6 month trial of change to Gatwick Route 4 ends, with widespread criticism and opposition
Route 4 from Gatwick (taking off towards the west, curving north and then going east) was changed in 2013 to fly slightly further to the north. This caused huge upset and opposition from those newly, and intensely, overflown. Finally in May 2016, the route was changed to be further south, but instead of relatively spread out across the NPR, it is concentrated. This has caused further upset and opposition from those now finding they have far worse noise than before. This changed route was “amended” (not a trial, technically) for 6 months, and that ended on 26th November. However, the altered route will continue for another 3 months, while the CAA evaluates their feedback on how the route has performed. The CAA will in due course produce their PIR (Post Implementation Review) of the changed route. Gatwick had more than 15,000 complaints from the public during the consultation. Some of the towns and villages badly affected by high levels of plane noise include Leigh, Salfords, and Horley. The route involves a very tight turn, and to stay within the 3km wide NPR, planes should not be accelerating too fast (to avoid swinging out too far, and being outside the NPR). People say planes are making more noise, as pilots use flaps in order to make the tight turn, and planes are lower than they need to be. An affected resident said “The planes should be flying a shallower turn with a slightly more northerly trajectory afterwards – just as they did with no significant problems for over 20 years up to 2012.”
Articles from Gatwick Airport on their “Route 4 Blog” can be found at
Claims that 75% of pilots using a controversial Gatwick flight path have failed to stick to it without breaking the speed limit will be investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as part of a three-month review.
Accusations that a turn in the Route 4 flight path is so acute that it breaches normal CAA rules with also be included in the probe.
Campaigners claim the flight path, used for take-off, is “torturing” residents in a swathe of towns and villages, including Leigh, Salfords, and Horley, with unbearable noise. Pilots are desperately using plane flaps to try and slow down, they say, adding to the noise.
Route 4 has also led to more planes flying over Horley, something expressly forbidden, and new guidance has been issued to air traffic controllers.
Changes to Route 4 were introduced in May. A six-month consultation ended last week, but planes will continue to fly the route for at least another three months, as the CAA evaluates the responses.
Chris Quinlan, who lives in Leigh, said: “Everything points to the fact it is a bad design, and a bad route.”
“The planes should be flying a shallower turn with a slightly more northerly trajectory afterwards – just as they did with no significant problems for over 20 years up to 2012.”
Diane Tanner, from Newdigate, added: “The current design of Route 4 is too extreme and breaks rules put there for good reason. Departing aircraft are being forced to use lift-generating devices like wing flaps and slats which generate more noise, in order to try and stay within the speed limit and remain airborne whilst negotiating the turn.
“As a consequence of the tight turn and use of flaps, aircraft are lower and louder during the turn creating shock waves of noise for residents underneath the aerial bombardment of the turn.”
The claim that three-quarters of pilots were breaking the speed limit imposed on the tight turn came from a CAA representative appearing at a public meeting in Betchworth, say campaigners.
However, the CAA has declined to comment directly on those accusations while the review goes on.
A spokesman confirmed the path was designed to be compliant with all international safety standards and told this paper all data, including aircraft performance and navigation accuracy, collected from Route 4 will be assessed and analysed by the CAA.
He said: “We fully recognise the impact that aircraft noise can have on the quality of people’s lives in the vicinity of an airport and we have been fully engaged with local communities to explain the situation at Gatwick.
“The modified route four has now been is use for six months, which has enabled Gatwick Airport to gather valuable data to help determine the most efficient use of its departure routes.
“We are now in the process of carrying out a Post Implementation Review, which will involve a detailed analysis of all the data and residents’ feedback collected by the airport.
Gatwick Airport says 94% of planes using Route 4 have complied with the flight path
“Our review will take approximately three months and a final decision on permanent departure routes at Gatwick will be made following that work.”
Gatwick modified the flight path in May following the CAA’s review of P-RNAV, a satellite ‘precision area navigation’ system that led to flight path modifications when it was introduced in 2013, causing an intensification of flights over Dorking, south Reigate and Redhill.
After those changes caused thousands of complaints, the CAA conducted a review that required the track of Route 4 to be returned to a closer replication of its pre-P-RNAV form, and more in line with the set noise preferential corridor in which planes must fly.
But now residents in towns and villages further south say aircraft noise is blighting their lives like never before.
According to Gatwick, more than 94% of flights have stayed within the Route 4 path, but, in the first five months of its use, the number of aircraft overflying Horley rose from 1 to 3% to 8 to 9%, prompting new guidelines to be speedily issued to air traffic controllers.
As of November 11, Gatwick had received 15,689 complaints about Route 4, but the final total has not yet been confirmed.
Information on route performance and public feedback will no longer be regularly forwarded from the airport to the CAA, but noise complaints can now be registered via Gatwick’s dedicated noise website. [This is now the only way people can complain – no longer by phone or by email].
Plane Wrong calls for better track keeping on Route 4
10.12.2016 (Plane Wrong newsletter)
The CAA has now begun its review of the revised Route 4 that was implemented on 26 May this year.
Plane Wrong is calling for the track keeping to be improved and for the speed limit round the turn to be enforced. We have made a particular point about the need for the Route to operate correctly when there is a strong wind from the south west, conditions that are most likely to cause planes to fly outside the Noise Preferential Route (NPR) track keeping area. You can see our full submission here.
With the help of our consultants, To70, we have carried out extensive analysis of the comprehensive radar data covering 3 months of operation of the revised Route.
This revealed that 6% of flights were outside the NPR during the period studied and that a further 11% were outside the geographical limit of the NPR track keeping area but were not counted by Gatwick because they were above 4,000ft.
This is because when planes reach 4,000ft. the NPR no longer applies. We have pointed out to both Gatwick and the CAA that this limit is entirely artificial as far as residents are concerned and therefore what they are experiencing is 1 in 6 planes outside the NPR, an unacceptable performance.
Our analysis also revealed that some planes are exceeding the speed limit around the turn. We believe this causes them to stay lower for longer, causing more nuisance after the bend. We have made this point in meetings with both Gatwick and the CAA and we have indicated to the CAA that we expect them to ensure that Gatwick enforces the rules.
The CAA’s review is expected to be completed by the Spring of next year.
Government expected to soften stance on concentration
The Aviation Minister, Lord Ahmad, met representatives from the Aviation Communities Forum (ACF) (of which Plane Wrong is a member) recently and told them that the consultation on airspace policy expected in the Spring of next year will include reducing the emphasis on concentration of flight paths. This is crucial for further campaigning on both Routes 3 and 4 as without a change in Government policy Gatwick appears unwilling to consider the sort of changes we believe are needed.
Gatwick’s new complaints system
Many supporters have told us that they don’t like Gatwick’s new complaints system and there was a good deal of discussion at our AGM on the subject. We have taken up specific concerns at the Noise Management Board (on which I have a shared place with CAGNE) and we are waiting for a response from Gatwick to the Board. They have so far said that they will accept letters where people can’t or don’t wish to use the online system but they will not provide a telephone number or an email address.
I hope you have a Happy (and not too noisy!) Christmas and that we will see further improvements in the New Year.
The Gatwick Route 4 blog says:
The CAA’s post implementation review of P-RNAV
What’s our blog about?
In line with CAA requirements, aircraft departing from Gatwick now fly using a method known as ‘Precision Area Navigation’ (P-RNAV). The system means departing aircraft follow more precise flight paths and has been introduced so that the CAA can eventually switch off ground-based navigation systems across the UK.
Before any of this could happen, Gatwick had to design and introduce new flight paths that sit within the airport’s nine noise preferential routes (NPRs) or corridors that departing aircraft fly within. Aircraft started flying these modified flight paths in late 2013 and early 2014 and these routes have just been reviewed (post implementation review) by the CAA to see if they are compliant with regulations.
Below is the 16th update in our series of blogs updating on progress following the CAA’s review.
Update by Charles Kirwan-Taylor, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director
11 November 2016
The six months monitoring period of the amendment to Route 4 ends at 23:59 on 26 November 2016. As I have previously outlined, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has been receiving monthly data packages from Gatwick Airport regarding route performance and feedback received, this activity however will cease with the end of the monitoring period at which time we will forward our final data package to the CAA and publish a data summary to this blog.
We will continue to monitor Route 4 performance in common with all other departure routes from Gatwick Airport and report accordingly in our Flight Performance Team reports to the Noise and Track Monitoring Advisory Group and the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee; details of which are available online.
The CAA has undertaken to evaluate the data and decide whether the amendment has been a success or otherwise approximately three to four months after the end of the monitoring period.
After the cessation of the monitoring period:
- The current amendment to Route 4 will remain in place at least until we hear from the CAA. This is because the route flown over the previous six months is not a trial but an amendment as required in the CAA Post Implementation Review. Should the CAA deem this amendment to be unsuccessful, it would be at that stage when we would consider other options available.
- Should the airport be required to return to a conventional navigation procedure in the event the CAA deems the amendment to be unsuccessful, this would not be a permanent solution but would only be in place until alternative solutions are developed. This is because Performance Based Navigation (PBN) Standard Instrument Departure routes are UK CAA policy under international implementation policies and are expected to be mandated in terminal airspace from 2017.
- The Route 4 dedicated email address will close at 23:59 on 26 November 2016. After this time, the method for registering noise complaints will be via our dedicated noise website
Route 4 Statistics
Total number of Route 4 specific complaints up to 11 November 2016: 15,689.
Track keeping broken down by the individual Route 4 Standard Instrument Departure (SID) Routes is provided in the table below:
Gatwick Route 4 finally re-routed as local MP warns about noise misery dangers of a 2nd runway
On 26th May, the amended Gatwick departure flight path named “Route 4”, taking off towards the west from Gatwick, went in to operation. This route turning north and then east – to fly towards the east. With the implementation of precision-area navigation (PR-NAV) at Gatwick in 2014, changes were made to Route 4 which made it more concentrated, and slightly to the north of the main NPR (Noise Preferential Route). This resulted in thousands of people suffering intense and frequent plane noise, for the first time. The local group, Plane Wrong, was formed to fight the changes. The PIR (Post Implementation Review) by the CAA in 2015 showed that the change to Route 4 was not “compliant” with regulations, and it should revert to how it was before early 2014. However, it has taken a long time for this reversion to actually happen. The route that has now started means the SID (Standard Instrument Departure) turning circle is a little tighter so planes avoid the densely populated urban areas of Reigate and Redhill. It is regrettable that it took so long for an unacceptable flight path, that could be introduced so quickly without warning, could take so long to reverse. Local MP Crispin Blunt warned that the noise situation with a 2nd Gatwick runway would be completely unacceptable, with no noise mitigation measures in prospect.
“Plane Wrong” critical of CAA’s PIR decision to permit new easterly take-off route to continue
The CAA published its long-awaited Post Implementation Review report in early November. Gatwick is required by the CAA to change one westerly departure route (Route 4) that affects people in many villages to the South of Dorking and across to Reigate and Redhill. This has to revert back to being within the NPR (noise preferential route) as before. Local group, Plane Wrong, set up in response to the noise problems caused, says it welcomes the decision and wants this to be implemented rapidly so that residents do not have to suffer the noise for another summer. Plane Wrong is, however, dismayed at the CAA decision in respect of Route 3, which is not to be changed despite the fact that many more people are significantly affected by the change. This appears to have been entirely ignored. Plane Wrong has considerable doubts about some of the methodologies employed by the CAA to reach both these decisions. On the change to Route 4, Plane Wrong says the changes should be completed quickly, though the CAA has to test the change in simulators for Boeing and Airbus. They do not yet know when this work will take place. There is also a 2 month period that has to elapse after that, and there is no indication yet of when this will end.
The CAA’s disappointing PIR finally published, showing only one Gatwick route to be slightly changed
Since autumn 2013 there have been changes to flight paths for Gatwick airport, given provisional approval by the CAA. Routes have been altered, and flight paths have been more concentrated. This has been done without consultation of affected communities. The CAA has done a PIR (Post Implementation Review) that ended in January. It has finally, after delays, published its findings. These are regarded as very disappointing, as almost no concessions have been made and though hundreds of complaints were sent in, there are few changes to routes. GACC says: “In a 198 page report they devote only 2 pages to the possibility of dispersal – spreading the aircraft over a wider area – and to the possibility of respite – giving people a break from constant noise. And then reject both. We will now need to take the case to the Government and indeed will raise this when we meet the Minister for Aviation, Robert Goodwill MP …on 18 November.” The more concentrated noise has caused great distress for the people unlucky enough to live directly under the flight paths. The only change to a route is one which takes off to the west, and flies over Holmwood, Brockham and Reigate – Gatwick will be consulting on a revised route in the next few months. People are angry that the CAA, yet again, ignores input from the public.