Heathrow’s own “Fly Quiet” league tables show more airlines failing airport’s noise targets

The local Heathrow Villages paper, Colnbrook Views, has looked in detail at the quarterly report Heathrow puts out, showing the number of its planes meet noise performance targets. The quarterly Heathrow “Fly Quiet” league table reports started in Q3 of 2013. They show the top 50 airlines (according to the number of Heathrow  flights per year) across six different noise metrics. Where the table shows red dots, they have failed; amber dots, the airlines have met Heathrow’s minimum performance targets and green dots show they have exceeded them,.  While Colin Matthews, in May 2013, said Heathrow would – and can  – “grow quietly” before the Airport Commission’s recommendation this summer.  However, the most recent data (Q4 2014) instead shows that there has been a decline in performance, with the majority of airlines failing on one or more of the criteria.  Colnbrook Views found there were 10 red scores and 56 amber scores in Q2 2014. This had risen to 13 red  scores and 65 amber scores by Q4 2014. Heathrow chooses in its publicity to focus on the airlines that have improved.   Of the 50 largest airlines based at Heathrow, 35 failed to achieve Heathrow’s “minimum” performance levels in Q2 last year, increasing to 39 in Q3 and an embarrassing 41 by Q4.

Heathrow pledge to demonstrate “it can grow quietly” in tatters as 41 out of 50 airlines breach noise standards

14.4.2015  (Colnbrook Views)

The latest quarterly results for Heathrow’s Fly Quiet League make for painful reading for the airport with a marked deterioration.  [Heathrow’s “Fly Quiet” programme ]

FlyQuiet league table – Q2 2014
FlyQuiet league table – Q1 2014
FlyQuiet league table Q3 2013

More importantly, they represent a failure by the airport to deliver on a key pledge made by former CEO Colin Matthews in May 2013 to “demonstrate that Heathrow can grow quietly” before the Airport Commission’s final recommendation.

Colin Matthews pledged that the airport would demonstrate that it could grow quietly by the time Sir Howard makes his recommendation. The last figures before the Airports Commission makes its recommendation shows it cannot.

Heathrow’s latest noise league table, covering October to December 2014, demonstrates that the airport has failed in its much publicised bid to demonstrate to the Airports Commission that it can fly quietly.

While the airport has trumpeted improvements by individual airlines in its Q4 figures, its published results show a steep decline on the last quarter, the third in a row.

For Q2 the airport chose to concentrate its media machine on publicising that all 50 airlines had adhered to voluntary night time restrictions for the first time.

Following the Q3 figures it praised Austrian Airlines for jumping the most places. For the last quarter it could only note that LOT and Iberia managed to turn red scores to amber for continuous descent approach (CDA), and that Cathay Pacific had demonstrated the most consistent improvements overall.

Meanwhile British Airways’ long haul fleet joined Kuwait Airlines in being the only two carriers to earn themselves two red scores each!

In May 2013, coinciding with its first submission to the Davies Commission, Heathrow launched its plan for “A quieter Heathrow”, committing to publish a quarterly ‘Fly Quiet’ league table “to benchmark how quiet individual airline fleets are and how quietly they are flown” as part of a series of measures to tackle noise pollution.

It said then:
“We will set minimum performance standards and we will continue to work with airlines to improve performance and to recognise excellence”.

Today that plan can be revealed to have backfired spectacularly as those minimum performance standards continue to be flouted by a staggering 82% of the top airlines.

Should Heathrow give us the figure for all 90 or so airlines based at the airport it would doubtless be even worse.

Quarter     Red Scores     Amber Scores     Noisy Airlines
Q2                 10                 56                     35
Q3                  8                  55                     39
Q4                 13                 65                     41

The Fly Quiet table lists the top 50 Heathrow airlines by number of flights according to six noise related criteria.

The six criteria are:

  • 1.  Noise quota count/seat/movement; noise “efficiency” averaged across the number of passengers flown
  • 2.  Noise Certification of aircraft flown;
  • 3.  Arrival Operations: Continuous Descent Approach (CDA violations) compliance
  • 4.  Departure Operations: Track deviations on departure (TK violations) adherence to NPRs (Noise Preferential Routes)
  • 5.  Nigh time Operations:  Arrivals prior to 04:30 
  • 6.  Night time Operations 2: unscheduled arrivals prior to 0600. 
If they are not meeting the minimum performance targets, Heathrow works closely with them to improve their rating.
British Airways, the national flag carrier and big proponent of a Third Runway, is one of only two airlines to have produced TWO red violations in the same quarter … with Kuwait Airlines.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability and Environment Director said on announcing the latest figures:

“As Europe’s first Fly Quiet League, our transparent ranking of airlines according to their noise performance has driven improvements. Through hard work and open communications between us and airline partners, we have assured quieter skies for local residents over the past year.”

But the reality is that for the three quarters in which Heathrow has actually published the full results rather than just highlights, the number of airlines with violations has gradually worsened.

Of the 50 largest airlines based at Heathrow, 35 failed to achieve Heathrow’s “minimum” performance levels in Q2 last year, increasing to 39 in Q3 and an embarassing 41 by Q4.

How loud can       you fly? The Fly Quiet League for Q4 2014 shows 41 out of 50       airlines have failed to meet what Heathrow has established as       "minimum" performance standards for noise.

How loud can you fly? The Fly Quiet League for Q4 2014 shows 41 out of 50 airlines have failed to meet what Heathrow has established as “minimum” performance standards for noise.

Matt Gorman added:

“Undoubtedly, more work remains to be done, but we are encouraged by the improvements we have seen this year, and what is more, the innovation of airlines in finding ways to reduce noise and be better neighbours to residents.”

Colin Matthews, then Chief Executive of Heathrow, introduced the new programme in 2013, saying:

“Before the Airports Commission reports in the summer of 2015, we will need to be able to demonstrate that Heathrow can grow quietly. There will not be a choice between more flights or less noise – we will need to deliver both”.

The figures, the last before Sir Howard Davies reaches his decision, are yet another setback to the airport’s hopes of a Colnbrook runway.