Below are links to stories about noise in relation to airports and aviation.
Crawley Council object to Gatwick Master Plan – due to detrimental effect on the local environment
Recently a YouGov poll commissioned by Gatwick airport - unclear what the exact wording was, or who was polled - claimed about three quarters of residents backed the airport's expansion. However, at a Crawley full council meeting, the majority vote was against the proposal. This is what they will put in the council response to the Gatwick Master Plan consultation that is currently going on. The opposition is unsurprising as Crawley council have made their feelings clear in previous years, objecting to the 2nd runway. A year ago Crawley approved the building of a new Boeing hangar, for aircraft maintenance, as they hoped this would bring local jobs. In the council there is a real concern that the growth proposed would have too detrimental an effect on the environment. Gatwick claim it is making less noise now (a claim that many severely overflown residents would not believe, especially with noise at night) and "30% of its fleet will comprise quieter aircraft by 2022." Local group CAGNE has asked hat the airport disclose details the safety incidents that have already occurred whilst using the emergency runway when the main runway is closed for maintenance.
Aircraft noise at smaller airports, likely to have negative mental health impact if they have night flights
Aircraft noise from large airports has been frequently linked to harm to mental health, as well as physical health, but it is not known whether the same is true for smaller airports. In this blog, Dr David Wright, lead author of a recently published article in Environmental Health, looked at how much aircraft noise around a smaller airport - Belfast City - affected mental health. It has about 40,000 annual flights, compared to Heathrow 475,000. There is growing evidence that noise generated by large airports also affects the mental health of local residents (see NORAH and HYENA, the two largest studies). As more airlines are flying direct between smaller airports, no longer using hubs, this is an important issue. The study looked at individual and household characteristics, overlaid with noise contours. It found there was a correlation of worse mental health in areas near the airport, under the flight path. But these areas were often poorer, and poverty increases the risk of mental ill-health - so wealth rather than aircraft noise best explains the findings. However, Belfast City airport does not have night flights (21:30 to 06:30), and it is noise that disturbs sleep that has the main impacts on mental health. "Setting sensible curfew hours would strike a balance between the economic benefits and health risks of living close to an airport."
PhD study indicates flight ban until 6am could save £ millions on NHS prescriptions for health impacts
A PhD thesis by an economics researcher at Kings College London, Silvia Beghelli, looked at "The Health Effects of Noise and Air Pollution". She looked at the medications prescribed to patients in areas affected by Heathrow planes, and the medical costs of the health impacts. She looked at a trial performed over 5 months at Heathrow in 2012, when planes did not fly over designated areas in the early mornings, between 4:30am and 6am. She found that fewer drugs were prescribed for respiratory and nervous system conditions in areas with the reduced air traffic. Mrs Beghelli cross-referenced NHS data with the trial’s findings and found a link between air traffic and health, notably a 5.8% decrease in spending on pills including anxiolytics for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety and depression in the no-fly zones. As well as meaning the quality of health of people in these areas must have been better, the lower prescribing saved the NHS money. She calculated that modifying flight schedules could save £5 million in NHS prescription costs. It could also cut demand for hospital appointments. The study suggests that early morning planes are causing people to need more prescriptions.
Tests in the US to see if people tolerate booms, from proposed supersonic business jets (for the extra rich)
A long BuzzFeed article looks in detail at the problems of companies trying to bring back supersonic jets, like Concorde, just to cut a few hours off flights for those rich enough to afford them. The interest in developing these planes was galvanised on October 5th, when President Donald Trump signed a FAA bill directing NASA to start consulting with the aviation industry to restart supersonic passenger travel. The problems remain the horrible sonic boom, that is a pressure wave, that hits anyone/anything on the ground, as the plane flies so fast nearby. Earlier studies indicated people really hated it, and it was dangerous. The shock of the bang could cause heart attacks, car accidents, "people to fall off ladders"etc. Research earlier in the USA indicated that people did not become more tolerant of the bang, but less so. Supersonic flights by Concorde were banned over the USA. Now some US companies are looking at supersonic business flights again, but they are hugely wasteful in terms of fuel and high CO2 emissions. The ICCT said the jets would emit 40% more nitrogen oxides and 70% more CO2 than subsonic ones; they burn about 5-7 times as much fuel per passenger (not that Trump would care...)
London City airport to introduce £600 fines for the noisiest planes breaching noise limits
London City Airport is going to fine airlines £600 each for breaching noise limits, after a surge in complaints from residents (due to the concentrated flight paths that started in February 2016). It has started a “penalty and incentive” scheme for planes breaching its rules, and will name and shame them online. The noise is now concentrated, as planes try to cut fuel use, to save money; therefore the same people get overflown all the time, creating highly unpleasant noise pollution. Many residents, from Leyton to Lewisham, have complained about the noise since the changes. This new charging emerged at a hearing at the London Assembly, when AMs questioned London City airport and Heathrow staff about the environmental impacts (noise, air pollution, carbon emissions) of their airports. Tessa Simpson, environment manager at City airport, told the Assembly yesterday: “We have set noise levels that are some of the most stringent in the country." They have to, as the airport is located in, and surrounded by, densely populated areas. The money will go into a "community fund" to be "shared amongst community projects.”
Living near to a busy road or airport TRIPLES your risk of a heart attack and stroke because the noise triggers a harmful response in the body
More evidence - now from Massachusetts General hospital - is showing that living near to a noisy road or a busy flight path significantly increases risk of a heart attack or stroke. The added risk is in addition to risks of smoking and diabetes. It is thought that exposure to environmental noise alters the amygdala - a brain region involved in stress regulation and emotional responses. This then promotes blood vessel inflammation, which can lead to cardiovascular problems. Those exposed to chronic noise, such as near an airport, showed and a greater than three-fold risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke and other major cardiovascular event. People with the highest levels of noise exposure had higher levels of amygdala activity and more inflammation in their arteries. The study looked at 499 people, with an average age of 56 years old. None had cardiovascular illness or cancer. They all underwent simultaneous PET and CT scans of their brain and blood vessels. To gauge noise exposure, the researchers used participants' home addresses government noise maps. The researchers say more research is needed to determine whether reduction in noise exposure could meaningfully lower cardiovascular risk and reduce the number of cardiovascular events on a population-wide scale.
Edinburgh Airport flight path plan rejected by CAA, as it was not the same as in the consultation
A deeply unpopular plan to change a flight path at Edinburgh Airport has been rejected by the CAA. The proposed changes would have seen aircraft flying to the west of Cramond and along the Firth of Forth. The CAA said it could not approve the proposal due to "significant" differences between the final plan and the version developed in consultation with local communities. Had the correct information been in the consultation, it could have made people respond differently to the questions asked. It was the second set of plans submitted to the CAA after the industry regulator told Edinburgh Airport to do more work on the original proposal. Helena Paul, of Edinburgh Airport Watch, said: "On behalf of communities affected by these damaging proposals we are highly relieved the CAA have looked carefully and agreed the process was fatally flawed and could not be allowed to stand. Our hope now is the regulator does not allow Edinburgh Airport to continue using an outdated set of rules for any future consultations and instead enforces the new set of rules brought in for any consultations on new flight paths." Further consultation would be necessary. The airport said modernising the airspace was necessary for growth.
Error in Gatwick Route 4 flight track-keeping figures undermines trust in airport
Local group, Plane Wrong, says Gatwick Airport have always maintained they are ‘good neighbours’ but it is becoming increasingly clear that - as a commercial enterprise - Gatwick have their own agenda and are single minded about achieving their growth and bottom line profit. Gatwick have been reporting that Route 4, the busiest departure route out of the airport to the west, heading north and then east, has significantly improved its track-keeping throughout 2018. The experiences of local supporters of campaign group, Plane Wrong, have suggested the contrary and that Gatwick's figures on track-keeping are wrong. In fact, since January 2018 Gatwick has mis-calculated the percentage of aircraft flying outside the designated route. They have now admitted that instead of the 1-2% claimed and published on their website, the actual level of non-compliance was up to 8%. It is also a concern that Gatwick's noise and track-keeping monitoring group, NATMAG, failed to pick this up. In the past 4 years, the number of passengers using Gatwick has risen by about 25%, but there has been no consultation or no account taken of the impact on the health and well-being of local communities.
New map reveals – Slough and Windsor will be at the heart of pollution caused by Heathrow expansion
Slough Borough Council has been told it must protect its residents after it was revealed the town would be right in the epicentre of increased noise and air pollution, if a 3rd Heathrow runway is built. The CAA map shows that Slough and Windsor will be at the heart of increased pollution, and community groups are very upset. The Colnbrook Community Association (CCA) said it was time for Slough Borough Council to ‘wake up and protect our residents’ following the publication. Slough Borough Council does not criticise Heathrow, as it hopes to get some benefits from the expansion, if it never complains. The Council says: “We have been vigorously defending the local community not least in our cabinet discussions about road diversions through Colnbrook and securing a green envelope around Colnbrook." The quality of life for many residents will be diminished by the 3rd runway, regardless of some businesses making more money. CCA said: “The trouble is that gullible Local Authorities, Councillors, MP’s and media peeps swallow this misinformation and accept it as truth. Residents know it’s fake news; Heathrow’s PR knows it’s fake news (they make it up); media knows its fake news – but it doesn’t make headlines.”
Anger and despair in local communities as CAA backs London City airport flight path changes
Local residents in the East London area reacted with fury to the report published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) which backed the controversial changes London City Airport made to its flight paths two years ago. In 2016 the airport narrowed all its flights paths, so they became more concentrated. It resulted in a fourfold increase in complaints as people under these new concentrated flight paths experienced many more planes than before. The new CAA report recommends that the concentrated flight paths remain in place. The new flight paths are not producing the fuel and CO2 savings that were expected, and plans are not flying the exact routes, but the CAA still approved them. John Stewart, chair of HACAN East, the campaign body which gives a voice to residents experiencing the noise, said, “There is anger and despair that the CAA has backed the concentrated flight paths. Many people hoped that today’s report would end two years of misery and they would be able to get their lives back. This decision is a cruel blow for them.”