connecting South Wales to the UK’s main air hub is a vital component for Welsh businesses. Moreover, it will make Wales itself a more attractive destination for businesses looking to invest in the UK.”

Chief executive of Heathrow Colin Matthew said: “1.3 million people have jobs with a foreign-owned firm which are facilitated by travelling through Heathrow. 8.8% of those live in Wales, the highest proportion in the UK.

“The benefits of the Wales-Heathrow link are set to improve further with Western Rail access, which will offer direct access for businesses to the hub and ensure the whole nation benefits from the growth opportunities brought by global connectivity.”




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London First suggests an independent ombudsman is needed to deal with aircraft noise in London

London First is the business organisation that aims to “make London the best city in the world in which to do business” and which supports expanding London airport capacity, especially at Heathrow. It has produced a new short report called “More Flights, Less Noise” which recommends that, in order to get more flights over London, there should be a noise pollution tsar, to protect people living under flight paths.  They say an independent noise ombudsman, with a range of powers including the ability to fine an airline that persistently broke noise pollution limits, would address a “basic lack of trust and transparency” between those pressing the economic case for airport expansion and local communities. London First say a similar scheme running in Paris since 2000 has been successful. Their hope of there being less noise stems from slight improvements by modern planes on aircraft noise. However, in reality the improvements are very small and these are more than outweighed if there are more flights. Communities being well informed about the noise is no substitute for reducing it.



London First


Noise pollution tsar should police aircraft noise, says London First

7.11.2013 (London First)

A noise pollution tsar should be appointed to protect people living under flight paths under new plans from a leading business group.

London First, which represents many of the UK’s leading businesses, said that an independent noise ombudsman, with a range of powers including the ability to fine an airline that persistently broke noise pollution limits, would address a “basic lack of trust and transparency” between those pressing the economic case for airport expansion and local communities.

A similar scheme running in Paris since 2000 has issued more than 10m euros in fines to airlines and has the power to ground the aircraft of airlines that do not pay penalties.

The plan, set out in London First’s “More Flights, Less Noise” report, comes as airports commission chair, Sir Howard Davies, prepares to announce a shortlist of potential sites for a new runway in the South East.

In October, Sir Howard said that he believed there was no option but to build extra runways in the South East to cope with rising demand.

The London First report shows how noise levels under flight paths are expected to fall as airlines invest in a new generation of quieter planes, but local communities and the public at large are unsure whether they will share the benefits.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said it was vital for the UK that airport capacity was increased.

But she added that unless a basic lack of trust and transparency around noise levels was addressed head-on, it might never happen.

“Limiting and cutting noise are challenges for any airport but the fact is that planes are getting quieter, major airlines like British Airways and Virgin are investing heavily in new fleets and airports are actively improving landing and take-off methods to reduce the noise impact,” she said.

“However, we are miles behind foreign rivals when it comes to communicating how we monitor noise levels and deal with any problems.

“An independent ombudsman would make sure that all airlines fulfil their obligations. It would give local communities the assurance that someone is looking out for them and policy makers a source of objective information on which to make their decisions.”

Under the plans, the independent Noise Ombudsman would monitor noise pollution, which would be set at appropriate levels for each individual airport by the government. It would have a range of powers, from light touch verification of plans already in place, to full scale intervention.

The ombudsman would:

  • monitor all aircraft noise emissions
  • levy penalties where breaches of regulations occur
  • report on noise in a manner that is transparent and intelligible to local communities

However, Baroness Valentine warned that fines should be a last resort.

“Ideally, violations should be dealt with through investigation of their root causes, and working with airports and airlines to prevent their reoccurrence, rather than automatically applying a penalty,” she said.

“A risk of the ‘parking ticket’ approach is that penalties come to be seen simply as a cost of doing business when their objective should be to deter.”

The report also highlights a number of operational changes that could be made to reduce noise.

These include ‘noise preferential routes’ to help aircraft avoid populated areas.


Paper : “More Flights, Less Noise”


London First  say, describing themselves: 

“We are a non-profit organisation with the mission to make London the best city in the world in which to do business. We aim to influence national and local government policies and investment decisions to support London’s global competitiveness.”





The report (10 short pages) says:.

“we are miles behind foreign rivals when it comes to communicating how we monitor noise levels and deal with any problems.”
In order to establish greater trust and transparency, local people – as well as national
policy makers – need greater comfort and assurance in the information being presented to them about the noise impacts of current and future operations.  They also need confidence that airports will be held to account for any commitments made.


The Ombudsman must be independent of the aviation industry, though whether or not it should be within, or separate from, the Civil Aviation Authority remains open to debate.

Penalties for breaches should be greatest in relation to those practices which have the most damaging impact on affected communities, for example night  flights. Such penalties should also be proportionate, not only to act as a real deterrent to airlines but also to take account of the degree of ‘preventability’ in relation to the transgression in question. Ideally, violations should be dealt with through investigation of their root causes, and working with airports and airlines to prevent their reoccurrence, rather than automatically applying a
penalty. A risk of the ‘parking ticket’ approach is that penalties come to be seen simply as a cost of doing business when their objective should be to deter. The Ombudsman should monitor closely the tariff of penalties and be able to recommend changes to Government where it is clear that the existing measures do not act as sufficient deterrent




Business lobby group, “London First” calling for airport action – including better rail/road links to Gatwick and Stansted


Chief executives of 25 of London’s leading businesses will tomorrow confront  Sir Howard Davies to demand immediate action to fix Britain’s (alleged) “airports capacity crisis.” Members of lobby group London First say that British business will fall behind without three fixes for its airports: an immediate rise in the number of flights operating at Heathrow, an independent “noise regulator” to protect residents, and investment to improve road and rail links to Stansted and Gatwick. Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: “Debating the pros and cons of new airports and runways is all very well. But the more pressing concern is what we are going to do right now to increase our connectivity with emerging markets and grow our economy.” Among those attending the meeting will be bosses of CitiGroup, CLS Group, Nomura, Linklaters, Ernst & Young and 3i Group. “London First” is an aggressively pro-growth lobby organisation, whose stated mission is to “make London the best city in the world in which to do business.”  It has consistently pushed for Heathrow growth, with more aircraft noise for London residents, over recent years.



“London First” calls for more intensive use of Heathrow runways with mixed mode in submission to Airports Commission


“London First” is an aggressively pro-growth, pro London business lobby organisation, whose stated mission is to “make London the best city in the world in which to do business.”  It has sent in a submission to the Airports Commission, calling for expansion of Heathrow and the ending of runway alternation. This would mean both runways being used for much of the day, in “mixed mode”.  London First believes that fitting some 10% more fights into Heathrow will solve the UK’s economic ills, and takes a dashingly cavalier attitude to the impact of the extra noise on the quality of life of Londoners overflown. They appear to either not understand how aircraft noise impinges on the lives of those under flight paths, or deliberately seek to underplay the problems, and exaggerate the small reductions in noise that aircraft manufacturers have achieved. They use noise figures from the time of Concorde to give the impression there has been a huge noise reduction. London First also recommend that Gatwick and Stansted be allowed to compete more effectively, and have better rail services, to take some business from Heathrow.


“London First” gets their letter, signed by over 40 business people, in the Sunday Times


This is a second letter, this time in the Sunday Times, with a load of business people adding their voice to the lobby group, London First. They are asking Justine Greening to include Heathrow in the forthcoming aviation consultation.  What they really want is a third runway at Heathrow.  If needs be, they say extra noise from a new Heathrow runway or Heathrow expansion should be mitigated. The myth is again pushed that – in some unexplained way – the UK will suffer economically if there are not enough direct flights to China. There is never any evidence presented to back this up.  In reality, Heathrow has excellent connections to the world. Where there are few flights to a destination, it is because there is not enough demand. Many of Heathrow’s flights are predominantly filled with leisure travellers, eg. the approximately 21 flights per day to Miami from Heathrow.


London First report wants 3rd Heathrow runway, and mixed mode on both its runways, as well as a new south east hub airport


London First, which calls themselves “an influential business membership organisation with the mission to make London the best city in the world in which to do business” have today produced a report called “London, Britain and the world: Transport links for economic growth”.  The report says that an expanded at Heathrow as the “only credible option” for the capital.  It accuses the government of being unwilling to consider “politically difficult solutions”. London First believes the connectivity of London is key in its success, and that “congested roads, overcrowded trains and aircraft circling above the South East waiting for permission to land at Britain’s only hub airport, Heathrow, are all signs of our critical strategic transport infrastructure operating at its limits and lacking resilience when put under pressure.” They are calling for significant improvement in London’s connectivity, both with the rest of the UK and with emerging international markets. They want easier planning and suggest varioius recommendations “to deliver short, medium and long-term improvements to London’s road, rail and air links.” They are asking for an expanded Heathrow, flights landing and taking off on both  Heathrow runways (mixed mode) and a new south east airport ……..






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CAA air passenger survey 2012 confirms low % of passengers on business, and high % of AB and C1 flying

The CAA Air Passenger Survey for 2012 has been published. It covered  Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, East Midlands, Exeter, Gatwick, Heathrow, London City, Luton, Manchester and Stansted Airports. (Each year it covers a slightly different selection). Over 210,000 departing passengers were questioned. Some of the interesting findings from the survey were:  Heathrow had 37% connecting passengers; London City airport had the highest proportion on business, at 54% (down from 63% in 2010);  Heathrow had 32.4% on business; Gatwick 17.5%; Manchester 23.9 %; Stansted 15%; Luton 16.1%; Birmingham 22.5%.  The survey also looked at the socio-economic group of passengers. In the categories C2, D and E, Heathrow had 19.9%; London City airport 14.6%; Gatwick 26%; Stansted 29.3%; Manchester 43.4%; Luton 28.9%; Birmingham 33% and Bristol 35.3%. By contrast around 45% of the UK population are classed by polling organisations at C2,D+E.  For the London airports, the AB group fly a disproportionate amount.



CAA reveals London 2012 impact on UK airport passenger numbers

5 November 2013

Survey is at  2012 Passenger Survey 

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published the results of its 2012 passenger survey yesterday, revealing the impact of last year’s Olympic Games on passenger numbers at Britain’s airports.

The CAA carries out its annual passenger survey to improve its understanding of the people who use the UK’s airports. Despite overall passenger numbers between July and September in 2012 falling compared to the same period in 2011, the results published today show over 800,000 passengers passed through London’s airports for Olympic-related journeys during these months. 54% of these journeys were at Heathrow (above), with the next highest proportion at Gatwick (18%).

Unsurprisingly the majority (71%) of these Olympic journeys were for leisure with visitors heading to the UK to enjoy the London 2012 experience. However, almost a third (29%) of these journeys for business purposes – which would include many of the 10,000 athletes who attended the Games.

The 2012 survey questioned over 210,000 departing passengers at five London airports (City, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted) as well as Birmingham, Manchester, East Midlands, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter).

Other key findings from the CAA’s 2012 Air Passenger Survey include:

• Heathrow is the only airport surveyed in 2012 where the majority of passengers were foreign residents (59%). By contrast, Exeter had the smallest proportion of foreign residents using the airport (9%).

Heathrow had the highest proportion (37%) of connecting passengers using the airport, up by three percentage points from 2011. By comparison, Bristol, Cardiff and East Midlands airports all saw less than 1% of their passengers using the airport to change aircraft.

• London City had the largest proportion of passengers travelling for business (54%). However this represents a 9% drop since 2010 (when the airport was last surveyed) as a greater proportion of leisure passengers have used the airport. The next highest was Heathrow with 30%, whilst the airports with the highest proportion of leisure passengers were East Midlands 91%, and Bristol and Cardiff both with 86 per cent.

• Travellers from Heathrow took a higher proportion of trips (21%) lasting more than two weeks than anywhere else. In contrast, London City had the lowest proportion of the London airports at only 4%. Outside of London, the highest percentage of trips over two weeks was recorded at Manchester, with 13.4%. The lowest was at Cardiff at 5.2%.


Iain Osborne, group director of Regulatory Policy at the CAA, said: “Last year’s Olympics put London and the UK in the spotlight and today’s survey results show the impact the Games had on passenger numbers at our airports. Almost a million visitors flew into London for the Olympics, but overall passenger number s fell.

“The CAA passenger survey results also offer an invaluable insight into the people who use UK airports and why they do so. As such, they provide a vital resource for the aviation industry to use to ensure their services meet the changing needs of today’s air passengers.”

A summary of the Passenger Survey is available to download for free from the CAA website at .




From the CAA air passenger survey 2012

Proportion of business passengers

CAA passenger survey business 2012

So putting these figures together, to get the totals of business passengers, this comes to 24% for all the airports in the CAA survey – table rearranged below to make this more clear.

CAA business passengers 24 percent  2012

The total for all business passengers at the airports in the survey is 24% (of which 19.5% were on international business).

For Heathrow the total on business was  32.4% (19.9% international)

For Gatwick the total on business was  17.5% (12.6% international)

For London City Airport the total on business was 54% (41.8% international)

For Stansted the total on business was  15% (12.3% international)

For Manchester the total on business was 23.9% ( 17.3% international)

For Luton the total on business was 16.1% (12% international)

For Exeter the total on business was 26.2% (5.8% international)

For Birmingham the total on business was 22.5% (15.2% international)

For Bristol the total on business was  15.5% (8.1% international)

For Cardiff the total on business was 32.1% (15.3% international)




 Socio-economic group of passengers surveyed

Below is the table showing socio-economic group of passengers, with the % in the three lowest groups added separately, by AirportWatch.

About 45% of the UK population were in the categories C2DE in 2008, with 29% in C1 and 27% in AB.  link

CAA air passenger socio-economic group 2012

The classifications are based on the occupation of the head of the household.

Grade Social class Chief income earner’s occupation
A upper middle class Higher managerial, administrative or professional
B middle class Intermediate managerial, administrative or professional
C1 lower middle class Supervisory or clerical and junior managerial, administrative or professional
C2 skilled working class Skilled manual workers
D working class Semi and unskilled manual workers
E non working Casual or lowest grade workers, pensioners, and others who depend on the welfare state for their income, this also includes students.

About 45% of the UK population were in the categories C2DE in 2008, with 29% in C1 and 27% in AB.  link



 Link to 2012 Air Passenger Survey  2012 CAA Pax Survey Report
Link to 2011 Air Passenger Survey   2011 CAA Pax Survey Report
Link to 2010 Air Passenger Survey   2010 CAA Pax Survey Report
and 2009
and 2008
and so on ………………….

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Heathrow launches a “Fly Quiet” programme + quarterly “Fly Quiet” table – in a bid to reduce opposition on noise grounds

Heathrow airport has launched its ‘Fly Quiet programme’ which will produce a “Fly Quiet” table 4 times per year, ranking the 50 airlines that use the airport most on various noise measures. The airlines are listed according to six noise related criteria. These are given a red/amber/green rating for each criterion, as well as an overall score. The criteria are: Noise quota count/seat/movement, which adjusts noise according to seat capacity and movements per airline; the noise certification Chapter number; the number of  Continuous Descent Approach violations; the number of track deviations on departure; the number of arrivals before their 4.30am slot,  and those arriving before their 6am landing slot. Heathrow says it will work closely with airlines to improve their rating – it knows that noise will be the issue on which their bid for a new runway will fail, so are attempting to overcome opposition on noise grounds. The terminology of “quiet” planes, rather than “less noisy” planes is part of the PR spin. These planes are not “quiet” in any normal sense. Fractionally less noisy would be a better description.



Heathrow airlines ranked by noise for first time

6.11.2013 (BBC)

British Airways’ short-haul services are the quietest planes at Heathrow according to the first rating of noise by airline at the airport.

BA short-haul topped a 50-strong table compiled by Heathrow bosses, with Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red domestic service the second least-noisy carrier, and Irish airline Aer Lingus third.

The carriers were judged on six noise-related criteria.

A noise campaign group chairman said he welcomed the initiative.  John Stewart of Hacan added: “It is a constructive move to improve the noise climate.”

Health impact

Last month a study of 3.6 million residents near Heathrow Airport suggested the risks of stroke, heart and circulatory disease were 10-20% higher in areas with the greatest levels of aircraft noise.

The research from Imperial College and King’s College London was published in the British Medical Journal.

The noise performance scores were based on levels during the period from July to September.

Of the listed airlines, 80% met Heathrow’s minimum requirements on noise, with 94% meeting at least five of the six categories.

Fourth quietest was American Airlines, followed by Qantas, Emirates, American carriers United Delta, Dutch carrier KLM and Deutsche Lufthansa.

In last place was Polish airline LOT, with Israeli carrier El Al 49th and Thai Airways 48th.

Heathrow discourages noisy aircraft by reducing charges for the quietest.

A noise action plan for Heathrow Airport was approved by the government in 2011 following a new European law.

The Fly Quiet programme ranking airlines forms part of the plan.

Heathrow sustainability director Matt Gorman said: “We are at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and are committed to continuing to reduce the number of people affected by it.”

Jonathon Counsell of BA said he was pleased that the short-haul fleet had proved itself the quietest.

He added: “Overall, we have a noise reduction target to reduce the average noise per flight by 15% by 2018.”





This is part of their table, showing the  least noisy, and the most noisy airlines.

Heathrow noise ranking Q3 2013

Full table at




Airlines rated on noise performance

6 November, 2013  (Heathrow airport press release)

Qatar Boeing 787


Heathrow today launches its ‘Fly Quiet programme’, becoming the first UK airport to list airlines according to their noise performance.

Every three months a Fly Quiet table will take the top 50 Heathrow airlines (by number of flights per quarter) and list them according to six noise related criteria. The airlines receive a red/amber/green rating for each criterion, as well as an overall score which allows airlines to understand how they are performing in relation to other airlines. If they are not meeting the minimum performance targets, Heathrow will work closely with them to improve their rating.

Heathrow has some of the world’s toughest rules and regulations on noise. As a result, airlines use their quietest aircraft around 15% more on Heathrow routes. The aim of the programme is to ensure this trend continues by encouraging airlines to use the quietest aircraft available and to fly them in the quietest possible way.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability Director, said: ‘We are at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and are committed to continuing to reduce the number of people affected by noise. The launch of the Fly Quiet programme signals our firm commitment to being transparent about aircraft noise and our progress in reducing its impact on local communities whilst still safeguarding the vital connectivity and economic growth that Heathrow provides.’

By publishing the table each quarter, Heathrow aims to recognise good performance, provide airlines with regular feedback, identify more specific areas to be targeted for improvement, establish minimum performance targets and provide further insight into airline performance.

John Stewart, chair of noise campaign group HACAN said; “We welcome this initiative from Heathrow. It is a constructive move to improve the noise climate.”

In the first ever Fly Quiet league table1 covering July to September 2013, 80% of the listed airlines have met Heathrow’s minimum requirements on noise, with 94% meeting at least 5 of the 6 metrics.

British Airways short haul took top position as the quietest airline operating out of Heathrow. Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red took second place.

Jonathon Counsell, Head of Environment at British Airways, said:

“We are very pleased that our short-haul fleet has proved itself the quietest at Heathrow, and we know we can do more. Overall, we have a noise reduction target to reduce the average noise per flight by 15% by 2018. With the introduction of more new aircraft and continuing operational innovation, we are confident of achieving this for the benefit of communities living around Heathrow and all the airports we serve. This autumn we have introduced nine new long-haul aircraft, all of which are significantly quieter than their predecessors, and we will take delivery of more than 30 further aircraft in the next three years.”

In the last year, the number of movements by new, quieter A380 and 787 aircraft has doubled, both in terms of the percentage of movements and the number of airlines operating them (from 1% to 2% and from 6 to 12 airlines). Five of the top ten airlines in the Fly Quiet table are long-haul operators, highlighting the improved performance of new long-haul aircraft like the A380 and B787.

Over 2013 the number of airlines rated red for ‘Continuous Descent Approach’ has also decreased from 16 to three. 49 out of 50 airlines achieved a high standard of track keeping (keeping within designated routes) demonstrating the high standards of performance at Heathrow. The table also shows that 46 of the 50 airlines are using a fleet which is Chapter 4 compliant – currently the quietest international target for aircraft noise certification.

All airlines achieved 100% adherence to the pre-04:30 arrivals measurement. Heathrow recognises that early morning flights cause particular disruption to local residents and will continue to work with airlines to focus on this important category.

The launch of the Fly Quiet programme follows the publication of ‘A quieter Heathrow’, a report which sets out the steps Heathrow takes to reduce aircraft noise. It brings together the range of measures designed to meet the Government’s aspiration ‘to strike a fair balance between the negative impacts of noise and the positive economic impacts of flights’1.

It sets out actions across five key areas that Heathrow can take now to reduce aircraft noise, while safeguarding the connectivity and growth that Heathrow currently provides: encouraging quieter planes; implementing quieter operating procedures; noise mitigation schemes and influencing land-use planning; applying operating restrictions and working with local communities. To read the full report, visit

‘A quieter Heathrow’ in turn follows a report published earlier this year by Sustainable Aviation which set out the industry’s plans for reducing aircraft noise in the UK. The ‘Sustainable Aviation Noise Road-Map’ demonstrates that quieter aircraft, the implementation of better operating procedures and improved land-use planning mean that noise from UK aviation will not increase despite more flights over the next 40 years.



FlyQuiet Programme

The Fly Quiet programme is one of the steps Heathrow is taking to reduce aircraft noise, set out inA Quieter Heathrow‘, a report published earlier this year. It is intended to further encourage airlines to use quieter aircraft and to fly them in the quietest possible way. The programme includes the UK’s first ever league table which ranks airlines according to their noise performance.

See the latest reports here: Fly Quiet – Q3 2013 (645 KB)



Further details about the Fly Quiet programme:


The six noise metrics

Airlines were consulted on which metrics would be used to compile the Fly Quiet league table. Each metric will be assigned a “RAG” (Red, Amber, Green) status based on the performance bands set for that indicator. As a result operators towards the top of the table will typically have more ‘green scores’ than those towards the bottom. Because scores fluctuate within a band it is possible for an airline with all green scores to sit further down the table, than those with amber or red scores. Individual metric scores will not be published. The ratings are corrected for the number of flights flown by each airline so airlines with more flights are not penalised.’

The metrics below make up the Fly Quiet League Table:


1. Noise quota count/seat/movement. This is a relative noise “efficiency” metric which scores the noise efficiency of an operator’s fleet, recognising that whilst larger aircraft tend to be noisier they also carry more passengers. It is calculated by dividing the sum of QC for arrivals and departures by the aggregate seat capacity and total movements by airline of those flights. This provides a balance between a QC/seat or QC/movement metric which will tend to overly bias long haul or short haul carriers respectively.

A ‘red’ score is awarded if the QC/seat/movement indicator exceeds 0.000022. An ‘amber’ score is awarded if the score is better than the minimum performance targets above but greater than 0.00001.


2. Noise Certification – each aircraft is required to have a noise certificate which can be used to determine its relative performance against ICAO noise performance targets (Chapter 3 and Chapter 4). This allows us to recognise “best in class” and compare performance across different types. An average ‘per movement’ Chapter number value is calculated for each airline, which favours the airlines operating best-in-class, modern, quieter aircraft more frequently.

The minimum performance target in these metrics for the purpose of the Fly Quiet programme is Chapter 4. If the average score of an airline’s fleet operated to and from Heathrow is less than the Chapter 4 equivalent a ‘red score is awarded. A ‘green’ score is awarded if the average noise certification score of an airline is better than the equivalent of Chapter 4 base charging category (see our Conditions of Use


3. Arrival Operations: Continuous Descent Approach (CDA violations). CDA involves aircraft maintaining a steady angle of approach when landing at the airport, as opposed to stepped approaches which involve prolonged periods of level flight. This reduces noise because it requires less engine thrust and keeps the aircraft higher for longer. By following a CDA on arrival, the noise on the ground can be reduced by up to 5dBA in areas away from the final approach paths. The purpose of the indicator is to capture the non-CDA arrivals and so potentially reduce the disturbance caused.

The minimum performance target for the CDA compliance is set for 55% for the Fly Quiet programme. An airline achieving this but not exceeding 75% gets an ‘amber’ score; CDA compliance of 75% and more means a ‘green’ score is awarded.


4. Departure Operations: Track deviations on departure (TK violations). Aircraft are required to stay within ‘noise preferential routes’ (NPRs) – 3km wide tracks in the sky, designated by the Government to route aircraft away from more densely populated areas as far as possible – until they reach 4000ft. The track deviations indicator is expressed as the proportion of departures that flew outside the NPRs below 4000ft. The purpose of the indicator is to capture the aircraft which operate outside of these boundaries and so potentially cause unexpected noise disturbance. Instances where this occurs for reasons outside of the airline’s control are excluded for the calculation.

The minimum performance target for the track keeping compliance is set for 85% for the Fly Quiet programme. An airline achieving this standard but not exceeding 90% gets an ‘amber’ score; CDA compliance of 90% and more means a ‘green’ score is awarded.


5. Night time Operations 1: arrivals prior to 0430. There is a voluntary arrangement that aircraft scheduled to land between 0430 and 0600 will not land prior to 0430. This is a very sensitive time and issue for local community groups. The purpose of this indicator is to measure adherence to the operator schedules. It is measured as the number of flights arriving before 0430 as a proportion of the total number of arrivals for the airline.

Green: no infringements, Red: one or more infringements


6. Night time Operations 2: unscheduled arrivals prior to 0600. Arrivals scheduled to land after 0600 should not land before then unless there are dispensing circumstances (e.g. Low visibility conditions). This is also a very sensitive time and issue for local community groups. The purpose of this indicator is to measure adherence to the operator schedules. It is measured as the number of unscheduled flights arriving between 0430 and 0600 as a proportion of the total number of arrivals for the airline.

Green: no infringements, Red: one or more infringements


7. As metrics 5 & 6 are limited in terms of the airlines they could affect but are nonetheless important issues for community stakeholders these have been weighted lower than the remaining 4 so as to not result in dramatic fluctuations in an airlines ranking. Instances where metrics 5 & 6 occur for reasons outside of the airline’s control are excluded for the calculation.

The set of indicators is designed to address the aims of the programme whilst giving the operators the opportunity to improve their ranking by short-term (i.e. operational/tactical) or long-term (e.g. fleet planning) measures.






  • The overall ranking of operators in the league table is determined on the basis of the cumulative score resulting from six individual metrics; a lower overall score means higher ranking.


  • The top 50 operators by number of movements in the given quarter are included in the league table – this aims to eliminate skewing results by including operators with infrequent operations while covering >90% of movements. The individual metrics are normalised before they are converted into the final partial score for the given operator and respective indicator.
  • Operators are split into long-haul and short-haul by percentage of long-haul movements. Movements are defined on the basis of aircraft types deployed on the routes operated by the airline to/from Heathrow. A ‘long-haul aircraft’ for the purposes of the Fly Quiet programme is an aircraft which has a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 180 tonnes or more.
  • An operator is categorised as long-haul if long-haul movements represent more than 80% of the operator’s movements, and is categorised as short-haul if the long-haul movements represent <20% of the operator’s movements. Any operator with 20-80% long-haul movements is split and measured separately on its long-haul and short-haul traffic, i.e. two separate entries for the same airline can appear in the league table.
  • The league tables will be published on a quarterly basis with an annual review and recognition of changes in performance.

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Scotsman speculates that Heathrow Holdings may sell Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airport to raise cash for Heathrow runway

The Scotsman speculates that Heathrow Holdings Ltd (aka BAA) is considering selling Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports, for a figure in the range of £1 billion, so it can focus more on Heathrow and getting a third runway. Some 80 – 90% of its business comes from Heathrow.  The Scotsman says it has learnt that Heathrow Airport Holdings has held talks with advisers with a view to seeking buyers. Ferrovial, which has reduced its stake in Heathrow to 25% since buying BAA in 2006, is thought to be considering a deal to buy out the other shareholders in the 3 regional airports. Heathrow Airports declined to comment, but analysts believe a decision to sell makes sense, particularly if the airport was to secure approval for the extra runway. The sale would help Heathrow raise capital for a new runway. The potential prices will depend on passenger numbers. It is speculated that Glasgow might sell for £600 million, and Aberdeen + Southampton might go for £450 – 500 million for the two. They are all thought to be marketable. 



Glasgow and Aberdeen airports may be sold off

Scotland on Sunday has learnt that Heathrow Airport Holdings has held talks with advisers with a view to seeking buyers. Picture: PA

Scotland on Sunday has learnt that Heathrow Airport Holdings has held talks with advisers with a view to seeking buyers. Picture: PA


THE owner of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports is thought to be considering a £1 billion-plus sale of the assets in a move to focus on its Heathrow operations and the bid for a third runway.

Scotland on Sunday has learnt that Heathrow Airport Holdings, the renamed BAA, has held talks with advisers with a view to seeking buyers.

Ferrovial, which has reduced its stake in Heathrow to 25 per cent since buying BAA in 2006, is thought to be considering a deal to buy out the other shareholders in the three regional airports. Heathrow Airports declined to comment, but analysts believe a decision to sell makes sense, particularly if the airport was to secure approval for the extra runway.

Laurie Price, director of aviation strategy for consultancy Mott MacDonald, said: “Given the investment it would be expected to make, the firm would have to raise that capital somewhere.”

He added: “It makes sense to focus on your core asset. Probably between 80 and 90 per cent of the group’s business is coming from Heathrow. Investing in what they are good at and putting other things aside makes sense.”

However, Price said it would be sensible for Heathrow to wait before pulling the trigger on a sale, as Sir Howard ­Davies’ Airports Commission is due to report to the UK Government on the need for extra runway capacity in December. Although not a final decision, the commission’s support will be crucial if Heathrow is to expand. Price said a string of recent transactions in the sector give clues as to the potential price of the regional airports, with relative valuations likely to hinge on passenger numbers, as well as other business factors.

Last year Heathrow pocketed £807 million for Edinburgh Airport, which flies about 9 million passengers annually. More recently it sold Stansted, which caters for 18 million travellers a year, for £1.5bn.

Glasgow’s passenger numbers are about 7.2 million, suggesting its price tag could top £600m.

Aberdeen’s footfall is 3.3 million, while Southampton was transited by 1.7 million.

That suggests the seller could realise more than £1bn from a sale.

Not all airports achieve a price which reflects their usage – the Scottish Government is expected to pay only a nominal sum for its nationalisation of Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport. And the Welsh government picked up struggling Cardiff Airport for £52m in March, despite it hosting more than 1 million passengers.

But air transport expert John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting, said that all three of Heathrow’s regional assets appeared to be marketable.

He added: “Glasgow covers a large catchment area in the Central Belt and in a number of respects is a gateway airport, Aberdeen is a niche player but a good match with the offshore industry, and Southampton is also a good niche.

“It’s not all sunshine for any of them, but neither is it all rain.




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Justine Greening: Expand Heathrow and we risk a plane crash in London

Cabinet minister Justine Greening has warned that expanding Heathrow would increase the risk of a plane crashing on London, stressing that “we cannot beat the odds forever”. She said it would be more likely that a plane would crash into a highly populated area of west London — either due to human error or a terrorist attack — if there were more flights. If that happened, there could be a lot of deaths and injuries. She was giving evidence to the Airports Commission when she said that despite Heathrow’s good safety record, human error meant that the risk of a crash could never be reduced to zero. She added: “In addition to that, aviation clearly faces other risks, not least terrorism. …The higher the absolute number of aircraft movements, the higher the danger that even an ‘extremely low probability’ event may occur.” She warned that allowing expansion at Heathrow would be “one of the biggest planning and transport strategy mistakes of this century, irreversibly blighting Londoners’ quality of life”.



Justine Greening: Expand Heathrow and we risk a plane crash in London 

Reminders below of incidents related to Heathrow planes in very recent years

Warning: International Development Secretary Justine Greening
1 November 2013  (Evening Standard)

Cabinet minister Justine Greening today warned that expanding Heathrow would increase the risk of a plane crashing on London, stressing that “we cannot beat the odds forever”.

The International Development Secretary claimed it would be more likely that a plane would plunge from the skies into a highly populated area of west London — either due to human error or a terrorist attack — if there were more flights.

Predicting Heathrow could end up with six runways if it was allowed to develop into Britain’s single aviation hub, the MP for Putney raised the nightmare scenario of hundreds of passengers, and scores of local residents on the ground, being killed.

But she was immediately accused of “scaremongering of the worst type” by pro-Heathrow expansion supporters. Giving evidence to the Airports Commission into Britain’s aviation needs, Ms Greening claimed that despite Heathrow’s good safety record, human error meant that the risk of a crash could never be reduced to zero. She added: “In addition to that, aviation clearly faces other risks, not least terrorism.

“Even one accident could be catastrophic not only on loss of life but also London infrastructure.

“The higher the absolute number of aircraft movements, the higher the danger that even an ‘extremely low probability’ event may occur. We cannot beat the odds forever.”

But Labour peer Lord Soley, a prominent campaigner for a bigger Heathrow, condemned Ms Greening’s warning as “scaremongering of the worst type”.

He argued that trains already pass through many constituencies in London at 100mph, with homes nearby.

He said: “The message to her is ‘there is not an absolutely safe form of fast transport but aviation is safer than all the others’.”

Ms Greening, who was moved from transport secretary to the international aid brief a year ago as senior Tories began to push for Heathrow expansion, also argued that a lower noise level, known as 55dB Lden, should be adopted to measure people affected by aircraft overhead rather than the current level, 57dB Leq.

This would mean more than 700,000 residents, rather than fewer than 300,000, would be deemed to suffer noise disturbance — sixty times more than around Gatwick.

She warned that allowing expansion at Heathrow would be “one of the biggest planning and transport strategy mistakes of this century, irreversibly blighting Londoners’ quality of life”.

She added: “If Heathrow continues as a future UK hub and needs significant numbers of new runways, eg six … we would potentially rapidly reach a point where the extent of London flown over becomes practically the entire population.”

She urged Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies to rule out supporting a third runway at Heathrow, insisting that it would be “politically undeliverable” as it would need consensus between parties over several parliaments.

Sir John Randall, MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, warned lives could be endangered by taking the “unsafe gamble” of more flights at Heathrow before the “full, hidden and long-term” health effects from noise are properly known.

The former Tory deputy chief whip said a third runway risked “endangering the quality of life, and possibly the life, of affected residents”.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “Air travel is one of the safest forms of transport and Heathrow is recognised as one of the safest airports in the world.”




Recent incidents at Heathrow which raised fears about the safety of a very busy airport, which most planes approach over very crowded areas of London were:


Damaged BA plane on one engine and trailing smoke from the other, flies right across London for emergency landing at Heathrow

24..5.2013A British Airways flight (BA 762) from Heathrow to Oslo was forced to turn back immediately after take off, due to what is likely to have been bird strike.  The Airbus A319 was powered by two IAE V2500 engines. The left engine appears to have hit an object at take-off, which stripped off the engine cowling. The right engine then may have hit something, and there are observer accounts of a bang. The plane did a large loop around London, in order to land again, using only the left engine. Many observers saw, and recorded, the plane – trailing smoke from the right engine, as it flew right across London. The plane made a safe landing, though passengers were evacuated down emergency chutes, and there were only 3 minor injuries. Heathrow airport was disrupted for hours due to the emergency landing. While those in favour of expanding the airport are likely to use this dangerous incident to call for more airport capacity (so Heathrow can cope with incidents without delays) it would be more relevant and more responsible to question how safe it is to have disabled planes flying miles over densely populated London. Luckily this time, there was no crash.  With Heathrow airport hoping to get another runway (or two) the safety issue of flying more and more planes over hundreds of thousands of people has to be confronted.



Airliner crash-lands at Heathrow (caused by ice forming in the fuel)


The BA flight crash-landed at Heathrow Airport. A passenger plane has crash-landed short of a runway at Heathrow Airport, ripping off part of its undercarriage. All 136 passengers and 16 crew escaped from the British Airways flight BA038 from Beijing. Eighteen people have been taken to hospital with minor injuries.  An airport worker told the BBC the Boeing 777 pilot, named later as Peter Burkill, 43, said he had lost all power and had to glide the plane in to land.   The incident happened on the south runway at 1242 GMT, as Prime Minister Gordon Brown was due to leave Heathrow for China and India. His flight was delayed because of the incident.  Witnesses described the plane coming in very low and landing short of the runway, before skidding across grass and tarmac.  Part of the undercarriage, including two wheels were torn off, and there was some damage to the wings.




Jet and passenger plane nearly collided over London in July 2009


An aircraft takes off from London City Airport 
Both aircraft were at about 4,000ft when they came within half-a-mile of each other

A business jet came close to a mid-air collision with a Turkish Airlines passenger plane after taking off from London City Airport, a report has said. The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) study described the incident over London as “serious”.   The Citation 525 jet was about 100ft to 200ft below and half-a-mile away from the Boeing 777 passenger plane, heading to Heathrow with 232 people on board.  The incident happened on 27 July 2009 at about 4,000ft.  The report said the control tower at London City Airport had cleared the German-owned business jet to climb to 3,000ft but when the flight crew acknowledged the instruction, they said they would be climbing to 4,000ft. This instruction from the plane – a “readback” mistake – was not noticed by the controller at the tower, the AAIB said.  Just how dangerous was this incident? Well, half a mile is not far in aircraft terms – if the closing speed was 300mph that distance would disappear in just six seconds.   On the other hand, a yet-to-be-published report from the UK Airprox Board, which also investigates incidents, has concluded the planes would not have collided even if no avoiding action had been taken.




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SSE tell Airports Commission robust evidence will be needed on financial viability of any new runway

The speech delivered by Sir Howard Davies, on 7 October 2013 was described as setting out the Airports Commission’s ‘Emerging Thinking’ on aviation capacity in the UK. It took the form of setting out some of the main arguments against increasing runway capacity in the UK, and it then dismissed each in turn  - and stated that “Our provisional conclusion is that we will need some net additional runway capacity in the south east of England in the coming decades”. Stop Stansted Expansion has submitted their comments, which advise against building any new runway capacity. They argue that the speech contained very little in terms of hard evidence to support the conclusion favouring a new runway. SSE question the financial viability of a new runway, as there is already so much spare runway capacity, and say people will expect to see robust evidence to demonstrate the Commission’s grounds for its confidence that projects proposed have commercial viability. SSE also says the current DfT demand forecasts are not nearly strong enough – or reliable enough – to support a business case for a new runway.



The Stop Stansted Expansion submission can be seen at                  SSE Submission to Airports Commission – Response to Emerging Thinking   (7 pages)


Concluding points

4.1 As pointed out in the Commission’s ‘Emerging Findings’ statement: ‘runways are expensive pieces of infrastructure’. We can, in fact, see that quite clearly from the costed proposals for new runways submitted to the Commission by airport operators and others. It is therefore valid to ask whether a new runway can be commercially justified in the foreseeable future because, if there are significant doubts about this, it would be irresponsible and quite wrong – once again – to create needless blight and uncertainty for local communities around airports in the south east.

4.2 If, in its interim report, the Commission recommends the development of an extra runway or runways in the south east, we will expect to see robust evidence to demonstrate the grounds for its confidence in the commercial viability of the proposed project(s) at this point in time.

4.3 Some insights into the rate of return required by investors in the UK airport sector can be obtained by considering the prices paid for UK airport infrastructure in recent years, most relevantly in the sale of Gatwick and Stansted airports by BAA, noting that both airports were sold in competitive, open market auctions. It is also important to note that, in both these cases, established cash generative businesses were being sold with significant revenue streams which would accrue to the purchaser immediately upon completion.

4.4 Achieving an acceptable risk:reward ratio will be far more challenging in the case of a new runway development (and even more so in the case of a new airport development) not least because any such project will be cash negative for at least a decade and during all that time the key parameters which will determine whether or not the investment will prove successful will be subject to change. There will be a high level of market risk as well as political risk, and there will be very significant environmental considerations which will affect risk in both of those areas.

4.5 As we have shown in section 3 above, it is by no means clear that there is sufficient market demand to justify to shareholders and other investors that an additional runway in the south east would be commercially viable in the period to 2050. The availability of surplus capacity at other airports – in the south east and elsewhere – provides scope for marginal pricing which could be used to attract airlines and passengers to a second or third choice airport, whilst at the same time undermining any competitor’s potential business case for additional runway capacity.

4.6 Turning to the political risk, even a cursory review of airports policy in the UK over the past few decades provides a clear demonstration that there is a high degree of political uncertainty and unpredictability associated with UK airports policy. BAA incurred costs of over £200m in seeking to implement the airport expansion policies set down in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper (‘ATWP’) – expenditure which subsequently had to be written off when political support for the expansionist policies set down in the ATWP was withdrawn.

4.7 Meanwhile, the ebb and flow of political and market circumstances has also taken its toll on local residents around UK airports, especially in the south east, with repeated periods of blight and uncertainty caused by major expansion proposals which invariably have come to nothing. This is at least partly because the business case for a new runway has never been particularly compelling whereas the environmental impacts of a new runway anywhere in the south east have always proved to be so immense as to be politically unacceptable.

4.8 Our considered assessment is that the current DfT demand forecasts are not nearly strong enough – or reliable enough – to support a business case for a new runway, especially when the downside political and market risks are taken into account as well as the downside risks in relation to meeting the UK’s legally binding climate change targets.

4.9 In conclusion, we do not expect any new runway to be built in the south east (or anywhere else in the UK) over the coming decades, and if the Commission recommends any additional runway or runways, this would simply create blight and uncertainty for no purpose.

 Full text of the submission is at 

SSE Submission to Airports Commission – Response to Emerging Thinking   (7 pages)


Sir Howard Davies’ speech on 7th October is at


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