Night Flights Could Double By 2020

2M claims 3rd Runway could open the way to around 80 extra flights per night

The increases would be possible because there are no restrictions on the number of aircraft that can land or take off between 11-11.30pm and 6-7am.

Now the 2M Group is calling for the early morning and late night shoulder periods to be included in the new night flight controls which are due for review in 2012.

Communities likely to be affected by extra night noise would include a large swathe of west London as well as currently quiet areas in Buckinghamshire which would be under the new take-off paths.

The noise impact of aircraft is currently measured over a 16-hour day which excludes the night period. The effects are expressed as a contour showing the area within which average noise exceeds 57 decibels.

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon gave BAA the go ahead to increase annual capacity at Heathrow from 480,000 to 702,000 by 2030.

But this growth will only be possible if it can be achieved within the limits of the existing contour. To give the airlines extra headroom, this was based on the results for 2002 – the last year when Concorde was flying.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister, speaking on behalf of 2M, said:

"These 90 minutes at the start and end of the day are like a get out of jail card for the airport operator. Whatever problems they are experiencing in accommodating additional flights during the rest of the day, they will have a free hand at these times.

"We know ministers have concerns about whether the additional capacity offered by the third runway can ever be achieved in practice. Current transport department forecasts predict 487,000 flights with a third runway in 2020 – an increase of just 7,000 on the current limit. That's simply because they cannot be confident that the type of aircraft that will be flying in 2020 will be significantly less noisy than today.

He continued:
"The Government has a duty to bear down on noise at night – for too long they have let the airlines off the hook during these unregulated shoulder periods. The impact of more early morning and late night arrivals and departures from a third runway will be felt on all sides of the airport. The 2M Group will be lobbying for a tightening of night flight controls when the current regime ends in 2012.  Unless this loophole is closed communities could begin experiencing noise from night flights using the third runway from as early as 2020."

The 2M Group estimates that, based on existing usage between 6-7am, around three-quarters of the additional night flights would be on the third runway with the rest coming from increased use of the existing runways in the shoulder period.

The most recent councils to join 2M are Haringey in north London and Wycombe where there are concerns about departures from the third runway. The 2M Group is an all-party alliance of local authorities concerned at the environmental impact of Heathrow expansion on their communities. The group, which took its name from the two million residents of the original 12 members, now represents 23 authorities with a combined population of 5 million people and is supported by the Mayor of London.

March 21, 2009