Report Finds ' Freedom Trials' Inconclusive

Hacan says they did not bring any benefit to residents

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The Heathrow Airport anti-expansion campaign group HACAN has said the recent operational freedoms trials carried out had caused residents "a lot of pain for very little gain".

John Stewart, chair of campaign group HACAN, said, “It appears that these trials brought little benefit to the airport. But they did deprive residents of their much-valued half day’s break from the noise. To bring them back to be a lot of pain for very little gain.”

The final report into the controversial ‘operational freedoms’ trials carried out at Heathrow during winter 2011 and summer 2012, published on Friday,  has concluded that no firm evidence has emerged to show that they reduced delays at the airport.  The report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) found that “it is extremely difficult to reach any strong conclusions on the benefit or otherwise of the trial."

During the trials Heathrow Airport had been given permission to land planes on both runways if delays were building up.  Normally, aircraft using Heathrow land on one runway until 3pm before switching to the other runway in order to give residents in the boroughs closest to Heathrow a break from the noise. 

During the trials aircraft were also allowed to leave their designated take-off routes early in order to speed up the operation of the airport.  However, the CAA found that the problems of dealing with a huge number of planes on the runways at any one time meant that the experiment made little difference to the operation of the airport.

Heathrow Airport would like to retain operational freedoms.  That decision, though, will be up to the Government.  When he published the final reports yesterday new aviation minister Robert Goodwill said that he was sending them to the Airports Commission who will consider their findings first before the Government took any final decision.  If the Government did decide to make operational freedoms permanent, there would be a public consultation on the proposals.

There were two reports published:  one by Heathrow Airport; but the other, by the CAA, is more significant as it provides an independent overview

October 19, 2013