Why London City and Heathrow should liaise on key issues


by John Stewart

Most of us remember Blind Date with some affection.  Cilla Black’s match-making show attracted big audiences on a Saturday night.  Would the couple hit it off on their holiday together?  Would some of them even settle down with one another?

Heathrow and London City Airport need to go on a date.  There are some signs they are getting together.  I understand they are to meet.  What is needed, though, is a full-blown relationship in order to coordinate the key activities which impact on people living under the flight paths of both airports.

And, now more than ever, is the time to do it.  There will significant changes to flight paths over the next few years.  Some have already been made by London City when the airport concentrated its flight paths last year.  There are signs, though, it may be prepared to look again at these unpopular flight paths.  Heathrow will start consulting on new flight paths later this year..

Many of my friends in West London don’t fully realize the numbers impacted by both airports.  Vast swathes of East London from Tower Hamlets, through Newham, Waltham Forest and Redbridge and beyond are overflown by both Heathrow and London City aircraft.  A lot of South East London is similarly affected.

There are two keys ways in which the airports should work together.

One is in producing cumulative noise contours for the affected areas.  At present each airport draws up its own separate noise contours.  That cannot give a comprehensive or realistic picture of the total noise heard by residents.

The second is in coordinating their work on flight paths with the aim of ensuring that the communities overflown by both airports get meaningful breaks from the noise.

The technology now exists for aircraft to be guided more precisely.  It can be used to create multiple flight paths which, if used on a rotating basis, can give the periods of respite that would improve the quality of life for the people under flight paths.

HACAN remains opposed to a third runway at Heathrow because we fear the impact of quarter of a million extra planes a year on local communities but we would suggest that a firm condition of a new runway, if it is given the go-ahead, should be the requirement on Heathrow to work with London City on matters of common concern.

This is not a forced marriage.  Both airports would retain their independence and identity.  But, with the help of other bodies like NATS and the CAA, liaison on noise contours and flight paths is quite possible.  The links the two airports are beginning to make should be encouraged to develop into the sort of solid working relationship that ‘Our Cilla’ would have surely approved of.