Emirates keen on changing 3 degree approach slope to 5.5 degrees, to allow A380s to land at Heathrow part of the night

Giving evidence at the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, on aviation strategy, two senior staff from NATS discussed the idea of perhaps introducing a steeper approach angle for planes coming into Heathrow. At present, all airlines come in at a 3 degree angle, but at London City airport, planes approach at 5.5 degrees. However, many planes such as A380s would need to level out to a 3 degree slope some 6 miles or so from touchdown, so there would be no change for people living very close to the airport. There would be a small reduction in noise for those living from around 15 to 6 miles (approx distances) from the airport. This idea has been suggested by Emirates, as a way to be able to land more of their A380s at Heathrow and to land them until 1am each night and again from 4am.  This would not be acceptable to most London residents being overflown.  Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the UK CAA, told the hearing that although the idea went against the grain of international convention, “the idea ‘certainly had merit’ and that it was ‘definitely worth looking at’.


The evidence from NATS is in the first half of this televised evidence hearing of the Transport Select Committee on 10th December.  Link 

NATS mulls steep LHR arrivals to cut noise, boost capacity

 December 10, 2012
by Aimee Turner  (Air Traffic Management)
This map shows the trajectories of all aircraft over London on 5 August 2012 (25,000ft and below) as a density heat map.

A concept promoted by Middle East carrier Emirates to bypass restrictions on night flights at capacity constrained London Heathrow by landing its A380 fleet at steeper angles is to be pursued by UK air traffic control NATS.

Speaking today before the UK Transport Select Committee, the NATS chief executive Richard Deakin said that although the concept needed to be examined in far more detail in terms of the technical aspects of aircraft like the A380 flying such an approach, it had already received ‘top level’ attention within the organisation.

“I don’t believe there are any A380s anywhere that fly those steep angles into airports thresholds. We would need to do some technical modelling around the feasibility of that. Clearly more work need to be done by ourselves and with the CAA, the airport and the airlines,” said Deakin.

Andrew Haines, the chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority, told the hearing that although the idea went against the grain of international convention, “the idea ‘certainly had merit’ and that it was ‘definitely worth looking at’.

He told the hearing that the only exception to the three degree standard sanctioned by global aviation rule-setting body ICAO is permitted for obstacle clearance. “The challenge with this is that where [steeper approaches] happen at London City Airport, for example, the landing gear is lowered early which creates more noise. The principal benefit of a steep aproach is to reduce noise. That is the thing we would need to resolve as well as the safety issue so that you can still make a stable approach.”

Emirates estimates that steeper descents into Heathrow would reduce noise by between 15%-20% and that the measure could allow its aircraft to fly in and out of the hub until 1am every day, restarting flights after 4am.

The UK currently imposes tight restrictions on night flying at Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am, when on average 18 long-haul flights use the airport between 4.30 and 6am.

Emirates president Tim Clark said earlier this year he believed that he could increase the number of daily A380 flights from London to Dubai from five to seven using new take-off and landing methods despite the London airport operating at near full capacity.

The aircraft would fly into Heathrow at a 5.5-degree angle, rather than the usual three degrees, landing a kilometre further down the runway, away from homes near the airport.  [What NATS actually said was that the planes would have to level out some distance – perhaps around 6 miles away from touch down, and complete the landing at a 3 degree slope.  AW comment: so this would mean no difference to the noise for those most affected by the loudest noise, those within perhaps 5 – 6 miles of the runway]. 

Clark believes that new quieter aircraft  such as the A380 should be granted a reduced night curfew, enabling Heathrow to increase the number of flights beyond the current annual limit of 480,000.

“If you can demonstrate that the noise profile of aircraft is that much quieter, why not look at that as a means of growing capacity at constrained hub airports?” Clark told the Financial Times.

The UK Government is currently consulting on a new night flight regime at Heathrow.

NATS chief executive Richard Deakin said an approach angle of 5.5 degrees would double the height of aircraft passing over some southwest London suburbs. Campaigners have previously warned that around 500,000 people are affected by night flights and that steeper approaches would not help the problem.





Heathrow may be quieter by degrees

Plane noisy: The initiative could be a relief to people living under the airport’s flight path
Lucy Tobin  (Evening Standard)

11 December 2012

Almost a quarter of a million Londoners living under the Heathrow flight path could see levels of noise pollution fall by as much as 25% amid plans to bring aircraft in to land at a steeper angle.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of the company that owns British Airways, said Londoners could enjoy a “significant” reduction in jet noise if it is successful in attempts at tweaking the angle that flights come in to land from 3 degrees to 3.2 degrees.

“Noise reduction will make a big difference to London,” Walsh said. “We’re looking at steeper flight paths and moving the normal touch down point forward, so that we fly over higher altitudes for more of the landing route and disperse the noise.”

Walsh added: “Changing the traditional, 3-degree flight slope to 3.2 degrees will have make a significant difference.”

The airline boss said BA’s new fleet of aircraft — it will be flying new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A380 super-jumbos from next year — would also cut noise.

“They are significantly quieter,” he said. “The measures could make quite a difference to those who live close to the airport.”

The initiative comes a month after Heathrow started a trial of managing flight paths for aircraft landing between 4.30am and 6am. It is trying week-on/week-off noise relief for neighbourhoods including Clapham, Bermondsey and Westminster.






10 December 2012

The Commons Transport Committee takes oral evidence on aviation strategy.