Heathrow opens new consultation on airspace – including 25,000 more annual flights, by using IPA

Heathrow has opened another consultation – this on is on “Airspace & Future Operations”. It ends on 4th March. Not only is Heathrow planning for a 3rd runway, and up to 50% more flights eventually, it is also now trying to get another 25,000 flights (about 5% more). fairly soon. And it wants these extra 25,000 flights whether it gets its 3rd runway, or not. The current flight numbers cap is 480,000 per year, set after the Terminal 5 Inquiry. It is currently using about 475,000 – with the few spaces at unpopular times of the day or week. Heathrow plans to get the extra flights, added at times already very busy, by what it calls IPA – Independent Parallel Approaches, which mean planes can come in on two runways at once, at the same time. Currently if they do this, they have to be staggered, at slightly further distances apart than with IPA. Heathrow admits this will mean different flight paths, and people not currently being overflown, by narrow concentrated flight paths.  Planes on IPA would join the final approach path about 8 nautical miles from the runway. It will be important that the areas to be newly negatively affected are made aware of what is going to hit them. The extra flights would also give Heathrow more income in the short term, to help it pay the immense cost of its 3rd runway plans.


The document showing where “noise envelopes” will be is at


The “envelopes” are areas in which there will be flight paths.  But where in the “envelope” is not revealed.  It is quite tricky trying to combine the maps, to see the impact on your area.

To see if your area is likely to badly affected by Heathrow noise, go to   https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/  and put in your website. It will then tell you, if you in an area it considers relevant, to fill in the questionnaire.

As the consultation is open till 4th March, it may be better to wait for a while before responding, till people have had the chance to really understand as much as possible about what the proposed changes will really mean, on the ground.



‘We would like to introduce independent parallel approaches even if we do not get approval to build a third runway’

By Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent
8th January 2018

Britain’s biggest airport could soon have an extra 68 flights a day squeezed in on the world’s busiest pair of runways.

Heathrow Airport hopes to expand operations by up to 5% whether or not a third runway is built.

As the West London airport launched a consultation into the biggest changes to airspace patterns in 50 years, it also revealed plans for “a short-term change to the way aircraft arrive at Heathrow” that could increase resilience – and squeeze in almost 25,000 flights a year. [Consultation ends 4th March].

To do so would require the 480,000 annual cap on aircraft movements, imposed in 2002 as a condition for building Heathrow Terminal 5, to be lifted.

At present all but 5,000 of the permitted slots at Heathrow are used; the “spare” slots are at times such as late evenings, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings when demand is light.

The key proposal is for a move to “independent parallel approaches” (IPA) when both runways are being used for landings.

While the standard operation at Heathrow involves one runway being used for arrivals and the other for departures, at busy times for arrivals – particularly early mornings – both can be used for touchdowns. But strict rules on sequencing mean that simultaneous landings cannot happen.

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson said: “Because Heathrow operates at 98% of its capacity, disruption or delays during the day can have a knock-on effect to the punctuality of flights.

“To mitigate this, we are always looking to improve how we manage aircraft arriving at Heathrow during particularly busy periods, and one of the ways to do this is through the introduction of new technology such as Independent Parallel Approaches [IPA].

“IPA will not only be beneficial for our passengers by improving punctuality, and preventing flight cancellations and delays – it will also help to reduce the number of late running flights into the night which are disruptive to local communities.”

But while initially the focus would be on increasing resilience, the move would also provide the opportunity to increase arrivals by 10% – representing almost 25,000 additional movements.

The airport stressed: “We would like to introduce IPA even if we do not get approval to build a third runway.”

In the consultation document, Heathrow revealed that some of the flight paths used for IPA “could overfly areas that are not affected by Heathrow arrivals today”.


and it continues ….

The Airspace & Future Operations consultation runs until 4 March.



This is where the 25,000 flights are mentioned:



“Managing Heathrow’s growth within environmental limits”


“Early growth

“As a first phase of our expansion plans, we are proposing to make increased use of our existing two runways, once approval for the physical expansion of Heathrow has been granted.

Currently, Heathrow is limited to 480,000 air transport movements (ATMs) each year.

In September 2016 we published proposals for the release of additional capacity before the third runway is operational. This would be an early phase of the lifting of the current ATM cap which would be necessary as part of our Development Consent Order (DCO) application for expansion.

Releasing capacity using our existing two runways could generate significant economic benefits as the first phase of expansion. This capacity – up to 25,000 additional ATMs each year – could be released on a phased basis soon after planning consent is granted, so that the benefits of expansion can begin to be delivered well before the third runway is complete.

At this stage of consultation, we are not in a position to consult on the specific proposals for early growth.

Our ability to bring forward early growth is dependent upon a range of factors, such as changes in the current airfield infrastructure, revised regulation of airlines slots, as well as other matters on which we are seeking feedback as part of this consultation.

In particular, we are seeking feedback on:

  • The noise objective which is agreed for Heathrow;
  • The establishment of required airspace changes relating to the two existing runways, for Independent Parallel Approaches (IPA); and,
  • The detailed terms of a ban on scheduled night flights at Heathrow. “


The consultation:

f anyone wants to see all the Heathrow consultation documents, on paper, they can be seen at a range of libraries, town halls etc. https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/document-in-location-sites/ …

Links to all the documents online are at https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/documents-resources/ …

Consultation events locations at https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/


This depends on IPA – Independent Parallel Approaches

This is what the Heathrow website says:


Making better use of our existing runways – Independent Parallel Approaches

As part of this consultation, Heathrow is also consulting on a proposed short-term change to the way that some aircraft arrive at Heathrow. This is known as Independent Parallel Approaches (or “IPA”) and involves some new arrival routes into Heathrow from the holding stacks.

Some of these flight paths could overfly areas that are not affected by Heathrow arrivals today.

The introduction of IPA requires an airspace change to be approved by the CAA, and our current consultation on IPA will form part of our evidence of engagement with local communities and affected stakeholders.

IPA will make us more efficient and more resilient to disruption, reducing the chances of delays for passengers. Any airspace changes required would be replaced by our longer-term airspace design, if our third runway is approved.

How does IPA work?

A standard aircraft approach at Heathrow

With the introduction of IPA, aircraft landing on the arrival runway would continue to be directed as they are today. However, aircraft landing on the departure runway would follow new precise flight paths from the holding stacks to the final approach.


Current Dependent Parallel Approaches

Currently, an aircraft landing on the departure runway must be diagonally spaced by a specified distance from aircraft landing on the arrival runway. To achieve this, the spacing between aircraft landing on the arrival runway has to be increased compared to when only one runway is used for landing. This additional spacing means that fewer aircraft are able to land on the arrival runway in that hour. So even though both runways are being used for landings, there is only a small gain in the total number of arrivals.


Independent Parallel Approaches in action

As show in the diagram above – because the aircraft is following a very precise arrival flight path using Precision Based Navigation (PBN), the aircraft can be classed as operating independently. This is because PBN technology gives us certainty that aircraft will be safely separated when landing in parallel and removes the need for the diagonal spacing between arriving flights. This would prevent any reduction in the number of aircraft that can land on the arrival runway, resulting in a much more efficient use of the arrival process.




Only aircraft certified to use this type of PBN approach required for IPA will be able to use the new flight paths. It is costly for older aircraft types to be upgraded with the required technology for IPA and so we expect the vast majority of aircraft that could use the IPA flight paths will be modern aircraft such as the Boeing 787, A320neo and the Airbus 350. Airline forecasts have demonstrated to us that there will be a sufficient number of certified aircraft to fly the IPA flight paths.

Use of the IPA flight paths would also not be possible in all weather conditions. For example, during fog, thunder storms and/or extremely windy conditions. In these circumstances, we will continue to land on the departure runway the way we do today using diagonal spacing.

The introduction of IPA has the potential to increase the efficiency and resilience of the airport. IPA will make our arrivals procedures more efficient which will reduce arrival delays. Typical savings are estimated to be up to 13 hours of arrival flight delay per day, which is a benefit to all passengers.

This will lead to further benefits including:

  • Reducing fuel burn from aircraft queuing in Heathrow’s holding stacks on arrival, leading to a reduction in carbon emissions;
  • Improving the punctuality of flights including a reduction in the number of late running flights and cancellations;
  • Enabling the airport to prevent and recover from arrival delays more quickly. This is expected to result in fewer flights departing in the night time period;
  • Reducing the number of aircraft that land on the departure runway which will improve periods of respite from aircraft noise via runway alternation for residents living under the final
    approach into Heathrow;
  • Supporting airline cost savings associated with delays;
  • Contributing to meeting the UK’s legal obligation to implement PBN flight paths at Heathrow.

In addition to the benefits we have already mentioned, by making more efficient use of our two runways, IPA could also be a step towards delivering a longer period at night without scheduled flights. However, Heathrow is not presently proposing or consulting on that change as part of the IPA airspace change proposal.

There are clear benefits to IPA and those are our rationale for the IPA proposal. However, IPA could also be used to facilitate additional capacity in advance of the third runway being brought into operation, should that be permitted as part of expansion (see Early Growth within Managing Heathrow’s growth within environmental limits). In that instance, it should be noted that the scale of some of the benefits set out on this page may vary.

Full details of the impacts of any additional capacity will be discussed in our June 2019 consultation and are not the subject of this consultation. Heathrow has stated that if we put forward proposals for additional capacity it would be only be implemented at the same time as a longer period at night without scheduled flights.

As well as improving the overall performance of the airport and reducing delays for Heathrow’s passengers, the introduction of IPA would mean a number of flights flying over areas that do not routinely see arriving aircraft today from 6am onwards. These new flight paths would use PBN which means aircraft using IPA would follow the flight paths with increased precision and consistency compared to existing flight operations.

What changes would IPA introduce?

  • The introduction of IPA would require new PBN arrival flight paths from Heathrow’s holding stacks to the departure runways;
  • When we are using both runways for landing, only those aircraft landing on the departure runway will use the new IPA flight paths;
  • Aircraft would fly these new flight paths precisely;
  • New IPA arrival flight paths would mean a number of flights going over some areas that do not routinely see arriving aircraft today. Please see “Making Better Use of our Existing Runways” for more information;
  • IPA aircraft will be joining the final approach closer than the 8 nautical miles that they do today (only for IPA arrivals to the departure runway). This is because the aircraft landing on the main landing runway must be established on their final approach before coming within 2.5nm of the aircraft following the IPA flight path.




Heathrow proposing up to 25,000 more flights a year

by Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent (The Times)
January 5 2019,
Heathrow will announce plans for an extra 25,000 flights a year to increase capacity before the opening of a third runway.
The airport wants to accommodate the equivalent of 68 more take-offs and landings a day within the next few years, scrapping the limit imposed as a planning condition when Heathrow won approval to build Terminal 5 in 2001. Annual flight numbers could exceed 500,000 for the first time.
The plans will be outlined in a public consultation next week. For the first time Heathrow will show the broad position of new flight paths to be used when it grows by 50 per cent over the next decade. Changes are also planned to the positioning of incoming aircraft using existing runways. The airport will proceed with a proposed ban on night flights when a third runway is built.
Residents in west London will be angered by the increase in flights, which Heathrow wants irrespective of a third runway. There are fears of a rise in arrivals and departures early in the day, when demand for landing slots is high.
More people living near Heathrow are already affected by noise than at any other in airport in western Europe. Research has established links between excess noise from aircraft and a rise in the risk of strokes and heart disease.
Heathrow insists that it has cut noise in recent years, incentivising airlines to use the quietest and most modern planes. Landing approaches have been changed to keep aircraft higher for longer over built-up areas.
It wants to build a two-mile runway to its northwest as part of a £14 billion project to allow the airport to grow from a maximum of 480,000 flights a year now, to 740,000.
Last year MPs passed the legislation needed to proceed with expansion and this summer the airport will publish plans for the construction. Heathrow wants the runway to be operational by 2026. As part of the plans to be outlined next week, it wants to raise its flight cap by just over 5 per cent, accommodating up to 25,000 more flights a year. This will be subject to an application to the aviation authorities.
A spokeswoman for the airport said that “bringing forward early growth is dependent upon a range of factors” set out in the consultation. This includes the ability to use both runways for simultaneous arrivals — independent parallel approaches — and detailed terms of the ban on night flights.
John Stewart, chairman of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, said: “A lot of people will be resistant to any extra flights. If they are spread out throughout the day it is much less noticeable but the real concern is that Heathrow will want to bring them in during the hours where they are under the most pressure, and that means between 6am and 7am.
“If this were to happen there would be a lot of resistance.”