While aviation prides itself on its safety record (according to the UN body ICAO, the risk of an accident to a commercial scheduled aircraft in 2019 was 2.79 per million departures) nevertheless a crash could be fatal for people on the ground as well as those on board the aircraft . As most accidents occur on or close to an aerodrome, and in order to minimise risk to the public, the Government designates the areas around the UK’s busiest runways as ‘Public Safety Zones’ (PSZs). Planning restrictions are imposed in PSZs in order to limit population increases in these areas by restricting new housing, other development and infrastructure, including roads.
AEF has concerns both about how PSZ policy is being interpreted by some Local Planning Authorities and about whether the policy itself is robust. Current policy for example, focuses on the risk to an individual without consideration of the wider societal risk which the Health and Safety Executive applies, in its role as a statutory consultee, to assessments of hazardous installations such as oil, chemical and nuclear plants. As well as taking up these issues with Government, we have called on the CAA to make information about PSZs more readily accessible, and we continue to highlight the importance of accurate risk assessment in the context of airport development plans.
In 2020, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) consulted on changes to PSZs. To find out more and read AEF’s response, click here.
Objects falling from planes present an additional (though small) safety threat to the public. Reported incidences have reduced in recent years, nevertheless ice blocks (formed on the outside of aircraft, sometimes as a result of leaks around pipes used for liquid which then freeze at high altitude) and even aircraft parts, can fall from planes. The CAA has responsibility for investigating incidents of ice or other items falling from aircraft, but maintains that it has no liability for them and is rarely able to identify their origin. To report ice blocks or other items that you believe may have fallen from an aircraft, you should contact the CAA using its dedicated reporting form.
The wake vortex created by passing aircraft can cause localised damage to buildings, such as displacing roof tiles. Many airports have schemes in place to respond to these incidents and you should contact your local airport directly if you have experienced damage to your property.