This Summer, many residents in the Tunbridge Wells, East Sussex and Tonbridge areas noticed a huge increase in noise from the number of aeroplanes flying to Gatwick Airport. Residents reported that planes seemed to fly lower and in a more concentrated and streamlined way, very differently to the way planes have made an approach in previous years, and complaints to the airport have tripled. There have also been reports of tree burn and fuel dumping in the Ashdown Forest, a wildlife site of Special Scientific Interest. Yet Gatwick Airport Ltd insists that there has been no change in their arrival procedures. Their explanation is that there was a reversion to the normal pattern of prevailing westerly wind direction. They have reassured our MP’s that it’s all just ‘normal operations’ and business as usual: they tell them we all decided to open our windows a bit more and be out-of-doors because of fine weather. Could residents in our area all just be completely wrong about what happened in the sky above out heads this summer or have Gatwick been running trials over our area of East Sussex and West Kent?
You decide – the following piece of text is taken from the National Air Traffic Services blog, September 16th 2013 (my bold, below) and freely available to view online (unless of course its been removed for some reason …!)
“One of our objectives was to reach a declared capacity level of 55 aircraft movements an hour – that’s a take-off or landing every 65 seconds.
In order to reach that goal, the ACDM55 project (as it became known) had three main air traffic control components:
• Enhance runway capacity by reducing spacing variations
• Boost on-time performance to 85% or more
• Introduce a system to monitor how well the entire operation is performing on a real time basis
One of the key suggestions emerging from the project team was an approach stabilisation trial, which we ran at the end of the peak summer season last year, and again from March to September this year . It involved analysing the operation to find ways of improving the consistency of the spacing provided between arriving aircraft in order to maximise throughput. We discovered that by removing the shortened approach path as aircraft turned into land, we were able to achieve a 25% reduction in the spacing variation.
In May 2012, during a seven-hour peak period, we declared one hour at 53 aircraft and 11 to 12 hours at 50+, as a result of the trial we now have the capability of declaring a 55-aircraft movement capacity. [Now achieved]
That level of change in the delivery is incredibly significant, and all the more so given the high performance starting point of operations at Gatwick.
Airlines have been telling us that the new approach procedure is much more straightforward, with less uncertainty. And from the airport’s perspective, the reduced variation in the final approach spacing has resulted in a record capacity declaration for the winter 2013/14 schedule’.
I agree with Richard Streatfield, Chair of the newly formed group of West Kent and East Sussex Councils against Gatwick expansion (HWAAG) that Gatwick is now using a form of horizontal stacking, which means flight paths are shifted eastwards directly over Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells via Crowborough further south. “Gatwick have had a rolling programme of flight concentration in order to boost throughput,” says Mr Streatfeild. ‘In addition, by their own admission, they have removed the shorter approach path and we should challenge this because it appears to have been done without consultation and to the detriment of the communities living further out.”
THE ACDM55 PROJECT (55 stands for how many planes they aim to handle per hour) MEANS GATWICK IS NOW HALF WAY TOWARDS IMPLEMENTING THEIR PLANNED SUPERHIGHWAY. ALL THEY NEED DO NOW IS JUST EXTEND THE MAIN APPROACH PATH SOUTH AND THERE YOU HAVE IT! WATCH OUT CROWBOROUGH!