Luton Airport flight path map shows high concentration of planes flying over Stevenage and Letchworth as number of complaints rise
- Credit: supplied
Complaints about plane noise from Luton Airport have leapt by 78 per cent, with residents saying their lives have been ‘devastated’ by detrimental flight path changes.
The latest edition of the airport’s quarterly monitoring report has also revealed a 60 per cent rise in the number of complainants.
Flight movement maps in the report – recording westerly and easterly movements over a 24-hour period in March – show a concentration of planes flying over many urban areas in Herts, including Stevenage and Letchworth.
Yet, the skies above Luton, and the immediate area around the town – apart from the airport’s location in the south – appear to be mostly devoid of aircraft by comparison.
Between January and March this year, there were 191 noise complaints – compared to 107 in the first quarter in 2015.
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There were a total of 26,907 aircraft movements, a rise from 22,824 for the same period in 2015 – an increase of 18 per cent.
This equated to about 300 movements per 24 hours, compared to 254 last year.
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The airport has been expanding rapidly since its owner, and primary beneficiary, Luton Borough Council controversially approved its bid to near double passenger throughput to 18 million a year in December 2013.
Although the first phase of its £110 million redevelopment project only started in September last year, the airport has pressed ahead with expanding capacity, boasting this month of an increase in numbers for the 27th month in a row, with 1.4 million people flying during June alone.
Also in September last year, in a bid to better control aircraft and prevent them from straying from centrelines, Luton introduced a system called ‘RNAV’, which stands for area navigation.
Based on using software assistance to navigate flights – using a network of beacons to follow a designated route – RNAV is designed to channel aircraft down a narrow track but, if you live underneath it, you suffer from increased noise.
Neil MacArthur, a campaigner for quieter skies, has pointed out that Herts residents are suffering more as a result when compared to those living in Bedfordshire.
Another reason for this stems from the designated flight paths. Back in 2008, NATS – the UK’s provider of air traffic control services – proposed that Bedfordshire should share the load, but that was opposed.
Neil said the RNAV results showed recent flight path changes were “significantly flawed insofar as meeting the airport’s aim of reducing noise disturbance for local communities”.
Speaking about the flight path changes, John Davis – a representative of Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, known as LADACAN – said: “They are bound to land over Stevenage when the wind is broadly westerly, which it is for two-thirds of the time.
“There are more planes about, so there will be more noise problems for Stevenage.”
He added that planes are “not all sticking” to the altered paths.
A spokesman for the airport said there were plans to reduce the flight path even further, with trials to begin later this year. This will be followed by a public consultation.