Bristol Airport flights mapped

10.8.2009     (This is Bristol)

A new image shows flight paths of aircraft taking off from Bristol International

It was produced by a campaign group which is fighting the airport’s expansion
plans during the next two decades.

The campaigners claim it shows how far flight paths have deviated from regular
routes and the extent of the Bristol area where planes fly.

But it has been described by the airport as “an amateur approach to a complex

Jeremy Birch, spokesman for Stop Bristol Airport Expansion (SBAE) said: “This
data confirms beyond a doubt just how far afield planes from Bristol airport are

“The regular flight paths have been planned to minimise flights over populated
areas, but more planes travelling wide of these will cause more suffering for
local residents. Plans for 10 million passengers, and 13.8m by 2030 can only mean
that things are going to get much worse.”

Campaigners used a tracking device to monitor flights from the airport during
a week in May. The device picked up radio signals broadcast by planes.

Mr Birch said: “This image just shows data from departures in one week in May
and, in fact, isn’t the complete story as it’s based on the radio signals we were
able to pick up from one location.

“It also only has half the flights as no arrivals are shown.

“Even so it is clear that flights to and from the airport fly over many local
communities.   We will continue to monitor flight paths and use this to show all
concerned the impacts of the airport’s operations.”

Airport spokesman James Gore said: “Mr Birch has used off-the-shelf equipment
intended for use by aviation enthusiasts to enhance enjoyment of their hobby,
not to provide serious monitoring of track-keeping by aircraft at a busy regional
airport.    Furthermore, the map used falls some way short of the accuracy required
(an Ordnance Survey 1:50,0000 map would be standard).

“No scale is provided and no indication of where the tracking device was located
is given.

“There is no attempt to identify individual aircraft, and clearly noise impacts
will vary between, for example, light aircraft and commercial airliners.

“There is no indication of whether the easterly or westerly runway was in use,
which would have a significant influence on the results.

“Finally, aircraft transiting through the airspace are not differentiated from
those arriving or departing from Bristol International.   Quite frankly, this is
an amateur approach to a complex issue, and the results are no more valid than
a ‘back-of-a-fag-packet’ sketch.  As a result, it is impossible to draw any conclusions
from this graphic.”

Bristol International is investing £400,000 over five years in Tracker – a system
which will monitor aircraft departure noise and produce a graphic record of where
aircraft using the airport fly relative to the ground.

A public consultation on the airport’s £150m expansion plans is currently running
until August 17.

But the revamp could be delayed because of the downturn in air travel.     If the
proposal gets the green light, work will start next year but will not now be completed
until 2019 or 2020.

When the airport revealed its expansion plans to the public for consultation
in January, it said it would finish the upgrade by 2016 – the year passenger numbers
were expected to hit 10m.