Update from Luton – no sign of work yet on the airport expansion
Plans to allow Luton airport to expand from around 9 million to around 18 million passengers a year, were granted final approval in July 2014. Luton Borough Council gave consent for work to begin on a modernised terminal building. However, nothing much has been heard since. An update from a Luton resident says there continue to be disagreements about noise, and what the airport and the airlines are doing to keep it as low as possible. So far, as far as anyone knows, no contracts have yet been awarded to build the expanded airport and there are a number of key “planning” issues in and around the issue of Section 106 agreements yet to be resolved. Some elements of the proposal are described as “reserved matters” – only outline application was made for a multi-storey car-park and a pedestrian link building. There are concerns that the airport will have difficulty with departure noise levels, which are set out in Conditions by the Planning Authority (which also happens to own the airport). There are mutterings of “we’ll lose lots of traffic to Stansted…..”. Worryingly, Planning Authorities can, without further public consultation, relax Conditions if they can be shown to be “onerous.”
Update from Luton
When challenged at the Consultative Committee over the change of “Noise Abatement Departure Procedure” to a version which is noisier at locations close to the departure end of the runway, easyJet have proved resistant to justifying the change, though we’re quite sure that it’s all about money – the noisier version involving a reduction in fuel burn of less than 10kg, we believe.
So they’re playing the first round in the “fuel burn vs. noise” battle that will develop as issues such as RNAV departure and arrival routes, and then “open rotor” engines confront us. The airport management ought to be urging adoption of the quieter practice, according to one of the elements of the Noise Action Plan, but remain silent.
Airport management are proving just as resistant to living up to their so-called Noise Action Plan when it comes to encouraging their operators to make less noise.
Half of all Luton’s movements are by aircraft in the A319/320/321 family and, apart from the small number of brand-new aircraft, all inflict the notorious Airbus Scream/Whine on us as the airflow whistles over the vents of the Fuel Over-Pressure Protectors (FOPPs) which are, essentially, tubes leading to holes in the lower surface of the wings.
Airbus and Lufthansa have researched and developed a “fix” which is incorporated into new deliveries and Airbus has also developed a retrofit kit. Lufthansa has subsequently retrofitted its entire fleet but easyJet and other operators seem unable to contain their indifference.
Again, it seems to be a simple matter of cost – Airbus tell us that installing the kit, which involves partial draining of the fuel, then removal of the FOPPs, installing the deflectors and then refitting the FOPPs. Airbus estimate 10 manhours, and 7 elapsed hours, for the retrofit – but aircraft operators don’t want to spend the money just to become better neighbours: despite Monarch’s on-site engineering facility which services A319/320/321 and could carry out the mod during service, minimising loss of revenue-hours.
We’re all waiting for the shoe to drop: so far as we can tell, no contracts have yet been awarded to build the expanded airport and there are a number of key “planning” issues in and around the issue of Section 106 agreements yet to be resolved – and some elements of the proposal are described as “reserved matters” – only outline application was made for a multi-storey car-park and a pedestrian link building.
Straws in the wind?
At a recent meeting of the Noise & Track sub-committee there was a certain amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from the airport over what are seen as near-unachievably low departure noise levels, with fines for exceeding limits, which are embedded in the Conditions set by the Planning Authority when the application to expand was determined.
Mutterings of “we’ll lose lots of traffic to Stansted…..”. It hasn’t escaped some of us, however, that Planning Authorities can, without further public consultation, relax Conditions if they can be shown to be “onerous” – and the Planning Authority just happens to be the airport owner……….
For many years the Consultative Committee had access to a notional budget to spend, where appropriate, on independent environmental consultancy – at the time the arrangements were set up the various Local Authorities each subscribed £50K annually, and disbursements from the budget were made, effectively by the Committee Chairman, for a number of specific consultancy tasks.
About 4 years ago the local authorities were keen to retain the opportunity for independent advice but more keen to save money and, after some debate, the airport MD undertook to provide funding. Fast forward 4 years – and when we raised the subject of independent advice we were told that “it had become evident that the independent consultants were only saying the same things as the airport’s own consultants so the independent source was deemed to be unnecessary.”
Some of us weren’t overwhelmed at the decision and the somewhat underhand way that it was implemented – a great example of the validity of that adage that one should beware of those who come bearing gifts.
Lufthansa retrofitting A320 planes with simple, inexpensive, noise-reducing device to stop the “Airbus whine”
The Airbus 320 series of aircraft, many of which are used by the low cost carriers – easyJet in particular – have been known for many years (by the CAA since 2005) to have a particularly irritating high pitched whine. This is caused by air rushing across the under-surface of the wing, where there are Fuel Over Pressure Protector (FOPP) cavities. This generates noise, in the same way as blowing air over the mouth of a bottle.Every A320 series aircraft emits a signature howling noise while approaching to land. It is heard most when the plane is travelling at around 160 knots, and the frequency is around 500-600Hz, which is close to peak sensitivity of the human ear. There is a relatively simple and inexpensive retrofit, to attach a small aluminium “vortex generator” in front of the cavity. Then can be done at routine aircraft maintenance, though the fuel tanks need to be emptied. Lufthansa is in the process of retrofitting all its A320 series planes. Air France will also do so. EasyJet has been reluctant to do much, as it sees no commercial advantage in doing so.
and earlier news from Luton:
Luton Airport expansion plan gets final approval
Plans for the £100m expansion of London Luton Airport, increasing its capacity to 18 million passengers a year, have been granted final approval. Luton Borough Council has now given consent for work to begin on a modernised terminal building, providing up to 45,000 extra flights a year. Link
Spain approves partial privatization of Aena Airports
June 18, 2014
Aena manages 46 airports and 2 heliports in Spain, and provides management services at 15 more airports (including Luton) around the world. AENA is the major shareholder in London Luton Airport Operations Ltd (LLAOL) which has the operating concession for Luton airport. Now Spain’s Council of Ministers has given the go-ahead for a partial privatization of the country’s airports. Minister of Development Ana Pastor said that up to 49% of Aena Aeropuertos—the airport arm of the Aena Group—will be sold off, with the Spanish government retaining a 51% stake in the company. “The greater efficiency of Aena will be a positive stimulus for the aviation sector in Spain, as well as for other strategic related sectors, such as tourism,” Pastor said.
Eric Pickles decides against calling in Luton’s plans – trampling on views of local residents
May 1, 2014
Luton Airport operators LLAOL have announced that Eric Pickles, Secretary of State at the DCLG, has decided not to call in Luton airport’s expansion plans. This means Luton Borough Council can now grant planning permission for works designed to achieve a doubling of annual passenger capacity. Local opponents of the expansion are horrified and saddened. Earlier a local opinion poll showed some 70% of the public who responded to the consultation over Luton Airport Expansion said “NO” to it. Local community group opposing the expansion, HALE, commented that the application is effectively large enough to be a NSIP (Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project) as it could perhaps add 10 million passengers per year. NSIPs have to be called in, as their scale and the extent of their influence warrant proper scrutiny, in detail. The airport and the government, have failed to take proper account of the local impacts of an extra 9 million passengers per year on local transport infrastructure, and the effect of noise from 60% more flights. “The throwaway comment at the end about being a good neighbour is meaningless …” Luton Council gave consent to the plans in December but Eric Pickles asked to review the decision.
FT reports that uncertain privatisation of AENA casts doubt over its stalled Luton expansion plans
February 22, 2014
Spanish airport operator, AENA, bought Luton airport in summer 2013 from Abertis. AENA is one of the world’s biggest airport operators in terms of passenger numbers, and manages Spain’s major airports. It also owns minority stakes in 15 more airports around the world. The FT says that now their plans are in doubt and Luton has a question mark over its future. Luton is the UK’s 5th largest airport in terms of passengers, and is the base for easyJet. AENA had plans to expand Luton, taking its annual number of passengers from around 9 million to 18 million – plans that have been fiercely opposed locally. AENA had plans to compete with French airport operator ADP, Germany’s Fraport and Singapore’s Changi. The FT says now AENA’s future is unclear and whether it will allow it to be largely privatised. This is having an impact on its Luton plans. The Luton expansion is being held up, or is on a back burner. The privatisation is a political matter within the Spanish government, and whether it has to sell assets to rescue the nation’s economy. The government hope to avoid selling much of AENA, and if it stays under state control, its Luton expansion plans may be scrapped. Click here to view full story…
Luton Airport expansion plan should be called in, say three local MPs
January 7, 2014
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has again been urged to call in the major expansion of Luton Airport. Harpenden MP Peter Lilley has repeated his plea for Mr Pickles to “objectively” consider the scheme, after Luton borough council controversially approved expansion of the airport, despite being its owner. On December 20, just 6 members of the council’s 11-strong development control committee turned up to a planning meeting where they agreed to nearly double passenger throughput to 18 million a year. Mr Lilley condemned the council’s decision to “sneak in the planning hearing just before Christmas” and said: “I have again written to the Secretary of State urging him to call in the planning application to ensure it receives proper consideration, which is seen to be objective. It is essential to make sure that any growth in throughput is made tolerable for those living near the airport and under the flight paths. There are concerns that concessions originally proposed by the operator have not been enshrined in the planning approval granted by Luton.” Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland and MP for North East Hertfordshire Oliver Heald, are also asking for the government to take the decision out of Luton Borough Council’s hands. Click here to view full story…
Action group critical of ‘expensive charade’ of Luton council meeting approving airport expansion
Date added: December 29, 2013
The controversial decision by Luton Borough Council to approve the expansion of Luton Airport has been widely criticised by community groups. Michael Nidd, secretary of the London Luton Airport Town and Village Community Committee (LLATVCC),has described the delayed, 8-hour meeting on 20th December, in which the decision was made as a “very, very expensive charade.” Only 6 of the development control committee’s 11 members attended the meeting, which had already been postponed. This came after Herts County Council demanded a second, impartial, legal opinion on Luton Borough Council’s suitability to make the decision, given it owns all of the shares in the airport. Michael Nidd said: “Only six of [the councillors] bothered to turn up, and we had hours and hours of very highly-paid people in the morning saying what a splendid scheme it is, but when it came time to debate, discuss and vote they spent as long as 10 minutes on it.” There is concern about the manner in which this decision, which has such colossal effects on all the surrounding communities, has been taken. Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning has written to Eric Pickles, to request that the decision be called in, due to the impacts on his constituency.