Letter from an angry and exasperated sufferer of noise from Gatwick’s changed flight paths

People living to the east of Gatwick continue to suffer from the intense noise of newly concentrated flight paths over their heads. This not only causes “annoyance” – the euphemistic term used by the government for noise nuisance – but real anguish for those now afflicted by the change. For many the newly increased number of flights over their homes, and often lower planes, all day and into the night, is intolerable. The degree of anger and upset of thousands of people is intense. It is all the more so because of the failure of Gatwick, the CAA or NATS to give proper responses to complaints, or proper explanations of what has happened. Stewart Wingate has said “some people have the impression that something may have changed, but I can assure you that is not the case.”  That sort of comment by the airport, often repeated, has merely strengthened the determination and anger of the new noise sufferers to get change. Below is (slightly edited) a letter from someone badly affected by now having effectively an “aerial motorway” in the sky over their home. It reflects how people feel, when through no fault of their own, they find the pleasant area in which they chose to live, has become a noise “ghetto” and the powers that be are reluctant to do anything about it. Concentrated flight paths are not proving to be a success with the over-flown public.


Low flying, excessive noise, concentrated flight paths

TN.. (Postcode given, near Hever)


This letter (slightly edited version below, for anonymity reasons) was sent to Gatwick airport, as well as the Dame Deirdre Hutton at the CAA, Patrick McLoughlin at the DfT, and several MPs 


Another complaint made about a plane at 14.54. I assume that GAL will ignore this like every other bona fide complaint made via the official channel?

Perhaps someone could explain the role of a complaints procedure that is totally ignored or why it is acceptable that genuinely concerned residents are fobbed off with standard letters containing the kind of now discredited bunkum that Andrew Haines has trotted out.

I can’t imagine any circumstances in which his ongoing employment would be acceptable, particularly as following the FOI requests his incredibly patronising letters can now be shown to bring CAA into disrepute.

Today, the area where we live, that used to be a study in tranquillit has, yet again, been an unremitting whining hell.

GAL/NATS/CAA changed the flight paths with neither consultation, not permission and told us bare-faced lies – firstly that nothing had changed and then that this was all about safety (via a circuitous route of blaming  government policy, EU initiatives, unusual meteorological conditions, vectoring choices by clearly disgruntled ATCs and even the heightened sensitivity of those of us that have had their lives destroyed); this nonsense was promulgated by the CAA and NATS and despite FOI requests that showed that ‘runway not clear’ was a far greater cause of go-arounds than ‘unstable approaches’ no one has yet had the decency to tell the truth.

Clearly there is no limit to the amount of misery a callous and disingenuous foreign pirate wouldn’t heap upon the Garden of England to stuff its coffers full of tax-free cash. Compound that situation with ‘guidelines’ that are unfit for purpose and a regulator that neglects to regulate and we’re all up a gum tree.

GAL lobbied to change the flight paths to increase capacity on its runway. Period.

Whether that was to ‘prove’ Gatwick’s ‘need’ for another runway or a hedge by GIP to ensure that it achieved the maximum sale price if it were turned down, only they know.

Concentration does appear to be becoming more of a general issue and certainly one that government will need to confront but it won’t be a coincidence that grave concerns were recently raised in the Scottish Parliament about the stealthy introduction of concentrated flight paths around Edinburgh Airport owned by, er, GIP.

By concentration GAL has created and persecuted a minority whose lives have been destroyed; I hate every waking hour I spend in the location I once loved.

Anyone wishing to wring the maximum misery out of an act of social and environmental vandalism by slapping a concentrated flight path overhead some of the South East’s most valuable amenity space would put it exactly where it is – atop Crowborough Beacon, Groombridge Place, Penshurst Place, Chiddingstone  and Hever Castles. (See map below).

Gatwick areas affected to the east stars

The disregard for those of us on the ground is quite breathtaking. The lies and double talk we have been subject to suggests that the aviation industry is rotten to the core and its regulators unfit for purpose.

Thousands of decent people who are now overflown intensely just want to enjoy the life they once had. They should not have to come together, to spend hours in meetings and raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to fight this totally unacceptable and unfair assault. The thoroughly decent ‘British way’ clearly doesn’t apply when those being tormented are not a minority that attracts much sympathy.

If it is necessary to push out the ILS so far on the grounds of safety, it is simply not possible for Gatwick to accommodate an additional runway without Dame Deirdre’s oft-quoted ‘crashes and fatalities’; the joining point used to be 7-12 miles. All of the current misery was caused when the joining point was pushed out to 10 – 12 miles thereby reducing the broad swathe that had proven tolerable for 40 years by 60%; the second runway has an indicated joining point of 6.7 miles.

That, surely, purely on the grounds of safety has to be the end of it; the Chair of the CAA has decreed that joining the ILS less than 10 miles from the strip causes unstable approaches and increases the risk of ‘crashes and fatalities’. Can’t have it both ways.

That planes are coming in dramatically lower than ever before, staying in level flight for mile after mile, pulling ridiculously tight turns and then powering on to join the ILS from below, often with their wheels down fully fourteen miles from the runway, amounts to a “longbow salute” to those of us subject to this wilfully destructive act.

This is the polar opposite of what modern technology allows and makes a complete mockery of GAL’s claims that it is in any way interested in mitigating the effects of what by definition is a disruptive operation.

As we know, if there is a motorway or high speed rail link slapped at the end of your garden, you get a cheque. But aviation is not a “statutory nuisance” so it gets away without these sanctions. Yet the flight path change is something that has damaged my health and the life chances of my children, and it has been done quite deliberately.

Those of us who have met Mr Redeborn [undertaking a review of Gatwick airspace use] have spoken highly of him and are optimistic that there can be a genuinely independent investigation into Westerly arrivals and that there is a willingness to achieve a positive outcome.

For what it’s worth, I suspect  the ‘what’ part of the review will be pretty straightforward and I’m sure we all know ‘why’; asking Mr Wingate and Dame Deirdre why they felt obliged to, being generous, use the letter of the regulation to deny what we all knew was happening will be interesting.

I’m amazed that GAL feels able to lie to MPs and the regulator seemingly with impunity, but hopefully that will all come a tumbling out during the review process; I suspect the airport’s new found interest in community engagement and conciliation has everything to do with the hope that David Cameron will buckle and make a decision favourable to a Gatwick runway by the end of the year.

As for a solution, we have lived here for sixteen years and until recently I have never felt remotely inclined to complain.  We didn’t move near to an airport – the airport moved to us.

The 899% increase in complaints and the thousands of people rising up and lobbying No10 and the DfT are quite entitled to be outraged when Mr Wingate’s line, however risible, that “some people have the impression that something may have changed, but I can assure you that is not the case” trotted out to an MP who should deserve more respect.

I read in the HWCAAG [High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group] minutes that PBN is ‘the best’ technology available. For whom?

Concentrated flight paths clearly do not fulfil the government’s ambition of reducing the number of people ‘significantly overflown’; it has the opposite effect – it creates noise ghettos that turn the previously tolerable level of aircraft noise into the intolerable. If precision navigation does not improve the quality of people’s lives overall then it has no place.

If there is any lingering doubt about that, why don’t you check to see when HWCAAG was inaugurated; when Gatwick Obviously Not, Plane Wrong, CAGNE and all of the dozens of other action groups came together. That is not coincidence.

What has gone on is wrong and I hope that at the end of this process government policy will reflect that people must always come before profits.


Name supplied.