PPC Sept 14 Update Gatwick Airport & Related Matters


Airbus A319/320/321 – British Airways – easyJet

The council has had no response from either British Airways or easyJet in the request to reduce the debilitating high pitched whine emanating from the FOPP wing cavities on their fleet of Airbus A319/320/321 aircraft. The council appealed to the companies’ social responsibility programs for the obligation to reduce noise and nuisance wherever it was possible and to fit vortex generators to the aircraft which would substantially reduce the debilitating noise. The airlines were reminded that Air France and Lufthansa were committed to modifying their entire fleets by year end 2015 both announcing it was their duty to mitigate any noise they could to those living under flight paths. We will now appeal directly to the respective boards’ directors.

Other parish councils are supporting our approach as can be seen in the policy statement of the High Weald Parish Councils Airports Action Group’s aviation policy which states: “Advocate a national policy within the United Kingdom whereby all the Airbus 319, 320 and 321 aircraft, and those with a similar airframe, which call at UK airports, are to be retrospectively fitted with a modification to reduce FOPP cavity and similar aircraft noise.”

We are in regular contact with Sir John Stanley MP on these and other issues pertinent to the parish’s best interests and we are grateful for the commitment he has shown. He has recently approached the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State, over the Airbus A320 series problem.  Unfortunately, and perhaps disgracefully, there is little UK statutory control over aircraft noise or height but the minister has contacted the Civil Aviation Authority who advise that they are well aware of the problem and say they are measuring the effects the noise has on sound contours around airports. This is meaningless as the contours merely register sound energy volumes that are apparent for a continuous period i.e., normally 16hours above 57decibels. The contour lines embrace a miserly 412 miles around an airport: some 7 miles either end of the runway and about a mile either side. In reality the noise footprint of those disturbed by planes such as the Airbus A319/320/321 could be over 12002miles around each airport – wherever these aircraft operate. Airbus Industries own measurement confirm that the high-pitched frequency is noticed at least 25 miles from touchdown.

Greg Clark MP for Tunbridge Wells has also lent his weight to the Airbus A319/320/321 problem communicating his feelings directly to easyJet. Their less than satisfactory response to him, and anyone else who is writing, is that they hope to procure between 10-30 new planes each year and as these will already be modified therefore by 2017 20% of its fleet will be modernised. In other words they do not intend to spend a penny on retro fitting the vortex generators. There still be their original 200 unmodified jets (with all other operators’ fleets) wailing in our skies except they will be part of a larger fleet. If we assume that it would cost £5,000,000 to make the necessary modifications to easyJet’s entire fleet it would be less than 1% of their anticipated pre-tax profits this year or 8p per passenger. For British Airways with half the fleet that EasyJet has, the cost is relatively insignificant to their overall profit figures. Its parent company International Airlines Group has announced it is on track to improve operating profit this year by “at least” €500m, from €770m in 2013. If these two airlines can be persuaded to honour their social responsibilities then that would be the catalyst to bring all other airline operators of this type of aircraft into line. 

LONDON AIRSPACE CHANGE – GATWICK LOCAL AREA CONSULTATION Issue 1, May 2014 [proposed flight path changes]

The council took a robust stance in its final response to the Gatwick Local Area Consultation with other west Kent parish, town and borough councils reflecting the same theme which has been taken up by all our local MPs. The following paragraph has been taken from our response and the full reply can be viewed on the council’s web site:

It is clear when analysing the feedback to the original consultation process that no attention has been taken of the vast majority of responses from stakeholders, including ‘key authorities,’ of county, borough, town and parish councils. For RWY26 arrivals their overwhelming objections to the proposals have been totally ignored and in some cases misrepresented. They are against Point Merge – against the resulting concentrated flight path to arrivals – and against single respite corridors. Without exception these important stakeholders support the existing tactically vectored broad swathe approach to landing which enables multi respite paths throughout the day and night. This is a fair, proven and reliable management of air corridors and should be part of Gatwick Airport’s obligation to fulfil its social responsibility.

We are currently awaiting the publication of the follow-on responses which are processed independently by Ipsos MORI. It will be the CAA’s decision whether or not to approve any proposal that Gatwick Airport Ltd make following the consultation.

It would appear that as the paper is being submitted to parish councillors news is coming in that Gatwick Airport Limited and NATS have put on hold for the moment any changes they were proposing as a result of their departure trials (ADNID) and their airspace changes ( LAMP Phase 1A). This was apparently indicated in a recent GATCOM meeting but we await Gatwick Airport Limited’s official press release. There is no doubt that GAL and NATS were overwhelmed by in excess of 4000 protests not only on the nature of these changes but the manner in which the consultation process was conducted.  As mentioned above the processing on the responses to the consultation was due to be conducted independently by ipsos MORI and we will endeavour to obtain a copy of their findings irrespective that this process seems to have been deferred.

Airports Commission – Delivery Discussion Paper [Proposed second runway in the South East}

Discussion Paper 07: Delivery of new runway capacity

This consultation ran from1 July 2014 to     15 August 2014

The following is taken from our final response to the Airports Commission and once more we proposed strong and valid arguments against the development of a second runway at Gatwick Airport.

PPC Response:

There is no obligation on the Airports Commission to endorse that any runways should be built.

In the interim report the recommendation is for one net additional runway to be operating in the South East of England by 2030 but this should not be considered as it cannot pass the environmental tests on noise, CO2 emissions, or economic balance within the UK regions as laid down in previous governmental White Papers. The aviation industry is already contributing a disproportionate amount of greenhouse gases in relationship to its contribution to GDP. In and close to the South East we have the highest concentration of airports in Europe: in a thirty-six mile radius we have Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, City, Southend and Biggin Hill Airports. Within this confined area around 140,000,000 passengers are being transported each year – many in transit.

Proposing Gatwick Airport for an additional runway in an area with one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country would create further division within the North – South divide encouraging government finance and infrastructure development away from deprived areas where unemployment levels are well above the national average and where development funds are most needed.

If an additional runway option proposed for the South East at Gatwick Airport reaches the planning stage then right-minded people will be shocked that commercial vested interest has once again prevailed over common sense. There is no gain for the vast majority of residents in these areas for additional runway capacity but so much to lose. There will be a huge drain on human resource outside of London which would mean a substantial mobility of labour; extensive building programmes in housing, schools and other related infrastructure developments particularly in transport much of which the beneficiaries (air travel industry) will expect to be financed from public funds.

If Gatwick was considered then many towns and villages in Surrey, west Kent and east Sussex would be blighted with no economic benefit but suffering disproportionately from noise nuisance of overflying aircraft and commercial loss due to drop in visitor numbers at internationally recognised cultural and heritage sites such as Hever Castle, Chiddingstone Castle and Penshurst Place. This area does not have the benefit that London has with so many historic buildings parks and other visitor attractions.

The above is illustrative of the council’s approach and in common with most of the borough, town and parish councils in west Kent we deliberately did not seek to burden another runway on any other area in the south east which is contrary to the disappointing position that Kent County Council (KCC) took. KCC engaged professional aviation adviser whose primary objective seems to have been to direct the attention away from any proposals to promote an Estuary Airport option and firmly promote the development of a second runway at Gatwick Airport contrary to the best interests of those taxpayer living in west Kent and east Sussex.

It could be construed that KCC were in fact doing its best to promote itself as a second Airports Commission. Mr Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council has been inundated with emails protesting about KCC’s position and I would urge our own council to join with those protests irrespective that KCC are now trying to distance itself from the submission made to the Airport Commission. However, we see no evidence that it will retract one word of its initial response which was littered with support for Gatwick Airport. Mr Carter represents  Maidstone Rural North which is adjacent to the area that would have been earmarked for an Estuary Airport.

Now that the Airport Commission confirmed earlier this month that it will not add the inner Thames estuary airport proposal to its shortlist options for providing new airport capacity by 2030 we anticipate local councils being more directive in their next responses to the Airports Commission’s final recommendations when published.


Michael Knowles 20140929