Echo of Concorde heard in fight to justify third Heathrow runway

(9.11.2007   Times)

The ghost of Concorde has been enlisted to help to justify a third runway at
Heathrow and an extra 500 flights a day over London.   The Government has pledged
that the area blighted by 57 decibels, known as the 57 decibel contour, will be
no greater than in 2002, the last full year of Concorde flights.  

This will make it much easier to approve the new runway because Concorde was
by far the loudest aircraft operating out of Heathrow. One Concorde flight produced
as much noise disturbance as 120 Boeing 757s, according to the DfT’s method of
calculating noise.

The 57 decibel contour — so named because that is the level at which the DfT
deems noise to be a nuisance to residents — covered 49 square miles (127 sq km)
in 2002 but has since shrunk by more than 4 square miles and is likely to carry
on shrinking as quieter aircraft are introduced.   The number of people living
inside the contour has fallen by more than 20,000 since 2002.

The new runway, which could open by 2017, would increase noise disturbance greatly,
but the Government would be able to claim it was only as bad as in 2002.

Residents living under Heathrow’s flight paths argue that this is unfair because
there were only two Concorde flights a day — one take-off and one landing — but
they will be replaced by dozens of modern aircraft.   Noise from Concorde used
to reach more than 100 decibels for those living close to the airport.   John Stewart,
chairman of the HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise),
said: "It is absurd to use an ear-splittingly noisy aircraft now lying in museums
in the standard used to determine whether Heathrow can be expanded.

"The Government should, at the very least, be pledging that there will be no
more disturbance than there is now. Instead, they are trying to dupe us with a
worthless benchmark relating to the situation five years ago."

Mr Stewart said that many residents had tolerated the noise created by Concorde
because it lasted for only a couple of minutes and the delta-winged aircraft provided
a great spectacle. "But it will be replaced by the non-stop drone of aircraft
every two minutes. It is the regularity of the flights that causes the problem,
but the Government is failing to take this into account."

The DfT published the results of a 6-year study (ANASE) into aircraft noise last
week.   It found that noise causes far more annoyance than previously thought and
concluded that the method of calculating noise, adopted a quarter of a century
ago, was too narrow and failed to take account either of the huge growth in the
number of flights or the public’s growing intolerance of noise.

The study also found that the public began to be significantly annoyed by aircraft
noise when it reached 50 rather than 57 decibels.

There are 258,000 residents inside the 57-decibel area, but ten times that number
live inside the 50-decibel area.