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Heathrow tells Airports Commission: “We can be bigger and quieter”

September 12, 2013 Airport No Comments Email Email

If government supports a third runway at Heathrow, the airport has committed to reducing aircraft noise by encouraging the world’s quietest aircraft to use Heathrow and routing aircraft higher over London.

The airport has also committed to lessening noise impacts for people under flight paths by delivering periods of respite with no aircraft overhead and providing free noise insulation for people in high-noise areas.

Heathrow is significantly quieter than it was in the past. Since the 1970s both the area and the displaymedianumber of people within Heathrow’s noise footprint have fallen around tenfold, despite the number of flights doubling. Heathrow’s new proposals for a third runway will see noise reductions continue. Even with a third runway, the measures set out above mean that in 2030 there will be around 10-20% fewer people within Heathrow’s noise footprint than today.

Heathrow’s latest submission to the Airports Commission highlights five ways in which the UK can benefit from the jobs, trade and economic growth that new flights will deliver, while continuing to reduce noise impacts for local communities. Heathrow’s proposals would see:

1. New quieter aircraft. By the time a new runway is operational Heathrow will have phased out the noisiest aircraft. By 2030, 50% of aircraft will be quieter next generation aircraft like the A380, B787, A350, and A320 NEO. The airport charges noisy aircraft more and quieter aircraft less, and is proposing that only quieter aircraft should receive new take-off and landing slots.

2. New runway locations. The airport’s proposals for new runways include sites further to the west than the existing airport. Every mile further west an aircraft lands means it is approximately 300 feet higher over London on its landing approach, reducing aircraft noise on the ground.

3. New flight paths. Modern aircraft navigation technology means airspace can be redesigned to avoid high population areas. Steeper landing approaches and displaced runway thresholds (landing aircraft further down the runway) would both reduce noise for local communities.

4. New noise respite. In contrast to the previous proposals for a third runway, Heathrow’s new proposals maintain the principle of runway alternation so that every community under a flight path will have periods of respite from noise with no aircraft overhead.

5. New noise insulation schemes. In areas of high noise or areas experiencing a significant increase in noise Heathrow believes free noise insulation should be offered to residents.

Heathrow Sustainability Director, Matt Gorman, said:

“Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and as a result, even though the number of flights has almost doubled since the 1970s, around 90% fewer people are affected by noise. The evidence we have submitted to the Commission today shows it is possible to add the flights that will boost UK jobs, growth and trade whilst keeping the impact on local residents to a minimum. New aircraft technology, new flight paths and better noise insulation all have a role to play in allowing Heathrow to grow quietly.”

Heathrow believes that by taking a balanced view neither noise nor health concerns should be obstacles to further development at Heathrow. Different people also experience the same level of noise in different ways. Even in the communities experiencing the highest levels of aircraft noise, while a minority find the noise extremely annoying the majority do not regard noise as a concern.

Aircraft noise is not deterring people from moving into the area around Heathrow. Hounslow, which receives the most aircraft noise of any local authority in the Heathrow area, has experienced a rapid increase in population. According to the 2011 census, Hounslow’s population has increased by 20%, or 42,000 people, in the ten years since 2001.

Far more people are affected by road traffic noise than by aircraft noise in London. The Commission will need to consider whether it is better to add more flights in area already affected by a wide variety of noise sources, than to build new runways in areas that enjoy relative tranquillity.

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