“The plane! The plane!” – Fantasy or Nightmare?

Some sky (where planes go)

Older readers may recall the time when the arrival of ‘the plane’ caused mucho excitement. Especially for a very small man in a white suit living on Fantasy Island*. With such excitement at the sight of a single plane, imagine what our little friend Tattoo would have done had he lived in Twickenham. He’d have gone bloody mental that’s what he’d have done. But what about if he’d lived round here? What about that, eh?

The flip side of such high drama at the approach of a single plane is the constant drone of engine noise for anyone living in the vicinity of a modern airport. But some people even like that kind of thing – plane spotters. We’re mostly talking men with ‘mushroom’ coloured anoraks, who live with their mothers and for whom the phrase, “and he seemed such a nice, quiet man” will make the newspapers at some point in the future. Let’s call this group “the nerds”. Bizarrely, we need more nerds. Here’s why…

You may be aware that Heathrow Airport are currently conducting runway trials. Perhaps it’s their revenge for having the third runway kicked into the long grass by the coalition government. OK, perhaps it isn’t revenge but it does stem from a government review and it’s all related to the same issue: capacity. Two runways + loads of planes = problems. Heathrow are trying to find ways to use the runways and airspace in a “more efficient and flexible way”. But could that efficiency and flexibility lead to more disruption for residents and, over time, more flights?

At the moment Heathrow alternates its two runways between take off and landing duties (obviously). Which runways get used and in which direction is based on a schedule that designed to give residents some respite from day long noise and which is also determined by wind direction and the sinister sounding but probably lovely “Cranford Agreement”. Borrrrinnng! But important.

When things get busy, delayed departures on the tarmac and arriving planes stacked up over London costs time and money. The airport has an option to invoke procedures which override its usual alternate runway thingy and allow both runways to be used for landings to clear the backlog.

The Heathrow trials are running over several months and lower the threshold at which these procedures can be invoked. It will also look at other options to increase flexibility and reduce delays. The first trial began on 1 November and will end on 29 February 2012. A second trial will cover July to September of next year. According to the airport, this will improve airport efficiency, reduce flight delays (and fuel burnt circling London) and generally keep things ticking along nicely. There will be no increase in flights, just better management of those flights. Tick. That sounds good. But this flexibility may also lead to a loss of respite (i.e. more noise) for some residents. Not so good. It could mean longer stints of putting up with take-off or landing sessions and greater unpredictability in knowing what to expect when. Although the trials will not see a change to flight numbers, if BAA can find ways of pushing planes through the airport faster then presumably they’d be lobbying for an increase in flights at some point in the future. Third runway? Who needs that?

And THAT is why we need more nerds. Apart from the general irritation of plane noise it’s actually quite difficult to assess whether things are better or worse for you unless you actually prick up your ears, take notice and record it. And if you think there have been a lot of planes taking off and banking over Twickenham recently (and it does seem like it doesn’t it, especially now we’ve put the idea into your head) then can you be sure that it would not have been the same without the trial? No you can’t. It could just be the weather and the wind direction. Nerds would understand this. Nerds could take notes on it.

There is a strong argument which says, “don’t live near an airport if you don’t like planes”. But it’s also important to remember that Spanish owners of Heathrow don’t have an automatic right to determine the noise levels that the residents of west London get to enjoy, there is a wider debate to be had in which all affected parties should be represented, provide feedback and get involved. So, make sure you have your say. Even the nerds.

* Heathrow video of current operations and the trial
* Richmond Council page on how to feedback / complain on the trial
* BBC story
* HACAN Briefing Note
* Airport Watch Item
* Heathrow Airport official information
* Background to the crap TV series “Fantasy Island”


Filed under Local Issues & News

61 responses to ““The plane! The plane!” – Fantasy or Nightmare?

  1. Can I mention that NATS Aeronautical Information Service published a new AIP Supplement on 15th May giving notice that a “Heathrow RNAV1 Easterly SID Trial Phase I” is due to start on 28th July for six months.


    The airport has not updated its website for this trial yet but previous information is at


    RNAV1 allows planes to fly much more closely to routes and it is likely that planes will be less dispersed than previously. It also appears that the trial will involve two routes (MID and SAM) now sharing identical paths for the first part of the flight. Without ground track maps showing likely impacts it is hard to know if effects will be disruptive, but a similar trial involving a new flight path at Gatwick has made headlines :


    Plugging the coordinates for the waypoints of the new route into google maps seems to show that planes will be flying closer to the river in Teddington than hitherto whereas Hampton should be quieter.

    One to watch…….

  2. Phase II of the trials should start (now for 9 months) on 1st July.

    I am told that we should expect a BAA advefrtorial in the local press very shortly.

    Wandsworth have issued a press release saying that the changes to early morning flight timings won’t take place until November.

    The changes to the southern departure routes might mean that there will be more spreading of the overflown areas – possibly with more flights going a bit further north over St. Margarets and Richmond than has been the case in the past. We will see !

  3. MVL

    Fig 17 – average stack holding despite trial is not any different from previous years!

    Fig 32 – departures after 2230 – definitely lower than average but trouble is this does not mean planes stop before 2330. The 15th Dec evening has been the only time this months for Easterly ops and last departure was 2330. Planes may be less frequent, but you only need one to break your sleep!

    Fig 36 – Haven’t a clue how it can be concluded that the fog caused more complaints on 20/21 Nov – reality is that these were all easterlies, as data now acknowledges trial freedoms are not used during easterlies. Moreover number of operations were much lower. The complaints were higher because of 34 unscheduled night departures between 2230-2330 and then 55 past mid night. The trial I thought was designed to manage such situations and if we will still have as many operations late night, what is the point?

    Really do not see a case for daily breach in respite for those under arrivals.

  4. Tim

    For geeks that are interested, Heathrow have published their first monthly report on the Operational Freedom trials this afternoon.

    It is available at


  5. Anonymous

    For geeks who are interested, Heathrow have published their first monthly report on the Operational Freedom trials this afternoon.

    The November report is available at


  6. Anonymous

    Nooooo, the planes are back …….

  7. MVL

    Yes, the people are confused about recent noise over departure paths that cut across Richmond as something to do with the trial.

    But, the complaints are not secondary to hallucinatory experiences, the fact that the noise affects is clear and has to be respected.

    Now the BAA claim that November activity is unusually high – guess what, when averages for the months for which the data provided is calculated it comes to 32.6 (not too far off from expected year` on year avg of 30 – so why say it is unusual).

    I take a crude example to hypothesize here – Egypt, Libya……people suffered decades before voicing their frustration….it does not mean they did not suffer, it takes a trigger.

    The trial has been a trigger that has sensitized people.

  8. Tim

    Teddingtontown has posted the letter from BAA to a local councillor regarding the frequent easterlies in November – asking for the noise issues from that not to be confused with the operational freedom trials:


  9. Tim

    I think Vince is rightly reacting to the comments of his constituents.

    Perhaps it has not worked well for BAA that the initial period of the operational trial coincided with a long run of eaterlies.

    Nor has it helped that they continued to operate the airport after the fog into the small hours of the morning.

    I hope one of his constituents will ask Vince to get the BAA justification provided to DfT to exempt those flights from counting against the allowed quota of night flights. How is the hardship or suffering of the passngers balanced against the hardship or suffering of West London ?

  10. MVL

    ‘Cable has made a fool …’ May be so, however BAA too are mis-guiding people by suggesting we should ‘not ‘ normally expect this level of Easterly winds. Bottom line is you have them 30% of the time over 12 months (same as under each arrival path when you split 70% arrivals by 2) – not more than 10% in summer as per BAA stats, so to make up 30% you would expect easterly winds a lot more in other months. Can’t just blame it on weather – how does it discount the noise pollution experienced by people under departure paths? It is exactly the reason why Ealing – the other borough to have easterly departure paths over them have stated ”EANAG believes that the mitigation scheme should be based for each area on the noisiest 25% of the year” in their response to BAA consultation on noise mitigation scheme.

    As for TEAM arrivals during easterly ops – this is using powers granted and used already rather than current trial. The big difference is as per my reading of page 7 – section 1.7 http://www.caa.co.uk/docs/589/ICF_runway_resilience_final_report_16Feb09.pdf – TEAM basically equates as operating mixed mode and hence drastically different from provisions under current trial.

    The reason why this is vital is when the southern runway is used for TEAM arrivals, take off’s are happening on the same runway – very likely planes being taxied halfway of the 2km long strip and hence taking off at much lower altitude as they bank over north Twickenham = more noise.

    The trial on the other hand shows through its video that its far from mixed mode, in fact when arrivals happen using the trail, there could be a lull in departures – I might just be able to finish at least one conversation without taking pauses!! More importantly the trial promises as per BAA to make way for departures to remain on schedule – the last departure is 2230 – that would be welcome as currently planes keep going until 2315 and then the odd one just past mid night.

    Its clearly unlikely that with northern runway not available for take – off over Cranford the trial is of insignificant value to Richmond during easterlies but as its more likely used during westerlies respite for those in south Hounslow and Twickenham is at risk – Cable at least has got that bit right.

  11. Anonymous

    But Cable’s got his facts totally wrong. As BAA say, the noise is due to easterly winds. It’s nothing to do with the trial. I really think this Cable has made a bit of a fool of himself here.

  12. Anonymous

    Got you. The irony that this flightpath adversely affects the homes of not only some of the richest, most powerful people in west London, but also that of the Queen, should not be overlooked.

  13. Tim

    TEAM* may not apply on easterlies – but they still have the capability to add additional flights by using the take-off southern runway 09R for additional landings (probably in addition to, rather than instead of the arrivals on the northern runway 09L) Thus, as I said

    For instance on 7th November, an all easterly day, we have :

    Total number of TEAM on easterly operations (arrivals on 09R) 44
    Total number of TEAM arrivals on easterly operations after 0700hrs local time (arrivals on 09R) 27

    For those in Old Windsor they probably notice it !

  14. Anonymous

    That’s not really an issue, though, anyway, is it? Planes that are taking off head off in several different directions, rather than flying over one of two flight paths.

  15. MVL

    Reply from BAA to my query –

    ”Alternation does not apply on easterlies due to the Cranford Agreement, which does not allow take off’s from the northern runway on easterlies. Therefore technically alternation does not apply, however we do generally take off from one runway and depart from the other – Heathrow does not have the infrastructure and airspace design to facilitate constant take offs and departures from one runway. This is why in the data operational freedoms and TEAM do not apply on easterlies.”

  16. Simon H

    I am slightly confused by all this data (I have a career in the warm arts), but planes were flying over Richmond this morning and they were still doing it tonight. Seems like the trial was in full effect.

  17. Tim

    Doesn’t the box say :

    Total number of TEAM* arrivals on westerly operations after 0700hrs local time

    So, it doesn’t report TEAM* arrivals on easterlies in this box !!

    For instance on 7th November, an all easterly day, we have :

    Total number of TEAM on easterly operations (arrivals on 09R) 44
    Total number of TEAM arrivals on easterly operations after 0700hrs local time (arrivals on 09R) 27

    In one of the emails from

    they included the comment:

    “2) Arrivals using the southern runway (09R) on easterly operations are not counted as operational freedoms since these are existing operational procedures (used prior to the trial) – hence no use of operational freedoms on easterly operations to date.”

    However, I am still waiting to have a proper explanation of what the triggers for the “existing operational procedures (used prior to the trial)” are and what authority established them.

    I’m also unclear as to the operational freedoms details “TED’s deployed to reduce taxi times”. I don’t remember this as being a trigger condition. But perhaps it is an explanation of what happened within a period when another trigger had already operated. Maybe the more detailed monthly report (which I am told should also include the times that the freedoms were operated) will tell us.

  18. MVL

    Slightly puzzled, hope someone can throw light on this. Trial data suggests that on days of 100% easterly operations = TEAM* = N/A.

    Does this mean the trial does not apply to easterly operations? There are also no normal TEAM arrivals on these pure 110% easterly days. Is this because runway alternation is not possible during easterly ops?

  19. MVL

    Allow me to correct the figures I quote above, I went over my excel spread sheet again. The text should read – ”when compared to September data the number of operations across other 11 months are on average less by just 2 flights per hour (1 arr / 1 dep). December is the only month when compared with September has up to 8 (4 arr / 4 dep) less operations per hour”. Using sensitivity analysis and removing month/s (such as December) where there is a skew we are still left with just 1 arrival and 1 departure less per hour during rest of the 10 months compared to summer peaks of September, this is hardly going to change noise Db in a statistically significant manner. The arguments I make about noise maps and unfair reliance on summer contours still holds (IMO).
    Tim makes an interesting point ”Airlines have preferred to fly mid sized planes at higher frequencies than the large planes less frequently” – The link he provides is worth exploring further as at least theoritically it is possible to work out by what proportion the number of planes over head could be less if Heathrow only operated jets with bigger capacity rather than majority of the medium size planes currently in use.
    Trial data until 27th suggests:
    61% Easterlies (will get lower as westerlies continued rest of Nov). Departures under the trial were used on only 3 days (all westerlies) 25-27, overall average for 27 days is 0.7. In contrast the average arrivals under the trial for 27 days = just over 17. Complaints average during westerlies for same time frame = 10.5 Vs 19.4 during easterly winds. A further break up would have been useful. Of course the practive tests only started on 28th, so its all wait and watch, and the winds will turn the other way before long.

  20. Tim

    It looks from the latest report on heathrowtrial.com that the operational freedoms were used for departures off the arrivals runway on 25/11/11 :

    Total number of TEAM* arrivals on westerly operations after 0700hrs local time 21
    Number of departures operated from the designated arrivals runway (excluding occasions where only one runway is available e.g. (at night or in an emergency) 9

    As they were operating on westerlies we wouldn’t have heard them (unlike the 21 TEAM* arrivals).

  21. MVL

    Am I right in thinking that until now the operational freedom has only been used for arrivals?

    That TEAM* is the data for arrivals under the trial and the header ‘Number of departures operated from the designated arrivals runway (excluding occasions where only one runway is available e.g. at night or in an emergency) is for departures under the trial?

    • Tim

      Yes, I think you are right on both points.

      But it is not worth forgetting that in addition to TEAM* (under the trial) – which is relatively small – there is a much larget number of TEAM (under conditions which haven’t yet been properly explained !) that also break the respite from alternation.

  22. Tim

    I’ve dug out some numbers for passengers per plane and load factors:

    Nationally, for 2009

    international scheduled flights 119 p/patm 72% load factor
    (e.g heathrow 2008,2009 150 150 73% 73%)
    international (no frills carriers) 136 79%
    (e.g. gatwick 147 137 84% 83%
    stansted 144 145 79% 80% )
    international charter 192 88%
    (e.g. gatwick 211 205 89% 87% )
    all domestic 73 67 %

    For some individual routes from Heathrow for 2008, 2009 :

    New York jfk 196 197 74% 77%
    Tokyo nrt 258 263 78 79
    Sydney 297 299 85% 87% (av plane size 348 343)

  23. MVL

    More geeky stuff (apologies in advance).

    Based on 2004 to 2011 (until Oct this year) data from BAA.

    – Average flights (arrivals or departures are roughly similar, for total please multiply by 2) per day = 641.4
    – Average flights per hour = 40.08 (16 hour day).
    – Sept Peak = 41.46 flights per hour
    – Compared to peak stats above, rest of the months have on average 1 flight less per day (Dec being least busy at 4 less flights per day).

    – Year’s passenger average = 67,196,898
    – Sept peak passengers = 6547450
    – Sept on average has 34291 additional passengers PER DAY than other 11 months (range of 67159 in Feb to 18090 in Nov).

    Now the first set of data shows that on average compared to Sept over 7 years there is one less flight per day during the other 11 months.

    But this can’t explain 34K less passengers (17K arrivals and equal number departures) per day in months other than Sept. One plane could not carry 17K people.

    There is only one way to make sense of this data – Although almost same numbers of flights operate each day, substantial numbers of flights are flying empty seats at least 11 of 12 months each day (presuming every seat is occupied in Sept).

    Presuming an average of 100 passengers per plane as maximum average capacity per plane (across different classes of planes) we could fly 34 0 flights less per day = 125K flights less per year!!

    The data also shows how wrong it is to consider only summer noise contours (summer is used because it is described as peak period of activity). But we know that number of Flights rest of the year are less by only 1 per day (maximum 4 planes a day in Dec).

    The days of more planes for serving more passengers during summer are long gone. But as number of flights across the year is almost same per day noise maps will differ depending on which 90 days are used to compute the contours.


    I know certain proportion is freight only planes (those numbers are not provided by BAA separately), but for sake of simplicity I have presumed this number remains same across year and probably still have similar conclusions.

    Happy to be corrected as I can’t vouch I have it absolutely right.

    • Tim

      Planes are usually far from full – I think I saw somewhere that Stephen Fry was on a A380 at the weekend and had counted 192 empty seats! From memory, I have an idea that typical load factors are 75% – but I’ll check up some data on route information that was used to validate the model for the DfT Air Passenger Forecast that came out in the summer and let you know. Load factors also vary with the business model that the air-line uses. Charters from Gatwick will have a much higher load factor than routine Heathrow departures where I guess BA may like to have a few spare seats so that it can usually accept a businessman racing into the terminal at the last minute.

      Geeks may be interested in the reports on Heathrow by ACL (the slot coordinator) which show how they are expecting things to work out at the start of each season.


      I found it interesting the other day looking at the archived HACAN
      stuff of Dermot Cox presenting his arguments to the T5 enquiry and
      questioning whether the BAA forecast for 2013 with 453,000 air
      movements transporting 80 million passengers was realistic, Seems
      unlikely to me !

      Airlines have preferred to fly mid sized planes at higher frequencies than the large planes less frequently – hence BAA can’t fill T5 with the passengers it expected with the number of flights it can cram down two runways.

  24. Tim

    “I can understand planes may have to land at odd hours (can’t imagine them circle around with empty tanks). But departures?”

    During the recent fog chaos I think there was a tweet from Pixie Geldhof saying that after a protracted hold, her plane had been forced to land at Gatwick, I think. After refuelling it then took off for the hop to Heathrow !

    Under the current night flying restrictions, the planes can do whatever they like at night provided that over the summer or winter seasons they don’t exceed the quota allowances for movements or noise quota (different planes have different values depending on how noisy they are (or are thought to be !). Government sets the values for the allowances based on balancing the economic benefits of night flights (as presented by the airlines) with the disbenefits (including waking up London).

    Some flights get exemptions. Guidelines below:

    I think it is fair enough to use quota (although in the next round of night flights consultation – coming shortly- I will be joining the crowd in asking for a night ban and Zac Goldsmith has been telling the industry that they need to present a much better economic case than they have in the past if they want to escape with a chance…) – but I don’t like exemptions being granted without some degree of scrutiny by the regulators. The last time I looked, it appeared as if a Heathrow clerk ticked a box on a form and posted it off without supporting details !


    It will be interesting to see if the flights over Sunday/Monday are disregarded or use quota.

    75. The airport companies may disregard night movements in the following exceptional circumstances:
    • Delays to aircraft which are likely to lead to serious congestion at the aerodrome or serious hardship or suffering to passengers or animals
    • Delays to aircraft resulting from widespread and prolonged disruption of air traffic.

    78. There can be unforeseen circumstances which lead to severe delay at the airport. In these situations, the absolute minimum number of aircraft necessary to relieve hardship may be disregarded from the night restrictions. During the course of the current regime there were few disregards at Gatwick and Stansted, the majority were at Heathrow.
    Disregards at Heathrow are by no means a daily, or even weekly occurrence and will continue to be monitored carefully by the Department and reported to the airport’s consultative committee. There was agreement amongst the airline industry that these disregards are necessary to accommodate these specific unforeseen circumstances which may lead to hardship, although some felt that the guidelines were too strict and not enough movements had been disregarded.
    79. Some consultees among the local community felt that no movements should be disregarded for any reason. The Secretary of State considers that there still needs to be some flexibility in the system to ensure the smooth operation of the airport. The general principle behind the use of these powers is that emergencies or other unusual circumstances occur from time to time but by their nature cannot be predicted. Therefore
    it would not be practical to count them against a movements limit or noise quota as the number of movements and quota available for general use would then be dependent on the number used for emergencies and unusual circumstances.
    80. It has been policy to allow for these unusual movements within the night restrictions regime by specifying the circumstances in which movements may be disregarded rather than impose a regime which may give rise to requests for special treatment.

    • MVL

      Thanks. Its more in reference to future consultations on night flights, there will be one in spring 2012. I appreciate there are night quota’s as of now but there are a lot many who will also advocate a ban on night flights. Within that context my personal view is – nothing can be so pressing (what ever the hardships to passengers waiting overnight and costs to airliners / insurer’s) as to make a plane depart at night. With arrivals the situation may be very different. If there was a plane from Paris to NY and it develops a fault over London, it would have to land somewhere.

  25. MVL

    Thanks for the lead on the night plane above. I have lodged my complaint. I can understand planes may have to land at odd hours (can’t imagine them circle around with empty tanks). But departures? The airline has to accomodate passengers in hotels until next day. BAA has purchased properties in Sipson, they should build a hotel just for this purpose.

    The trial is fast approaching the 28th Nov when further triggers (proactive tests) will be used as under for 4 week period . I suspect we may see much more use of the ”operational freedom” during this period.

    Extract from BAA website on proactive tests:
    During the first phase of the trial, these tests will be used during two four week periods, the dates of which are 28th November 2011 – 25th December 2011 and 16th January 2012 – 12th February 2012.

    These proactive tests are:

    1) Landing Airbus A380 on the designated departures runway; The A380 is the biggest aircraft that operates at the airport. Due to the vortex it produces, aircraft behind it have to allow a greater distance when coming into land. The knock-on effect is that the arrival’s programme can be delayed allowing for the A380 to come in before smaller aircraft can then make their approach to land. The airport is testing what difference it would make to the arrival schedule by allowing the aircraft to land on the departure runway.

    2) Landing small aircraft on the designated departures runway; and Smaller aircraft are affected by the vortex produced by larger aircraft and therefore more spacing is needed between them. Heathrow is interested in testing whether the landing flow of aircraft can be improved, whilst reducing the number of aircraft held in the stack, by taking the smaller aircraft out of the current arrival flow and landing them on the designated departure runway.

    3) Use of the southern runway for Terminal 4 arrivals and departures; Terminal 4 is situated south of the southern runway and therefore permitting arriving and departing aircraft to operate from the southern runway, will result in a shorter taxi route for the aircraft. This will have the added benefit of reducing ground noise and emissions and avoiding crossing the southern runway and so reducing disruption.

  26. Tim

    And the complaints rocketed to 60 on 21st November !

    At the Putney meeting last night I was surprised to learn that the triggers for the second (summer) period of trials were not necessarily the same ones that apply at the moment. It was described that the Minister might want to change them.

    It was also said that the Minister had specified the number and timing of focus groups to provide info on the trial . Two had taken place (Hounslow and Putney) in October ; another two due in January and another two after the second trial, I think.

    The Putney people under the southern flight path were surprised to hear of the proactive tests of preferentially landing terminal four aircraft on the southern runway throughout the day…….

  27. MVL

    They also registered twice the average number of complaints despite 86 scheduled arrivals not arriving and 97 cancelled departures. Max time spent by any one plane in the stack – 64 minutes!! Average time in stack = 13 minutes. That is 3 times more than the average over first 17 days for former, and 8 times for latter. Yes there was the fog – but is the trial not mooted with the very idea of managing such situations?

    Were there more flights the following day? We should soon find out. Having said I am certain I was woken up at 0124 of the night of 20th, wee hours of 21st by a departing plane ……and I did not file my complaint as I was woken in to a stupor and could not be certain if I just dreamt it (says a lot – I might have PTSD from the planes living in West London…….but is there any part of London not affected given the number of ports all round?).

  28. Anonymous

    The heathrowtrial.com data for 20th Nivember has now appeared on the site (following Bath Wineman’s comment above).

    Strangely ,rather than numbers, it reports

    Number of departures between 2230 – 2330 local time that were not scheduled to operate during this period 34
    Number of night quota movements for flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) OUTSTANDING
    Number of quota count points used for flights that operated between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) OUTSTANDING
    Number of night quota movements dispensations/exemptions applied to flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals and Departures) OUTSTANDING

    I presume that this means that they are still collecting or agreeing what the data should be – rather than praising themselves for the number of night flights achieved !

    • Tim

      The heathrowtrial.com report for the late departures due to fog on 20th November has been revised. The “OUTSTANDING” figures have been changed to include the quota count points and movements :

      Number of departures between 2230 – 2330 local time that were not scheduled to operate during this period 34
      Number of movements for flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) 55
      Number of quota count points used for flights that operated between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) 49
      Number of movements dispensations/exemptions applied to flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals and Departures) 52

      It would appear that dispensations/exemptions have been applied !

  29. Simon H

    The planes are back to their normal landing path tonight. That said, you can still hear them—albeit gently—more than a mile and a half away. If I lived in Hounslow, I’d go genuinely mental, I think.

  30. Tim

    I also thought there was a problem with the Boris Island in that some of the air-space needed to organise the flights belongs to the Netherlands – and the Dutch don’t want to transfer it because it would affect Schipol…….

    I’ve finally found a reference to BAA delaying the planning application to do the taxi-way work to permit full alternation on easterlies (= full implementation of revoking the Cranford Agreement)


    “HEATHROW bosses have decided to postpone their application for work which will enable scheduled take-offs over Cranford.

    Airport owner BAA revealed this week it will wait for the results of the ongoing Operational Freedoms trial before submitting an application for the necessary work to taxiways……………”

  31. MVL

    Allow me to steer this to the Boris Island this morning.

    From a purely selfish perspective I would vote for it. But I am not convinced its the right way forward –
    1) Heathrow operates 480k flights a year.
    2) 100k are flights to destination within striking distance by train (includes places like Leeds/ B’ham / Man / Edin / Paris / Brussels
    3) A similar number I believe is just transit passengers, Heathrow just happens to a stop in between. This lot contributes pittance to UK economy.
    4) HS2 could potentially cater for people linked to point 2
    5) Those who need a hub to transfer over – surely this traffic can be better distributed across UK
    6) Add to this % of half empty flights (there is a figure somewhere, can’t locate a source) – but I once flew to the sub-continent, could not get a direct long haul and hence took Air Italia first to Athens and then the long haul. The flight to ATH had 20 people on board!!
    7) It is BAA’s job to make too much out ‘economic gains’ from further expansion. Their own report suggest UK would lose £14 billion over a decade unless Heathrow operations increased. Yet, we know that Aviation Industry enjoyes 11bn subsidy per year alone – huge losses for the economy.

    If there is a convincing argument for the island or another place – so be it. But what is clear is far from increasing capacity, Heathrow should reduce current operations to 75% of max capacity (several organisations have asked for this repeatedly).

  32. Simon H

    Though I agree with your basic point, I think you may be a bit out with your figures, too, MVL. This graph from the Met Office shows that about 80-90% of winds are westerly.


  33. Tori

    We live on the outskirts of Whitton and have noticed a substantial increase in noise levels since the trials began. So loud that we cannot even hear each other speak properly, or the TV if we have it on. It’s absolutely barmy, and according to Heathrow, we’re not in their flight path. We laid in bed last night and there was at least one jet every two minutes until around 12.20. We moved here in January, and there were some flights, the odd one or two, but never very noticeable. Now, it’s driving me insane, and I’m hard of hearing. I’ve sent another complaint to Heathrow just now, but it looks like we’ll have to put up with this for the duration of the trial, and then probably in the future too.

    • Tim

      I think it is mainly coincidence that since 1st November we have mainly had no wind or winds from the east-ish and consequently Heathrow have been operating departures over West London.

      The maps at the back of


      may help in showing how close you are to the flightpaths – I don’t expect the paths to change with the trial.

      Looking at the wind forecasts for Heathrow on xcweather, I am sure they will be back on westerlies by Wedbesday, and possibly as early as tomorrow lunchtime !

    • MVL

      Exactly the point I have been stressing. Easterly winds dominate from late autumn to early spring and its like hell days on end. Come day after the winds change but we have had them now since 7th or so non-stop.

      Every human wants to feel they have some ‘control’ over their life. Those under ‘arrivals’ get this through a published schedule as to which runway will be used until / from 3pm. One can at least plan BBQ accordingly!! In contrast there is no predictable respite during easterly departures – if we invite someone conversation has to happen between drones.

      And its not as if solutions are not possible (departure flight path swathes are 3km wide and can be used more fairly), its more a question of ‘will’ – authorities and NIMBYs included.

  34. Tim

    I’m not sure if what happened yesterday was really affected by the trial – we mightt find out when the daily reports for Sunday and Monday are released on heathrowtrial.com later in the week. ( In fact, were the bit of the trial to start using departures from both runways implemented and things took off over Cranford, some of the flights going directly over you in Strawberry Hill would go a bit further north (over Twickenham Green ?) and you might get some benefit. – though I might not want to admit there could be benefits from the trial !)

    The daily reports have boxes for

    Number of departures between 2230 – 2330 local time that were not scheduled to operate during this period 5
    Number of night quota movements for flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) 1
    Number of quota count points used for flights that operated between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals/Departures) 4
    Number of night quota movements dispensations/exemptions applied to flights between 2330-0430 local time (Arrivals and Departures) 0

    (this data is from the 15th Nov report)

    So it might be that the night quota movements and points tallies got a battering last night (we’ll see) – but I think under exceptional circunstances, BAA can apply to have night flights made exempt (under grounds something like that if they didn’t do so it would cause exceptional hardship to passengers….)

    Again, rather like the suspension of the fingerprint checking at the Heathrow border control points, it strikes me as if exceptional procedures are put in place to handle unusual occurreneces – but over time and under pressure from relentless increases in activity, the supposedly tactical measures get eroded until they are operated as quasi-routine………

    The big 2008 CAA Resilience Report


    which set the path for the current trial analysed Heathrow operations and concluded that they usually had around 300 normal, (green) days a year, 50 disrupted (amber) days and 15 chaotic (red) days. The hope was that additonal freedoms allowed on the amber days would permit timely recovery (resilience) on the orange days – but nothing would save the red days, My guess is that yesterday was a red day. My fear is that without proper oversight, BAA will exploit the freedoms daily (or just more TEAM under the “current conditions” – whatever they are) to give marginal improvements in punctuality at the cost of twin streams of flights coming in to the airport throughout the day.

  35. Bath wineman

    Bad day in Strawberry Hill. Busy aircraft traffic all afternoon – till well in the evening (23.45 as I right this). Plenty of planes still going over now (5 after the 11.30 threshold – so every 3 minutes). This trial doesn’t look good for us.

  36. MVL

    Cheers. The departure paths have 1.5km on either side of central line making up the official path. There is thus scope to legitimately distribute the traffic better within 3km bandwidth.

    As things stand, hardly any flights take off over Cranford and this is still so since start of the trial, in fact operational freedoms have hardly been used during easterlies.

    The BAA (as I read it) are avoiding work related noise as it can confound trial findings (possibly increase complaints from those close by) and hence decided to delay taxi work.

    I agree revoking the Cranford agreement serves Windsorians well but does little for the plight of people under easterly departures who live much closer (and in areas more densely populated) than Windsor is to the airport.

    There is every reason for those under arrivals to expect better but the point raised here is one of how the residents under easterly departures continue to get a raw deal and should expect more from the BAA and authorities. The expectations of these two groups are not mutually exclusive.

  37. Tim

    When the trial gets round to using the northern runway for departures I think they will be alternating departure paths more ! Twickenham may benefit but Cranford and new swathes of Ealing won’t !!

    I would agree the contours are misleading and the whole very busy hour of 6 to 7 am is not included (it is too early for the 16 hour day starting at 0700 and too late for the restrictions from the quota of movements for the night!)

    • MVL

      Irrespective of what runway is used, unlike arrivals the departure paths are ‘same’ (check BAA easterly departure maps). Carnford agreement was revoked to allow ‘fair distribution’ but that in reality will not occur without modifying the use of current departure paths. And now BAA have decided to delay making a planning application to carry out work on taxi-ways on northern runway so the noise from work is confused for noise related to trial – sensible at one level, but utter non-sense at another level given its a folly to presume Hillingdon Council was going to grant permissions within weeks and work would begin before autumn next year.

    • Tim

      Trying to unpick this :

      The departure paths for the two runways (09L and 09R) are different – see, say the SIDS (sytandard instrument departures) given in Fig 3 of
      Admittedly by the time the planes get to Twickenham, the departures to the waypoints SAM and MID are now both the same – but the route to DVR/DET is further north ( instead of its route centred over Strawberry Hill rail station, it now crosses over Twickenham Green. And the BUZ/BPK departures over Osterley Park now head much closer to Southall.

      As I understood the revoking of the Cranford Agreement, the fair distribution was to avoid all the landings on eastelies coming over Windsor Castle (and thereabouts). When it goes, landings can be shared between there and southern runway landings going over Old Windsor instead.

      Can you give the source for your info on the delaying of the planning application for taxi-way work ?

      My understanding is that BAA claim to be able to carry out the programme of “operational freedom” trials involving departures on both runways, which will involve revoking the Cranford Agreement, without needing to carry out further modification to taxi-ways. I believe that the minor modification



      is not designed to assist northern runway departures (though surely it must help) and I would suspect that this work would be done next Spring before the second round of operational freedom trials for the Olympics.

      I didn’t understand the “noise from work confused with noise from trial” comment.

      Regarding planning permission, the minor taxi-way modification above has been allowed under permitted development. But the more extensive modifications that need to be made to permit full alternation are subject to full scrutiny by Hillingdon and I think full environmental statements of the impacts of the proposed changes need to be prepared by BAA before consideration by Hillingdon.

  38. MVL

    Some figures in the above comments are incorrect.

    Easterly winds prevailed 35% in 2010 and average 30% a year. They are worst in winter and early spring (Easter this year we had 21 days Easterlies non-stop). There are 6 departure flight paths, 4 over Richmond. Like for like (same plane at same altitude) the departure noise is substantially higher. Planes take-off once every 1-3 minutes, worst periods are evenings.

    Everyone is obsessed about loss of alternation through this trial over arrival paths, but people forget those who live under departure paths. Last years 65% arrivals over London when split by virtue of alternation equates as less than 33% of arrivals over head across the year, lower than % time noise people under departure paths suffered.

    Despite this, arrival paths get noise mitigation cover but residents under departure paths get nothing!!! WHY? Deceit is the the answer – BAA and Government take only summer readings in to account – a time when easterly winds occur once every ten days on average. Further they use LEQ measures rather than EU standard of Lden methods (average for day, evening and night are taken separately) with further weight of 5 -10 times added – As per Richmond Council’s response to BAA noise mitigation, this and WHO states fact that noise annoys above 50db equals mitigation up to Barnes.

    The problems of north Twickenham are worsened because the BAA refuse to instruct planes using DVR path for departures fly true to their central line or use 1.5km adjacent to same towards Hounslow. The reason, at cost of being branded a conspiracy theory is simple in my analysis. If planes flew closer to their central line on DVR path, the fringe areas bordering current noise mitigation scheme will become eligible for same increasing costs for BAA.

    The trial is just an extension of selfish self serving interests of BAA. Its a step back, rather than trialing ways of alternating departure paths and providing mitigation measures to more people, the intent is to ruin the respite arrangements for those who get it currently.

    Shame on BAA.

  39. Tim

    P.S. Another opportunity for your questions not to be answered is in Putney on Wednesday :


    “A public meeting will take place next week where borough residents can question airport operator BAA about the flight pattern trial now taking place at Heathrow.

    The event takes place at 7.30pm, Wednesday 23 November, at the Brewer Building , Putney High Street. ……..”

  40. Tim

    The trials are being done without consultation – but the Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers and the Civil Aviation Authority say they expect BAA at Heathrow to engage with the local authorities / communities / other stakeholders. And I think they say they expect “full and transparent” engagement at that.
    Unfortunately, I think that has just amounted to running a workshop session with local authority representatives to tell them what they were going to do (as far as they know it at the time) and posting 300,000 leaflets giving sketchy info to some of the affected households. (It was originally 150,000 leaflets, but troublesome places like Wandsworth and Hammersmith and Fulham wanted some too.)
    At Zac Goldsmith’s Richmond meeting last week, one of the questioners quoted from a BAA ?press release saying that Heathrow had talked with local community groups about the trials and asked which ones they were in the borough of Richmond. Nigel Milton, their spin-meister, said that they had not refused an invitation to speak with anyone ! We’ll take that as a no.
    He did say the Kew Society had tried to arrange a session but they couldn’t agree a date – and Heton Residents Association have an event in early December.
    Once the trials are done, after the Olympics, there is supposed to be a full consultation – but as we don’t know what is being measured, by who and whether it is properly independent, one can’t at the moment be sure that the trial results presented in the consultation will be worth the paper it is printed on.
    Daily reports (such as they are) are being put up at heathrowtrial.com. They used to report (for the first couple of days) the times that the trial triggers had been invoked – but they stopped doing that. “We don’t want to make mistakes…. we’re not able to do that.” was the response when I phoned the contact number. They will try to see if the info can be put in the monthly report and will get back to me.
    A couple of days ago there was a Westminster Hall debate on the Aviation Industry. It included a couple of lines from Theresa Villiers on the trials :


    “Our south-east airport taskforce also included proposals to improve resilience and address delays. As a result, we are trialling the tactical use of greater operational freedoms at Heathrow. This is very sensitive, because those freedoms mean that occasionally there will be some incursions into the respite period, with occasional use of both runways for departures, or, occasionally, use of both runways for arrivals. However, I emphasise that that is not mixed mode and the Government remain committed to runway alternation and the benefits it brings. Very careful consideration will be given to the impact of the trial on local communities. I emphasise that the measures being trialled are only to be used to improve resilience, and prevent or recover from disruption, and not to increase capacity, which remains capped at current levels.”

    I don’t know what you mean by occasional – but the daily reports routinely show 30 – 40 flights a day landing out of alternation and that is WITHOUT the new freedoms being implemented !

  41. Alex

    Noise has in increased in the twickenham area our flat now shakes when a plane goes over

  42. Simon H

    Yes, there are lots of take-offs at present, but, as I say, that’s just a temporary thing because of the unusual wind direction. Important everyone focuses on the right issue, I think.

  43. Beeanchor

    I’m a proto-nerd, in as much as I get excited when the A380 flies over, know which runway is being used and can identify a McDonnell-Douglas when I see one … That said, I don’t live with my mother and the only thing I own in a shade of mushroom is eyeshadow.

    Having presented my credentials and established my credibility, I would argue that I have definitely noticed an significant increase in the number of take-offs over our house (near the Green) and it is definitely disruptive and annoying. We never seemed to suffer too badly, with a higher ratio of (quieter) landings to (noisy) take offs.

    Does anyone know if there’s any kind of public consultation element to these trials? Nothing would make me happier than raiding the office stationery cupboard for a spiral bound notebook and keeping a log of the number of times I yell at noisy aircraft through the skylight …

  44. Anonymous

    I think it’s really only the north tip of Twickenham (St Margarets) that’s directly affected by the trial. The planes take off over the main part of town only when the wind is blowing from the east (about one day in ten). They are at the moment, as it happens. But that’s not to underplay things in any way. You can hear the planes landing from the east very loudly in St Margarets and the loss of respite (which, effectively, could mean all-day noise) has the potential to drive everyone mad. R