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New report from AEF reveals why Heathrow noise has become a problem many miles out from the airport

Aircraft noise has long been a concern for people living near Heathrow airport. But more recently, problems with regular noise disturbance have been reported by people many miles from the airport.

Approach noise at Heathrow: concentrating the problem was written by AEF for HACAN (the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) following an increasing number of complaints to HACAN from areas of Vauxhall, Clapham, Brixton, South East London, Docklands, parts of North London, and beyond Windsor to the west of Heathrow.

Over recent decades, Government and industry have maintained that the best way to minimise noise disturbance from approaching planes is through increasing the use of continuous descent approach (CDA). Whereas historically, the division of airspace into blocks has resulted in aircraft being guided in to land through a series of steps – using various braking mechanisms to control speed at each level – CDA involves a steady descent at a 3 degree angle.

But the procedure, which is often combined both with new navigation technologies allowing flightpaths to be followed more precisely, and with changes to the ‘joining point’ for aircraft making their final approach to the airport, also tends to concentrate flights along specific corridors. For pilots, this concentration reduces the number of factors to be taken into account when landing. For Government, it helps meet the policy to control the number of people affected by aircraft noise. And for airlines, it helps to reduce cost, as CDA can help cut fuel use. For the people living under the noise corridors, though, it’s a different story.

This report considers alternative solutions for noise management including steeper approaches and curved CDAs, and recommends more a nuanced Government policy on noise, with a willingness to look at new ideas from elsewhere in the world.

Approach Noise at Heathrow: Concentrating the Problem – an AEF report for HACAN