More Night Time Flights

Davies Report proposes more flights at Heathrow before 6am

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The Interim Report of the Davies Commission, published last month, has suggested that more aircraft be allowed to land at Heathrow before six o’clock in the morning. It also wants the airport to have the right to break into residents’ daytime respite periods if delays are building up at the airport.

The night flights proposals in particular are expected to create a lot of controversy.  At present 16 flights are scheduled to land at Heathrow before 6am.  There are no scheduled departures.  Between six and seven o’clock there is no limit.  During that time over 60 planes land.  It is the only hour of the day when both runways are officially in use for both landings and departures.  The Commission has agreed to a suggestion from Heathrow Airport that more planes are allowed during the hour between 5am and 6am in order to reduce the delays that often start building up at six o’clock because so many aircraft are waiting to land.

Heathrow argues that this would ‘smooth’ the flow of aircraft in the early morning.  It is proposing a deal with residents.  In return for accepting more planes before 6am, it would guarantee that people would only get night flights every other week.  It would work like this.  All aircraft between 4.30 am, when the first plane comes in, and 7am would land on the same runway.  The following week they would land on the other runway.  It means that residents would get a week free of night flights in return for getting all of them the next week.

John Stewart, chair of HACAN, which represents residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “Clearly the scheme brings some respite for residents but it will be hugely controversial.  In a quick straw poll of a small number of our members about 25% likde the idea but the rest were firmly opposed to more planes before 6am.”

The other proposal from the Commission would allow Heathrow Airport to land planes out-of-alternation during the day if delays build up.  At present, planes landing at Heathrow switch runways at 3pm in order to give people in the worst affected boroughs a half day’s break from the noise.  The proposal is to allow the airport to cut into this respite periods if delays are building up.  These plans were trialled during 2012 in the ‘Operational Freedoms’ scheme.  They would not increase the overall number of planes using the airport.

The Government has said it will respond to the Commission’s proposals in spring 2014.

December 30, 2013