Open letter to Stewart Wingate, asking for explanation of the increased aircraft noise being experienced

An open letter to Stewart Wingate, the CEO of Gatwick airport, has been written by a member of one of the new opposition groups that has mushroomed in the past two months. These have emerged, as the noise from Gatwick arrivals over parts of Kent (especially around Tunbridge Wells, Hever, Penshurst and nearby areas) has increased. Due to subtle changes in concentration of flight paths, and apparently lower approaches, the lives of thousands of people have been badly affected by the noise. And these people are absolutely not prepared to lie down and accept this unwelcome, unpleasant intrusion into their lives. There is a steely determination, and unflinching resolve shared by thousands.  A letter to Mr Wingate is copied below.  AirportWatch does not endorse the sentiments in the letter, (at times expressed bluntly) nor do we make any claim that all the points made are accurate.  It is copied here, to indicate the problems of many people in Kent and West Sussex, as they perceive them. It shows eloquently their anger, and their refusal to believe they are not being fobbed off with half truths by the airport, which insists nothing has changed. A response from the airport is awaited, and will be published (if possible) on this website in due course.


The letter:

“A Simple Question – A Simple Answer Please Mr Wingate”

Dear Mr Wingate

I appreciate you having taken the trouble to get someone to cut and paste me a reply to my mail of 10th August, [Stewart Wingate’s email is copied below] I gather very many other correspondents have been less fortunate.

The information regarding take-offs undoubtedly added some useful context but as you may gather my main concern is the unacceptable increase in the number of flights along narrow corridors at a lower altitude than has ever been witnessed in our area before.

If I gave the impression that I felt I had only been misled then I should apologise on the grounds that my previous mail must have been uncharacteristically coy; I think you’ll find that a large majority of those copied to this mail and the thousands of people they represent would say that you display little evidence of an unwavering commitment to probity.

I think we are all sick to the molars of hearing that no trials have been taking place and that what we are enduring is ‘normal westerly’ operations with exceptional summer traffic levels buoyed by our recovering economy – I’m sure you are aware of the concept of mushroom management? By perpetuating the falsehood that nothing has changed and denying us access to information you are making an awful lot of people very angry.

Aside from trotting out a lot of acronyms and pointing the finger at all and sundry, when you say that I ‘can confirm again that there have been no changes to the way in which aircraft are directed or handled on final approach to the airport’ that is patently hogwash.

Hundreds of people are attending public meetings and thousands of people are finding our websites with a steely resolve to prevail over GAL’s breathtaking arrogance and disrespect – they know things have changed.

So, to save us all dancing around it, why don’t I have a stab at what’s going on?

In 2012 and 2013 you conducted two ACDM55 tests and were proud to have increased capacity on the single runway from 53 movements an hour to a world record 55, even achieving 60 on occasion. That is just about a movement every minute.

In order to achieve this you require absolute precision in approach and ground handling – it was likened to an F1 pit lane; unfortunately, it makes things just as noisy.

In order to get planes coming in like a camel train you extended the ILS – without permission as far as I can see, and certainly without consulting with or informing the public – thereby vastly increasing the nuisance to folk in a huge swathe of beautiful countryside and populous areas back from Lingfield to Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

What is causing so much misery at the moment is a further extension coupled with planes being brought in lower than ever before.

You state that ‘there is no proposal to change any existing controlled airspace boundaries’ yet in the same mail that there is a ‘move to narrower traffic lanes’ – the dispersal method has worked for many years because it is the fairest; the burden of air travel is shared and the only one that can enshrine the core tenets of a democracy – the only ‘loser’ is that GAL may not be able to get the extra two movements per hour and that has nothing to do with anything other than its naked greed.

You may say that by so doing you are helping FAS [Future Airspace Strategy] in its objective to reduce the number of people overflown, but what you are actually doing is destroying the lives of those that find themselves under an incessant, seething stream of wailing banshees from 6 am to 2 am and often an awful lot longer.

Cabinet minister Greg Clark bravely declared the impenetrable ‘consultation’ process that you sneaked through as ‘unfit for purpose’ and called for you to go back to the drawing board; however, the weasel words that pad out references to legislation beyond your control in your email confirms to me that regardless of the outcome of that process, it is job done from your perspective.

You have created a superhighway through the back door and invoke the broad principles of aviation policy and legislation to justify the fact that you are quite happy to jeopardise the heath and life chances of our children to make more profits for your owners – to give you credit, you did have the cajones to recently publicly declare that the destruction of the High Weald, AONBs and heritage sites was a ‘cost that it (the country) could afford’.

I hope they pay you very well Mr Wingate because not a single recipient of this email will concur that the destruction of the Garden of England and the quality of the lives of its inhabitants is in any way a price worth paying to plump up a foreign investment fund.

Up until you very recently changed your website, visitors could have seen that the lucky members of the National State Pension Fund of Korea were one of the key beneficiaries of the havoc you are creating, but I assume even you didn’t have the brass neck to leave that up there.

So, if we accept that I’m not a million miles out in my assessment, let’s explore why I believe that allows me to add hypocrisy to the list of your less attractive traits.

We know that modern technology allows planes to delay joining the ILS until they are within six miles of the strip and to remain higher for longer – dispersed approaches at a higher altitude equals less disruption.

However, the planes that once converged at Lingfield are now coming together over Crowborough, being routed out in a huge loop over Tunbridge Wells and then making exaggeratedly tight turns at ridiculously low altitudes.

Flying further to achieve more plane movements makes a bit of a mockery of your claims to be looking to save fuel and reduce C02 emissions – you are doing the complete opposite.

Then there is the altitude – please don’t insult us any further – planes have never before flown so consistently low over this area.

Its a fact and the whining over my head serves only to confirm that in the fifteen years I have lived here I have never experienced anything so disruptive and thoroughly debilitating – having moved to a once tranquil location, there are no respite periods here and damn whosoever has foisted this upon us.

Casper shows many planes overhead Langton Green at just over 2,500 ft – with fully 20 nm to the tarmac these planes will be powering on and off all the way in – that is hardly the role of a ‘glide path’ that allows planes to create less nuisance.

So why on earth would anyone employ a scheme that uses more fuel, creates more C02 and destroys more lives – ah, that’ll be cash again, and don’t forget once the airspace has been ‘cleared’ by creating a narrow approach further to the east, that nicely makes room for GIP to deliver GW2 and the coup de grace to its investors before it flogs off Gatwick and leaves us in a post-apocalyptic hell-hole.

However, under your tutelage Gatwick has been a disingenuous and disrespectful neighbour and I for one believe you are creating a toxic brand that will never achieve its ambitions regardless of the infrastructure bribes it dishes out.

On the 12th of August, presumably with your full knowledge and support, Tom Denton said on BBC South East that GAL would be employing new technology that would ‘provide those people on the ground with days, weeks or even months in some cases where they have no traffic at all’.

Mr Wingate, an awful lot of people reading this would be very interested to hear what your plans are in this regard.

We all know that the technology that allows the creation of these superhighways, allows the creation of multifarious iterations that can be used in rotation to deliver rolling respite. However, your reply alludes to the fact that fewer people should be overflown, ever – thereby effectively ruling out what Mr Denton appears to have promised; witness his bumbling statement two days later.

I would be extremely grateful if you could confirm that what Mr Denton described was GAL policy and kindly explain how that is to be achieved.

Mr Carter, {KCC – also addressed in the letter] you may be aware that Christopher Neal recently resigned as Tory district councillor for Cowden and Hever to join UKIP in protest against KCC’s betrayal of west Kent – you should take heed.

Mr Wingate, I would like you to come and visit this area to see for yourself what damage the recent changes have made – this is not about policy documents and national initiatives, this is about real people and real lives; quoting EU legislation is unlikely to add greatly to the strength of your argument given that having banned powerful vacuum cleaners it is now wrestling with the thorny issue of hairdryers whilst half of the rest of the globe is at each others’ throats.

Come and have a cup of tea, bring Mr Ogunlesi if he’s around and work out that there needs to be compromise and constructive communication if there is not to be an escalation of mistrust and vehement opposition.

A lot of letters, calls and emails regarding this subject go unanswered and so having engaged I hope that you will give this due consideration and I hope that you will answer the one simple question I alluded to I the subject line.

Members of the press, MPs, councillors and anyone concerned about the health and education of their children please join me in asking Mr Wingate the following:

Why are planes flying lower over Crowborough, Tunbridge Wells, Bidborough, Southborough, Rusthall, Langton Green, Fordcombe, Penshurst, Tonbridge, Leigh, Chiddingstone and Hever than they ever have before?

I genuinely don’t get it – what is happening is totally counterintuitive; I can think of not a single benefit of bringing planes in lower.

Even if you were to tell me that it too is motivated by the need to make money, however much I disagreed with it, at least I’d understand. But I really don’t.

Sir John, [Sir John Stanley, MP] your support has been stalwart and I know that you have written to Mssrs Wingate and Carter in the past; if you could get to the bottom of this one and we can get the answer published and broadcast around the region I think at least one of the biggest questions around GAL’s recent operations will have been addressed – why?


(name given)


The author commented some days after writing this letter:

“I am amazed by the number of mails of support I have received – the anger and frustration out there is palpable.” 


The email (much copying and pasting) from Stewart Wingate, to which the above letter refers, is copied below:

From: Stewart Wingate <>
Sent: 28 August 2014 11:15
To: xxxx


Thank you for your email of the 10th of August regarding noise from aircraft overflight in your area.  I am sorry to hear that you feel you have been in some way mislead by me and my team recently.

I would like to reaffirm to you that there has been no attempt by myself or anyone else at Gatwick Airport to provide you with misleading or inaccurate information.  I have discussed the issues you have raised with our air traffic service provider NATS and can confirm again that there have been no changes to the way in which aircraft are directed or handled on final approach to the airport.  There has not been any trial of a ‘Superhighway’ on our westerly approaches and we are not planning any trials.

The airspace change consultation you refer to is part of a UK Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), a wide programme looking at modernising airspace routes and improving UK airspace efficiency; FAS is an aviation industry collaboration led by the Civil Aviation Authority. Government Policy states that airports should aim “to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise”.  This is interpreted as those who are directly overflown by aircraft, therefore it is in line with Government Policy to condense aircraft rather than disperse.

The move to narrower traffic lanes is being delivered under a system known as Precision Area Navigation (P-RNAV). CAA policy is that P-RNAV should be the standard applied in terminal airspace, and in accordance with this, P-RNAV capability is expected to be mandated in the future for flight in the London Terminal Airspace (LTMA) and conventional ground based navigation procedures will be withdrawn from around 2018 onwards. The purpose of P-RNAV is to improve the efficiency of air traffic movements within existing defined air traffic routes. There is no proposal to change any existing controlled airspace boundaries. Part of the recent Gatwick airspace change proposals included the ability to design P-RNAV routes using the increased accuracy of the flight profile and resultant narrower swathes of departure tracks to improve the avoidance of centres of population to greater effect than that achieved by the current noise preferential routes (NPRs) that are laid down by the CAA. It is proposed that by marrying new more rational take- off routes with the improved technical performance of aircraft, aircraft will gain height quicker and smoother, and so spend less time at heights which are bothersome to people on the ground.

Gatwick has undertaken P-RNAV trials and consultation over the last several years in order to gain operational data to enable the CAA to make a decision as to whether this type of advanced navigation is operationally possible at Gatwick at the airport. We consulted publically (sic) on the implementation of P-RNAV in 2012 and the CAA gave permission to implement on all our departure routes  in November 2013, this then became mandatory for all departures in April. Implementation of P-RNAV standard of navigation does NOT provide any additional increase (sic) runway capacity at Gatwick. Hence the proposed changes would not change the number of flights arriving at and departing from Gatwick.

The airspace changes that we have recently consulted on are in support of FAS and many elements of our proposals will be implemented across all airports in the UK by 2020 as part of Europe’s Single European Sky initiative.

Stewart Wingate
Chief Executive Officer





Three comments below reflect the feeling of many, on reading this open letter:

I echo these words. It is clear to those living below the flights that there is and has been a trial taking place and the deceit of the establishment regarding this is unacceptable. It is imperative this is not allowed to continue and that the quiet we previously experienced during the day and the night is restored.

Keep on fighting.



Thank you XXXX for your words, which represent the views of many many thousands of people currently suffering from intolerable aircraft noise from Gatwick (800,000 I think at the last count).
We do the best we can to provide a safe and healthy environment for our families and saddle ourselves with financial burden to accomplish this.
I will not let a foreign owned, Corporation Tax evasive, Gatwick airport ruin everything that I have ever worked for, in one foul, unregulated swoop.
I will fight Gatwick on this each and every day and not rest until the peace and tranquillity my family and I had is returned to us.


(In their own letter to Stewart Wingate):                                                                                               I should be grateful if you would take the time to explain how even my 3 year old son has noticed the increased frequency and noise of aircraft over Chiddingstone whilst you remain adamant that flight paths have not been changed recently.   I look forward to hearing from you.





And another letter:


Open letter from a resident of Bidborough to Stewart Wingate, on the increased Gatwick noise nuisance

Below is a letter from a resident in Bidborough, which has recently experienced a much greater degree of aircraft noise – from Gatwick arrivals – than it has ever done in the past. Along with thousands of others in the areas of Tunbridge Wells, Bidborough, Hever, Penshurst, Chiddingstone and many others, the writer of the letter is justifiably angry and upset about what Gatwick and NATS have changed – and particularly at being fobbed off by responses from Gatwick which deny there has been any change. The residents very genuinely believe there have been changes, that flight paths are being concentrated, and many planes are lower. AirportWatch does not endorse the letter, nor can we confirm its factual accuracy. But it is copied here, to illustrate the extent – and the determination – of the new opposition that has recently sprung up in areas to the east of Gatwick.

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