Luton Airport is consulting on proposed changes to arrivals flight paths which could have a significant noise impact on residents over a wide area from Leighton Buzzard in the west to Walkern in the east. Their preferred option includes concentrated tracks rather than random dispersal of aircraft, which can mean people near or under the concentrated routes suddenly become aware of a lot more aircraft.
As far as people on the ground are concerned, this consultation and its hundreds of pages of technical documentation boils down to a simple question: are concentrated tracks or randomly dispersed flights the best solution when aircraft are passing closely spaced communities at low altitudes?
Random dispersal (Option 1) means potentially more people will hear aircraft, but not all the aircraft will be as close or sound as loud. On the arrivals flight path while the aircraft are being brought towards the “lining up” point where they make a final turn towards the runway, this is how it works at present. From that point onwards, the noise experience will be the same as now – a concentrated stream of aircraft.
Concentrated tracks (Option 2) mean fewer people may hear aircraft as they navigate towards “lining up” point, but those people are likely to perceive all of them rather than just the ones which used to come close. So effectively all the noise is dumped on the unlucky folk near the proposed concentrated route, and those further away will hear fewer aircraft.
The “refinement” to this is to have a couple of concentrated routes to choose from, and switch between them on different days. At the end of the day, the amount of noise is the same, it’s just a matter of how widely it’s spread. There’s nothing particularly “fair” about the process – all that can be said is that the aviation industry likes to use the new technology of GPS navigation to save air traffic controllers having to do so much work, and to make the routes more predictable. Where communities are widely spaced it’s a useful technology – where they are close, it’s impossible to avoid everyone. Which goes to show that Luton Airport is in the wrong place for massive further expansion – but that’s another story…
The consultation runs until 5th February, which is just as well because the documentation is not the easiest to get to grips with. There are various maps buried in the documents and a complicated “layered PDF” which illustrate the proposals. Mastering it all takes time and effort, so we have used the Airport’s data to create images giving a fair and balanced presentation of the alternatives below.
Have a look at these maps, find where you live, and consider what the noise effects might be. Have in mind the following questions:
* Am I currently affected by planes arriving into Luton Airport?
– If so, is it going to get better or worse according to these maps and options?
– If not, will I start to be affected according to these maps and options?
* Do I agree in principle that aircraft tracks should be dispersed over a wide area to share the noise, or concentrated so that fewer people get more of the noise?
In Option 1, the tracks are dispersed: more people will hear some of the planes some of the time.
In Option 2 the tracks are concentrated: fewer people will hear planes but they will hear more.
In all the maps, the solid-outlined light blue, mauve and orange areas will be increasingly noisy as the aircraft descend. The black lines show the centre of the proposed concentrated flight path in Option 2.
Westerly winds: Arrivals Option 1 (dispersed tracks)
Westerly winds: Arrivals option 2 (concentrated tracks) Routes 3 and 4
Easterly winds: Arrivals Option 1 (dispersed tracks)
Easterly winds: Arrivals Option 2 (concentrated tracks) Routes 1 and 2
All the documents can be found at the link below, along with multimedia information. There are literally hundreds of pages, and lots of diagrams, but very little or nothing which makes it crystal clear what the changed noise experience will be in the affected areas. The Airport says it prefers the concentrated track option, but does not say why – essentially it’s so that the industry has the easiest solution. Whether this is at the expense of people on the ground is not made clear.
The online consultation boils all the complex possibilities down into a small number of rather crassly worded questions which don’t really do it justice. We will seek to provide more advice in due course. Meantime have a look at the consultation material provided and let us know what you think of the way in which it’s been presented and explained:
The online questionnaire can be found here: https://consultations.airspacechange.co.uk/london-luton-airport/ad6_luton_arrivals/consultation/intro/
As usual, it’s riddled with jargon:
“Vectoring” – this means Air Traffic Controllers guide a plane to line up on the runway, and flight tracks are typically dispersed.
“PBN” – this Performance Based Navigation means the planes navigate by GPS, a bit like cars, so the tracks tend to be much more concentrated.
Runway 07 (easterly) – they should be ashamed of using this jargon: what they mean is that people to the north and west of the airport will be affected by arrivals under these wind conditions.
Runway 25 (westerly) – again they should be ashamed of using this jargon: what they mean is that people to the north and east of the airport will be affected by arrivals under these wind conditions.
It’s worth looking at the questions without initially answering them, and then going back to the consultation material and our summary images, because the questions need to be answered carefully.
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