HACAN East gives broad welcome to Airspace Consultation

Airspace Policy Consultation

 On February 2nd the Department for Transport (DfT) launched its Airspace Consultation.  It is a national consultation.  The closing date for responses is 25th May.

 On the same day the DfT launched its consultation on a 3rd runway at Heathrow.  For more details of that consultation visit the website of HACAN, our sister organisation:  www.hacan.org.uk   

 HACAN East broadly welcomes the Airspace Policy Consultation.  Below we summarise the key points.

 You can find the consultation at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/589099/uk-airspace-policy-consultation-executive-summary.pdf  (summary).  Responses to be emailed to airspace.policy@dft.gsi.gov.uk

 Remember, in order to respond, you don’t need to be an expert.   Just say what you think and explain how aircraft noise affects you.  But also feel free to use the points below.

 Key points

 The concentration of London City Airport’s flight paths in February 2016 caused a lot of grief across many communities.  The introduction of concentrated flight paths at Gatwick also resulted in a huge number of complaints.  The reaction of residents at London City and Gatwick to their concentrated flight paths was one of the things that persuaded the Department of Transport to produce this Airspace Policy Consultation.  And it contains much that residents under London City flight paths will welcome.

 It is proposing much more public engagement before new flight paths are introduced or changes are made to existing flight paths.  This is to be welcomed.

It says that multiple routes are an option to avoid concentration over particular communities.  This is welcomeIt argues that noise should be the key issue when flying planes below 4,000 ft and only one of the factors between 4,000 and 7,000 ft.  That would be a continuation of the current situation.  On the basis of where complaints come to us, HACAN East argues that noise should be the main consideration up until at least 6,000ft.

 It proposes an Independent Noise Authority, ICCAN.  It proposes a fully independent body; advisory rather than regulatory.  Funding would come from Government to pay for a Board and a Secretariat.   It would be housed within the CAA but independent of it.  Local communities generally welcome the setting up of an Independent Noise Authority but will want guarantees that it will be truly independent and will have teeth.

 It is proposing new metrics to replace the 57 decibel contour as ‘the onset of community annoyance’.  This 57 decibel contour has been much criticized as not reflecting reality.  For example, places like Leyton and Leytonstone are outside the 57 contour yet ircraft noise is clearly a problem.  The DfT proposes replacing it with a 54 decibel contour and even, on occasion, with a 51 decibel contour.  These are overdue changes which will reflect more accurately the areas where noise is a problem.   


Survey confirms Waltham Forest the 3rd most overflown borough in London

Research carried out by the campaign group HACAN has confirmed that Waltham Forest is the third most overflown borough in London (1).  Although Hounslow and Richmond occupy first and second place, the survey revealed that only three of the top 12 most overflown boroughs are in West London.

HACAN calculated the combined impact of Heathrow and London City aircraft on each borough.  It didn’t factor in the heights of the planes; only the number flying over each borough.  It follows up a similar study carried out in 2009.  It also put Hounslow, Richmond and Waltham Forest in the top three positions.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Our survey once again shows that aircraft noise is not just confined to West London.  It has become a London-wide problem.  Somewhere like Waltham Forest is bombarded by planes from both Heathrow and London City airports.”

HACAN found that the most significant change from the 2009 survey was the reduction in the number of flights over some of the inner London boroughs such as Camden and Islington.  This was matched by an increase in flights over the South East London boroughs of Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth.  It put it down to the introduction of concentrated London City flight paths over these boroughs plus the fact that aircraft coming into land at Heathrow appear to be crossing the Thames further east than was previously the case.

The study comes out at the start of an important year for aviation.  In a few weeks the Government is expected to release its consultation document on a Heathrow third runway as well as a consultation on future airspace strategy.



Concentrated flight paths bring a flood of complains

Press Release

29/8/16 for immediate use

 Concentrated flight paths bring a flood of complains

London City Airport’s decision to concentrate all its flights paths earlier this year has resulted in a flood of complaints.  HACAN East, which gives a voice to residents under the flight paths, today launched a short report outlining some of the complaints they received in just one month - read report: HACAN East booklet

John Stewart, chair of the campaign group, said, “We have received dozens of complaints over the last month.  The hot weather has made people particularly aware of the planes.  The concentrated flight paths have brought complaints from many areas for the first time.  The complaints have come from vast swathes of east and south east London.”

One person in south London said, “We have gone from having little or no flights to one every 3 minutes.  Some of us have spent a lifetime trying to get on the housing ladder only for this to happen.”

Another wrote: “I moved to Dagenham from Kingsland Road in Hackney in 2014 because my family & I wanted more peace and quiet; now it's noisier than living on Kingsland Road in Hackney; we are heart-broken.”

Stewart said that HACAN East has met with the airport who said they ‘have not closed their mind’ to looking again at the concentrated flight paths but will not do so until next year after the Government has issued its forthcoming consultation on national airspace policy.


Meeting with the Civil Aviation Authority

Our Chair, John Stewart and Campaign Co-Ordinator Rob Barnstone met with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Wednesday [15 June] to discuss the concentrated flight paths at London City Airport.

The CAA fielded at team of five and gave us nearly 2 hours.

They are aware of the unhappiness amongst communities and local authorities at their decision to allow City Airport to concentrate its flight paths in February 2016.

They listened to what we had to say.


We outlined the problems:

Things had changed noticeably for many communities in East and NE London. City Airport had argued that they could get away with minimal consultation because the changes they were making were not significant as many of the planes were already flying something approaching concentrated routes.  We pointed out that many people had noticed a real difference since February. 

We also pointed out that the CAA seemed to have no mechanism to look at changes over time.  The only reason City Airport could even begin to argue during the consultation that some of the changes proposed were not significant (for example, departures over Leyton, Leytonstone and Wansted areas) was because “significant changes” had been made in 2008 when the flight paths were changed to accommodate the larger planes which needed to make a much wider turn when leaving the airport.  The smaller ‘turbo-prop’ planes made a sharp turn when taking off, barely flying over many of the areas that now are under a concentrated flight path.  The CAA seemed to accept our point that there was no organisation responsible for assessing the changes over time.


This map shows the current concentrated flight paths across north-east London

This map shows the current concentrated flight paths across north-east London

We also outlined what the February changes meant for South London.  City aircraft fly over South London when an east wind is blowing before turning over the West End and City to land at the airport.  Until February they were dispersed pretty widely over South London but now they are concentrated over particular communities.  Most of these communities are overflown by Heathrow planes on the days there is a west wind.  They now get concentrated City aircraft when there is an east wind, thus no break from aircraft noise.  The CAA accepted that there was no organisation which assessing the implication of these kind of flight path changes.

The concentrated route across south-London

The concentrated route across south-London

We stressed that respite was important to local communities.  The CAA felt the introduction of respite was difficult in East and North East London because the airspace City aircraft use is very constrained – largely by Heathrow aircraft. Therefore, spreading City aircraft or creating additional flights paths (in order for those under concentrated flight paths to obtain respite) would be difficult.  They accepted that this would be less problematic South London, although an expansion of the airspace which City aircraft are permitted to use might be required.

The CAA outlined what happens next:

City Airport is required to gather data on whether the airspace changes made in February are functioning as expected.  The data gathered will also include a noise impact – City Airport would need to record any unintended consequences.  That data must arrive at the CAA by February 2017 (although the CAA would be looking for a 6-month interim report).  The CAA will then analyse that data and decide within three months, in May 2017, whether changes need to be made or to authorise the continuation of the scheme.  However, the CAA played down the likelihood that they would intervene to make changes, and they certainly won’t propose or initiate changes.  They are likely, though, to take into consideration any significant discontent from local communities or local authorities about the changes.

It became clear that pressure needs to be put on the airport by communities and local authorities to consider changes.  City Airport is keen on the concentrated routes because they make it easier to guide planes when landing and taking off.  NATS also like them because the new computer technology in the planes means that air traffic controllers are much less involved in guiding the them, thus saving NATS time and money.


What do we do next?

HACAN East will:

·         Lobby City Airport to abandon its current plan to concentrate all its flight paths over particular communities and instead to introduce respite so people an get some relief from the noise

·         Bring together a cross-party group of politicians to assist in this lobbying

·         Organise a series of public meetings to inform local communities about the latest development

·         Encourage local people to email and write to the airport and the CAA.

What you can do:

Email or write to the airport and the CAA to tell them about your experience of living under the concentrated flight paths. Two key contacts are below.


London City Airport: James Shearman, Environment Manager at:

London City Airport, City Aviation House, Royal Docks, London E16 2PB

Email: environment@londoncityairport.com

Or call +44 (0)207 646 0200


Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) - information or complaints concerning flight paths:

Directorate of Airspace Policy, K6 G7, CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE

Email: aree@caa.co.uk


Please include info@hacaneast.org.uk in your emails to one of the above organisations, as it helps us build an even broader picture of your thoughts and feelings on the issue.

Angry Residents Pack Public Meeting


On a cold and wet Friday evening  on 22nd April, angry residents packed a Public Meeting staged by HACAN East in Leytonstone.  The meeting heard from HACAN East chair John Stewart and from local MP John Cryer.

Resident after resident told the meeting about how their quality of life has got a lot worse since the flight paths from City Airport were concentrated over them.  But both John Cryer and John Stewart felt that, as a result of the pressure that has been brought, both London City Airport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are becoming more response to residents.

John Stewart is expected to be invited by the CAA to a meeting to talk about how local residents can become involved in the review of the concentrated flight paths which the CAA must conduct before February 2017.

And it became clear at the recent Public Inquiry into City Airport's expansion plans that, in response to pressure from MPs, local councils and residents, Newham Council (the planning authority for the airport) looks like it will become more rigorous in ensuring that City Airport obeys the rules and regulations under which it is allowed to operate. 

HACAN East Advice: Legal challenge to decision to concentrate flight paths unlikely to succeed

HACAN East consulted lawyers to ask whether there was any reasonable chance of challenging the CAA’s decision to allow the concentrated flight paths in court. (The concentrated flight paths were introduced on February 4th 2016).  It seems not. 

 The CAA argued that City Airport was allowed to carry out a minimalist consultation (a technical document on its website and discussions behind closed doors at the supine consultation committee) because the change was minimal.

 It argued that, because a lot of the planes already flew the proposed concentrated routes, the proposed change to concentrate the flight paths was not significant enough to require a fuller consultation.

 Our lawyers say that, in law, they may be correct.  But, if this is right, in our view it just shows how inadequate a body the CAA is to carry out this function – see blog: The CAA – in urgent need to significant reform

Testing Times for London City

A useful article, reproduced from Airways News, on the current state-of-play at City Airport. The original article can be accessed at http://airwaysnews.com/blog/2016/02/09/testing-times-for-london-city/


By Alan Dron in London / Published: February 9, 2016

Like the airliners that take off from its short runway, London City Airport (LCY) has been climbing steeply in recent years. But a combination of factors suggests the airport is running into turbulence. Its expansion plans have been blocked, its largest operator is threatening to reduce, or even withdraw, its services and a new flightpath plan is arousing the ire of nearby suburbs.

Built on abandoned wharves in London’s old dock area east of the city center in the 1980s, the airport has benefited hugely from being adjacent to the new Docklands financial district, which has boomed over the same period.

Financiers and executives are just a 15-minute taxi ride away from the compact terminal’s front door. And, in a throwback to the golden days of 1960s aviation, executives with only carry-on items can theoretically be walking across the apron to their flight just 15 minutes later. (If you need to check baggage, the airport recommends a 30-minute minimum.) It’s a very slick operation.


The airport operates with a single runway – 27/09 – that is 4327ft (1319m) long by 100ft (30m) wide. This limits usage to regional jets and turboprops, which have to make a steep, 5.5⁰ approach from the west to clear the Docklands’ district’s high-rise buildings. Bombardier Q400s, Embraer E-Jets and Avro RJs are the usual inhabitants of the apron, soon to be joined by Sukhoi Superjets when Ireland’s CityJet starts to take delivery of 15 this spring. Destinations are primarily short-haul western European, although British Airways (BA) operates a twice-daily, all-business class Airbus A318 from LCY to New York JFK.

RELATED: Long Haul on a Short Plane: An Analysis and Trip Report of British Airways JFK-LCY Service [Part One] / [Part Two] / [Part Three] / [Part Four]

A record 4.3 million passengers passed through LCY last year, a rise of 18% compared to 2014. But with success comes problems. The airport needs to expand. Soon.

Under the City Airport Development Programme (CADP), LCY proposed extending the terminal and adding aircraft stands to provide much-needed additional capacity. It already had permission to increase the number of annual movements from the current 70,000-plus to 120,000 by 2023.

In February 2015, the London Borough of Newham, within which LCY is located, approved the CADP. The following month, however, London mayor Boris Johnson, blocked the proposal on noise grounds.

Johnson is a long-running opponent of airport developments near the capital. He has been vehemently opposed to plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, west of the city, instead touting his preferred option of a giant new airport built at a location on the Thames Estuary, well to the east of the capital.

This would be seriously expensive, take at least a decade to construct and was ruled out last year by a commission set up by the UK government to give an unbiased appraisal of how runway capacity in southeast England should be expanded. (It opted for a third runway at Heathrow.)

LCY is appealing against the mayor’s refusal and a public inquiry, chaired by a government planning inspector, is due to start in March.

In the midst of this, LCY’s majority owners, US-based Global Infrastructure Partners, last summer put the airport up for sale for a reported £2 billion ($2.9 billion) price tag.
This has alarmed LCY’s largest user, BA, which believes that a new owner will have to raise landing charges to recoup its investment. In a warning shot across the bows of any prospective buyer, BA’s parent company, International Airlines Group, said 3 February that it would pull some or all of its flights if charges rose.

“Any potential new owner for London City should be left in no doubt that British Airways can move flights elsewhere if it ramps up airport charges to fund its investment,” it said. “BA’s customers will not swallow increased fares to fund unrealistic returns for a monopoly airport supplier.”


BA’s CityFlyer division operates 13 Embraer E190s and six E170s from LCY. BA mainline handles the LCY-JFK service.

New owners might question whether BA would really pull the plug on an airport whose passengers include an unusually high proportion of last-minute bookers who pay top rate for the privilege. However, as trade unions have discovered to their cost in the past, bluffing in a poker game with IAG’s no-nonsense CEO Willie Walsh is a high-risk strategy.
Meanwhile, unrest has also arisen from new, nationally-mandated area navigation (RNAV) regulations, which will have the effect of funnelling aircraft departing LCY into a tight corridor to improve efficiency. Anti-noise campaigners say this will create ‘noise ghettos’ for those underneath it.

Ironically, complaints are coming not from the airport’s immediate surroundings, probably because some 85% of the airport’s 2000 employees come from Newham, one of London’s poorest boroughs. Instead, mutterings have arisen from suburbs a few miles from the airport, over which climbing aircraft will pass at an altitude of a few thousand feet.

LCY can probably overcome this problem. Whether it can do the same with Mayor Johnson’s refusal to allow expansion lies in the hands of the government inspector.


Posted on January 10, 2016

Just before Christmas the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that it had given London City Airport permission to concentrate its flight paths.

The change is due to come into effect on February 4th.

But HACAN East is consulting with lawyers about the possibility of a legal challenge

If the flight paths are introduced:

Most days Bow, Leyton, Leytonstone, Wanstead, Redbridge, Barkingside and Collier Row will get all the departures from the airport. Thamesmead will be badly hit by arrivals. All these areas will be hit about 70% of the time in a typical year: the days a west wind is blowing.

When the wind comes from the east all the departures will go over Barking Riverside, Dagenham and Hornchurch. And all the arrivals will go over Sidcup, New Eltham, Mottingham, Catford, Forest Hill, Dulwich Village, Herne Hill, Brixton, Stockwell and Vauxhall.

Although these changed flight paths are due to come in on February 4th, most of the communities that will be affected have not been told about them.

The information is hidden away in: 

http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/Module%20B%20final.pdf (page 26 indistinct map for South London and p27 for Thamesmead).

And in http://publicapps.caa.co.uk/docs/33/B05-LCAL_A_ConsultationDocumentIssue1.0.pdf (page 24 for Dagenham and page 26 for Leyton and Leytonstone).

For more details on this and the background behind the changes, see our blog: http://www.hacaneast.org.uk/2016/01/when-injustice-becomes-law-rebellion-becomes-duty/



Campaigners from London City joined those from Heathrow and Gatwick air today to deliver a joint letter  to Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, demanding a voice for residents in flight path changes which are expected to be introduced over the next few years.  Campaigners have asked for a meeting with the Transport Secretary.

Read the letter here: Gatwick Heathrow and City Airport Flight Path Letter to DfT

The letter is not about new runways.  There are differences amongst the campaigners on whether a new runway is needed and, if so, where it should be.

The move followers anger from residents at the changes to flight paths which have taken place over the last couple of years. Protest groups have sprung up around Gatwick in response to the changes to both arrival and departure routes.  The recent trials at Heathrow sparked a record number of complaints.  And in East London furious residents staged public meetings at not being proper consulted about London City’s proposals to concentrate flight paths.

The airspace changes are part of a Europe-wide programme to make more effective use of airspace and are now impacting the whole of the UK.  They are designed to enable airlines to save fuel, to allow aircraft to land at and depart from airports more efficiently.   In the UK Gatwick and London City have been earmarked as first in line for the changes.  Heathrow is expected to have its changes in place by 2019 with national changes by 2020.

Residents fear that the changes will result in excessive concentration of aircraft along selected routes.  They are particularly critical of NATS (National Air Traffic Control) and the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), the two organizations who are driving the changes.

John Stewart, who chairs HACAN East, the organisation which gives a voice to residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “NATS and CAA are remote from residents.  They plan these flight path changes in their hi-tec ivory towers.  Our letter to the Transport Secretary contains positive proposals for flight paths that could work for both the industry and for residents.  They involve providing all residents with some respite from the noise.  HACAN is actively engaging with Heathrow to see what can be done.  But it does require NATS and the CAA to play ball”.

Stewart added, “London City Airport have been much less willing to engage with us and seem content to simply do what NATS asks them even if it means the creation of noise ghettos.”