Heathrow’s vague proposal on no night flights – what is Heathrow really saying?
Heathrow currently, under current night flight controls that are due to be re-considered in 2017, is allowed 5,800 night flights per year. That’s an average of 16 arriving each morning, typically between 4.30am and 6am. The latest flights should leave by 11.30pm but there are many that are later, almost up to midnight. Heathrow has been very reluctant to agree to a ban between 11.30pm and 6am, which was the condition imposed by the Airports Commission. Heathrow claims the early arrivals are vital for businessmen catching early flights – especially those from the UK regions. But now, desperate to be allowed a 3rd runway, Heathrow proposal [very careful, rather odd wording]: “The introduction of a legally binding ban on all scheduled night flights for six and a half hours (as recommended by the Airports Commission) from 11 pm to 5:30 am when the third runway opens.” and “We will support the earlier introduction of this extended ban on night flights by Government as soon as the necessary airspace has been modernised after planning consent for the third runway has been secured.” Heathrow only mentions scheduled flights. Not late ones. It is widely recognised that for health, people need 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. Not 6.5 hours. Heathrow makes no mention of the inevitable concentrated landings and take offs at the shoulder periods, in order to keep 6.5 hours quiet. Apart from insomniacs and shift workers, who else regards the end of the night as 5.30am?
There are actually currently no scheduled flights at Heathrow from 11:00 to 11:30 – so the extra half hour claimed by JHK is a bit disingenuous to say the least. Instead of the time with no scheduled flights being the same 6.5 hours the Airports Commission stated, the effective new period without flights is half an hour less than Heathrow’s offer appears to be.
Heathrow do not promise to reduce, or even keep to the same level, overall numbers of night flights at Heathrow. With a 3rd runway it will be possible to re-time the 8 or so arrivals that currently occur between 04:30 and 05:30 into the post 5:30 to 7:00 period.
The change in the night fight regime would be imposed by the DfT under the night flying Regulations which are made under the Civil Aviation Act 1982 section 78. The ban would therefore have the force of law. Airports have to account monthly to DfT on how the regulations have been implemented.
Heathrow would have no option by to accept the law. They would have no choice, whether or not Heathrow says they will “support” its introduction.
This is what Heathrow has said on night flights:
|Airports Commission |
“Following construction of a third runway there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period 11:30 pm to 6 am”
|Meeting the Airports Commission|
*The introduction of a legally binding ban on all scheduled night flights for six and a half hours (as recommended by the Airports Commission) from 11 pm to 5:30 am when the third runway opens.
Exceeding the Airports Commission
We will support the earlier introduction of this extended ban on night flights by Government as soon as the necessary airspace has been modernised after planning consent for the third runway has been secured.
* Every other one of the proposals contains a verb – what Heathrow is going to do. This one contains no verb.
Lord True, Richmond Council leader and Conservative peer, describes Heathrow promises as ‘worthless’ and asks David Cameron to deny expansion immediately
The leader of Richmond Council, Lord True, has called Heathrow’s pledge to ban night flights a “feeble attempt to bribe London.” He described Heathrow’s promises as “worthless” and said on the ending of night flights: “This so-called pledge falls short of what the Davies Commission requests and the Heathrow PR men simply cannot be believed. If they can stop pre-5.30am flights, why don’t they do it now? Rather than spending billions of pounds doing it?” On Heathrow’s claims about air quality improvements, Lord True commented:: “They cannot comply with EU air quality limits and their ‘jam’ promises are worthless…..if people’s health comes first – big Heathrow is dead in the water.” He said Heathrow had just made some token alterations to their original proposals. Richmond Council, along with Wandsworth, Hillingdon and Windsor & Maidenhead councils, have already made it clear that should the Government give a 3rd Heathrow runway the go-ahead – they would together launch legal action opposing the plans. Lord True: “I say to Mr Cameron – hundreds of thousands of Londoners remember your promise – “no ifs, no buts,” ….We expect our Prime Minister to keep his promise….”
The current “DfT NIGHT FLYING RESTRICTIONS AT HEATHROW, GATWICK AND STANSTED” – June 2014
Heathrow makes guarded, carefully worded, offers to meet Airports Commission conditions for 3rd runway
Heathrow knows it has a difficult task in persuading the government that it can actually meet the (unchallenging) conditions put on its runway plans by the Airports Commission. Now John Holland-Kaye has written to David Cameron, setting out how Heathrow hopes to meet some conditions. They make out they will even exceed the conditions, in some cases. On Night flights, they say they will introduce a “legally binding ban on all scheduled night flights for six and a half hours (as recommended by the Airports Commission) from 11 pm to 5:30 am when the third runway opens.” [Note, scheduled – not late arrivals etc]. And they will “support the earlier introduction of this extended ban on night flights by Government as soon as the necessary airspace has been modernised after planning consent for the third runway has been secured.” [ie. full of caveats]. They dodge the issue of agreeing not to build a 4th runway, saying it they government makes a commitment in Parliament not to expand Heathrow further, then Heathrow will “Accept a commitment from Government ruling out any fourth runway..” [Words carefully chosen]. On noise and respite, Heathrow say “We will ensure there will be some respite for everyone living under the final flight path by using advances in navigational technology. We will consult and provide options on our proposals to alternate use of the runways.” [ie carefully chosen words, avoiding giving much away].
This is what the Airports Commission Final Report said on night flights and a 3rd Heathrow runway:
“Following construction of a third runway at the airport there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights in the period 11:30pm to 6:00am. This is only possible with expansion.”
“Following construction of a third runway at Heathrow there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights between 11:30pm and 06:00am. This is only possible with expansion. Night flights are very unpopular with local residents, and the additional capacity from a third runway would enable airlines to re-time very early morning arrivals, limiting the commercial impact. ”
[Taking night as an 8 hour period, as does the WHO – World Health Authority]. “The full range of metrics included in the noise scorecard is: • day noise (LAeq16h 7:00am-11:00pm) and night noise (LAeq8h 11:00pm-7:00am), looking not only at the 57 decibel level used by the government as its key metric, but also down to the lower 54 decibel level during the day and the 48 decibel level at night, and up to 72 decibels in both cases;…”
9.42 Night flights are considered particularly disruptive by local residents around both Heathrow and Gatwick. They can contribute to sleep disturbance, which may lead to both health impacts (such as an increased risk of hypertension) and lost productivity for people who have suffered from lack of sleep. As a result of responses to its consultation, a review of the health impacts of aviation noise, including night noise, was commissioned from a member of the Commission’s Expert Advisory Panel, which has been published alongside this report. In addition, health and sleep disturbance effects were included in the monetisation of noise impacts used in the Commission’s economic analysis set out in detail in the Business Case.
9.43 A number of consultation responses called for greater restrictions or a ban on night flights whilst others highlighted the economic value of such flights and argued for their continuation. The Commission has conducted further work to understand the value of night flights at each airport; and the impacts of a ban on the airport’s business model.”
9.46 At Heathrow, under current arrangements, the quota system heavily restricts the number of flights that use can use the airport and the noise levels that they may create during the core night period from 11:30pm to 6:00am. In addition, the airlines using Heathrow have signed up to a voluntary agreement that no flights should land before 4:30am. This has led to an average of 16 arrivals from long-haul destinations between 4:30am and 6:00am each day and no departures. Chapter 14 discusses in detail the Commission’s conclusion that further restrictions on core night flights at an enlarged Heathrow would be credible and its recommendation that following construction of any new runway at Heathrow there should be a ban on all scheduled night flights between 11:30pm and 6:00am.
Heathrow not willing to accept a ban on night flights, saying it constrains links to regional airports
John Holland-Kaye is hugely confident that he will get a new runway, saying he was now “80%” sure that David Cameron’s decision would be for Heathrow. The Airports Commission suggested a condition that there would be a complete ban on flights between 11.30pm and 6am due to the unacceptable noise of night flights. Mr Holland-Kaye says night flights were not something to “throw away lightly”. Heathrow currently is allowed 5,800 night flights per year, meaning an average of 16 arriving each morning, typically between 4.30am and 6am. British Airways wants to keep night flights, and is Heathrow’s largest airline. Last week Mr Holland-Kaye said shifting night flights to later slots would damage connections to the rest of the UK. “If I talk to regional airports, they all want to see early morning arrivals into Heathrow. They want a flight that comes in from their airport before 8 o’clock in the morning so people can do a full day’s work, can do business in London or can connect to the first wave of long-haul flights going out. You are very quickly going to use up all of the first two hours of the morning if we have a curfew before 6 o’clock, particularly as we then have to move the 16 flights. That really constrains the ability of UK regions to get the benefits from an expanded hub. So it is not something we should throw away lightly.” Heathrow’s links to regional airport would actually fall, with a 3rd runway, according to the Airports Commission.
Studies show that at least 7 hours of sleep are needed, each night, by adults
Living under a flight path, along which aircraft fly at below – say 7,000 feet – is noisy. It is all the more noisy now that the aviation industry is introducing narrow, concentrated flight paths. These are replacing the older more dispersed routes, as aircraft have new “PBN” technology (like car satnav) and can fly far more accurately than in the past. And it suits the air traffic controllers to keep flight paths narrow. But if airports allow flights at night, or if the “night” period when flights are not allowed is short, this has consequences for people living near, or under, routes. Studies carried out scientifically show adults need at least 7 hours of sleep, each night to be at their healthiest. Children and teenagers need more.There are some people who need more than 7 hours per night, and some need less. It is not good enough to get less one night, and more the next – the brain does not process the day’s memories adequately. Studies show adverse effects of not getting enough sleep, which are not only related to concentration, speed of thinking or reacting etc, but also medical effects. The concentrated flight paths, and airports allowed to have flights all night, are causing very real problems. A study into noise and sleep by the CAA in 2009 looked at the issue, and said a large and comprehensive study is needed, but it is “likely to be expensive.”
How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?
What the World Health Organisation says on noise levels at night:
Extracts from WHO Night Noise Guidelines for Europe (2009)
Sleep is an essential part of healthy life and is recognized as a fundamental right under the
European Convention on Human Rights. (European Court of Human Rights, 2003).
[The WHO consider “night” to be an 8 hour period. All the noise measurement metrics assume an 8 hour night. Most people like to sleep for 8 hours, or at least 7 hours.]
Average night noise level over a year Lnight outside
Health effects observed in the population
40 to 55 dB . Adverse health effects are observed among the exposed population. Many people have to adapt their lives to cope with the noise at night. Vulnerable groups are more severely affected.
Above 55 dB . The situation is considered increasingly dangerous for public health. Adverse health effects occur frequently, a sizeable proportion of the population is highly annoyed and sleep-disturbed. There is evidence that the risk of cardiovascular
Lnight,outside in Table 5.4 and 5.5 is the night-time noise indicator (Lnight) of Directive 2002/49/EC of 25 June 2002: the A-weighted long-term average sound level as defined in ISO 1996-2: 1987, determined over all the night periods of a year; in which: the night is eight hours (usually 23.00 – 07.00 local time), a year is a relevant year as regards the emission of sound and an average year as regards the meteorological circumstances, the incident sound is considered, the assessment point is the same as for Lden. See Communities, 18.7.2002, for more details.
Below the level of 30 dB Lnight,outside, no effects on sleep are observed except for a
slight increase in the frequency of body movements during sleep due to night noise.
There is no sufficient evidence that the biological effects observed at the level below
40 dB Lnight,outside are harmful to health. However, adverse health effects are
observed at the level above 40 dBLnight,outside, such as self-reported sleep disturbance,
environmental insomnia, and increased use of somnifacient drugs and sedatives.
Therefore, 40 dB Lnight,outside is equivalent to the LOAEL [LOAEL is the lowest observed adverse effectlevel (LOAEL) for night noise] for night noise.
Above 55 dB the cardiovascular effects become the major public health concern,
which are likely to be less dependent on the nature of the noise. Closer examination
of the precise impact will be necessary in the range between 30 dB and 55 dB as
much will depend on the detailed circumstances of each case.
A number of instantaneous effects are connected to threshold levels expressed in
LAmax (Table 5.1). The health relevance of these effects cannot be easily established.
It can be safely assumed, however, that an increase in the number of such events over
the baseline may constitute a subclinical adverse health effect by itself leading to significant clinical health outcomes.