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Heathrow planes are lower, larger and more intrusive

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According to a new survey aircraft landing at Heathrow are lower than in years gone by.  The survey, carried out by campaign group HACAN, also found that planes had become larger and fuller.

Using Heathrow’s own statistics, HACAN found that over the last eight years the average height of aircraft landing at Heathrow has fallen by up to about 300ft.  I also revealed roughly the same number of aircraft carried almost 10 million more passengers in 2018 than in 2011.

Maybe surprisingly, the survey showed that the lower-flying aircraft had not made it noisier for people on the ground.  This is because “the lower heights have increased the noise on the ground by less than 3 decibels, the level at which a healthy ear would just about perceive a change”.  It is also explained by the fact that the overall fleet of aircraft using Heathrow has become a little quieter over the last eight years.

HACAN chair John Stewart said, “Heathrow appears to be have made a rod for its own back.  The noise climate may not have deteriorated but, because the lower, larger planes are more intrusive, they are having a noticeable impact on people’s quality of life”.

Stewart added, “In some areas of London other factors – such as increased concentration of routes – will have upped noise levels but lower doesn’t necessarily increase the noise on the ground.”

A Kew resident said, “This survey certainly fits in with our experience – in fact as I’m emailing now they are coming over low and loud barely a matter of feet it feels above our house.  They may be a bit quieter but are so obtrusive particularly in the summer!”

The study looked at the heights of the planes at two areas under the approach flight path – Kew and Stockwell – between 2011 and 2018.  It also collected the data for the total number of aircraft and passengers using the airport each year over the past eight years.  And looked at how the noise contours changed over the period.

HACAN recommends that Heathrow works with the airlines and air traffic control to assess why aircraft are flying lower with a view to reversing the trend.




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