Aircraft Noise over SE23 [2017-2018]

I’m really concerned about this stat about 50% of City flights over-flying Forest Hill. Every person who has complained has received the same stock response where they assure us that we are only overflown on about 30% of days - it’s now clear this is just a fabrication (and my own personal experience of the noise was clear that they were flying over on much more than 1 in 3 days). If they’re lying to us are they also lying to the CAA? Particularly with the proposed expansion I fear that we could end up with a situation that ALL (or the majority) of City Airport arrivals come through at low altitude over Forest Hill. Do we have any assurance that this isn’t their intention or protection from Government if it is?!

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its purely down to wind direction. This year there has been a higher proportion of east wind days, than in the last two years. It remains to be seen whether this is just an exceptional year or part of a longer term changing weather pattern. Their stock response of 30% is historically accurate. I have recently asked for and received two years data on runway usage from them. If only because of their steep landing angle (5.5%, as opposed to normal 3%) I believe they have to land into the wind. But that seems a good question to put to them, and I have no idea if there is any protection, again, an excellent question as they expand. I think they will say it all depends on wind direction.

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quite a few people have asked how London City’s concentrated flight paths over SE23 happened. One of London City’s stock responses is that all necessary consultation was carried out. With all links to that consultation broken on City’s website, it turns out that the CAA has it.

There was a 12 week consultation in 2014, with a report in 2015. The consultation feedback report (LCAL D consultation feedback report) is an easy read. It also explains precisely which parts of government policy they were following.
Also provides a clear explanation of what exactly has happened, what they thought the impact would be.

Talking with campaigners at HACAN and Plane Hell Action, we are wondering how this can effectively be challenged now since the implementation was recently given the all clear by the CAA?

There are just a couple of things that look hopeful in a recent letter from London City:-
'It is not possible to deviate from a defined procedure to spread flight tracks over a larger areas without going through another airspace change proposal. LCY will be considering their position on this when the CAA post implementation review is published. NATS are however continuing to review London airspace, and LCY will feed into this process, particularly reviewing altitude restrictions '.


Just bumping this topic up the forum to report back on a constructive meeting with Heathrow noise people and Vicky Foxcroft tonight. Very nice to meet @ThorNogson too. Felt like our concerns had been recognised, particularly the need for them to coordinate with LCY.

Vicky has also offered to try and host a joint meeting with both LHR and LCY reps with a joint presentation which is another good step in the right direction.

As soon as this is publicised I’ll post back here.


Just some further correspondence from LCY in response to my further questions about the increase in flights over Forest Hill in 2018 and the potential for LCY to increase flight numbers by around 30% in future which @ThorNogson mentioned in a post last week:

"As mentioned previously, the use the use of our runway is largely dictated by the wind direction and something that we cannot influence. I have attached runway utilisation for 2017 (25.5% easterly operations departures and arrivals) and 2018 till date (39.8% easterly operations departures and arrivals). This data is published quarterly in our reports to LCACC which can be found here:

The final percentage figure for 2018 will be available in the first week of January 2019.

In 2016 the Government gave the green light for the £480 million City Airport Development Programme (CADP). The permission itself includes only infrastructure improvements which includes; 7 new aircraft stands to welcome next generation aircraft which are more fuel efficient and quieter than our existing fleet operating from London City Airport, a parallel taxi-lane to connect these new stands and a terminal extension. Since CADP started last year the permissible amount of aircraft movement has reduced from 120,000 to 111,000 per annum. In 2016 the airport had 84,955 aircraft movements in total for comparison and in 2017 the airport had 80,299 aircraft movements (arrivals and departures on runway 27 and 09). The airport is operating under the permissible amount and according to the 2009 planning approval there are restricted daily maximum permitted numbers of aircraft movements."


an interesting way to present the information to LCY’s best advantage which is understandable. At the recent GLA meeting I am sure they mentioned 50% as their latest available figure because there has been more easterly wind than has been usual in the summer. Summer means easterly winds, open doors and windows and being outdoors - the year average % of easterly operations will most likely reduce from this latest 39.8% figure over the rest of the year as our winter south westerlies set in. Maybe we will end up at 35% of their arrivals over SE23 in the whole of 2018….

Using these LCY figures, here’s something that might worry anyone concerned about aircraft noise now:-
In 2017 there were 80,299 aircraft movements, half of these are departures, half arrivals, with 25.5% of these arrivals flying over our area, I make that 10,238 arrivals over SE23.

If they increase to the permitted 111,000 movements per year, and if wind ends up at 35% easterly operations for any given year, then 19,425 LCY arrivals appear over SE23 at under 2000 feet on the concentrated flight path. That’s a whopping 89% more than in 2017. Why not call it double?

btw new, quieter aircraft does not mean the same as quiet aircraft. At the GLA meeting 4dB quieter for newer aircraft was quoted. On the ground we really won’t notice that small difference, not when the frequency of overflight is 150 in a day, increasing to 283 in just a few years on the above figures.

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Indeed, especially when it isn’t said a) where it is measured and b) whether it applies to like for like types or the actual mix of plane types into London City. For instance, where I live I find planes with jet engines much noisier than those with turboprop engines, yet the current trend appears to be going to more jets.

Flybe, the last major airline into City that largely relies on props, appear to be in trouble and are currently up for sale. If for whatever reason their slots were replaced by others using jets, I wouldn’t be surprised for that to exacerbate the noise situation.

Thanks - just a further update, following the London Assembly Environmental Committee meeting on 8 Nov which was webcast I contacted Liam McKay of City Airport (as detailed in a post above from the same date). Although Mr McKay has provided no reply (despite his assurances to the Committee in his evidence that City Airport was only too willing to engage with the local community), I have received several nice follow up e-mails from and on behalf of Caroline Russell and the Committee including the following today:

“The London Assembly Environment Committee are currently in the process of assessing and drawing up conclusions and recommendations to its recent roundtable with individuals and community groups affected by concentrated flight paths, and formal committee meeting on 8 November with Heathrow, London City Airport and NATS which you refer to you in your email.”

I have offered them any further assistance I or the affected local Lewisham community can provide in compiling their conclusions/recommendations.

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You may all be interested to know Gatwick is currently consulting on their long term expansion plans- might be worth a read.

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As mentioned in earlier posts I sent an email to Liam McKay the COO of City Airport after his appearance before the London Assembly Enviromental Committee earlier this month. I’ve finally had a response on his behalf from Tessa Simpson (Environmental & Technical Operations Manager) and this chain of correspondence has also been copied to Caroline Russell the Chair of the LAEC.

I’ve reproduced the response below - it’s more of the same standard pre-scripted justifications and doesn’t directly address the particular questions I raised. What’s very clear to me is that City Airport’s approach is to ensure they focus their PR on their immediate vicinity (the economic boost to local area, noise insulation scheme that only applies to residents living directly adjacent to the airport etc.) and don’t give a damn about their wider operations. It’s my view at this stage that the only likelihood of actually forcing them to make any significant changes in the short-medium term would come from a legal action (against LCY directly or a judicial review of the CAA’s implementation of the new flight arrangements) which would rely heavily on human rights arguments about right to peaceful enjoyment of property. I’m not aware that there is currently any group/charity willing to take on that sort of legal action and so I’m very pessimistic about effecting any change.

"I’ve reviewed the information my colleague has previously provided and will try not to repeat anything. Firstly I’d like to just clarify that aircraft associated with London City Airport (LCY) over your area are arrivals during easterly operations. These flights are approximately 2000 ft. and above in altitude when reaching your area. London City Airport has a flight track keeping system (TraVis) which is used to view flight movements and altitudes of aircraft operating at London City Airport should you wish to review this in more detail

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Since the implementation of RNAV navigation, there have been no changes in aircraft altitude. The changes that took place were the first step towards modernising London’s airspace, a process that was mandated by the CAA and not optional for London City Airport. Flight paths were not changed and the programme fulfilled its purpose of improving safety and resilience, whilst climbing aircraft quicker on departure (thereby reducing the noise impact) and reducing the number of people overflown by arriving aircraft by 1.2 million, directing aircraft along the Thames Estuary as far as possible.

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With regards to LCY’s airspace change, we followed the CAA’s legal requirements on consultation. During 2014 there was a 12 week consultation on the changes (4th September – 27th November 2014). The consultation was mainly targeted at LCACC members (London City Airport Consultative Committee ), however 483 members of the public also participated in the consultation following the generation of 25 media items and 2 public meetings. The CAA guidance on consultation has however been updated since. LCY fully supports these changes and is committed to improving this process for any future airspace change.

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The CAA’s Post Implementation Review of the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) Phase 1A has been published and can be found on the following link. The CAA and LCY have acknowledged that there is a proportion of the population that is being overflown more often; this was unfortunately inevitable with the changes that were mandated.

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London airspace is heavily congested, and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) are running a project to review all of the London airspace to review where further efficiencies can be made and noise impacts reduced, taking into account all airports. LCY will continue to fully engage in this programme and ensure any further benefits relating to LCY operations are achieved wherever possible. Along with this, there are also joint meetings taking place between LCY and Heathrow to better understand the joint impact of our operations and explore whether any improvements can be implemented to help alleviate the noise experienced by residents in this area.

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Regarding your other points, LCY follows government guidance “to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise” set out in the The Aviation Policy Framework (2013). LCY will also continue to review emerging research regarding health impacts and how this translated into national policy and guidance. LCY has an extensive range of noise controls in place, which we believe mitigates and minimises the adverse impacts on health and quality of life within the context of Government policy on sustainable development. As well as implementing some of the most stringent noise controls of any UK airport, LCY also contributes significantly to the local economy and provides many employment and community benefits particularly in East London. In addition, LCY has recently also introduced a Penalties and Incentives Scheme to encourage airlines to use quieter operating procedures and will be financially penalising airlines that breach noise levels. All funds raised from penalties will be reinvested into local community projects.

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I’d like to assure you we take the noise impact of our operations very seriously, going further than required by legislation. Whilst noise disturbance is an inevitable consequence of operating an airport in such a built-up area, we are doing everything we can to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. Apologies for any disturbance caused and I hope this information is of some use."

LCY have repeatedly told me that they only use the flight path over Forest Hill when winds are “predominantly from the east” (Easterly Operations). Well today the wind has been constantly predominantly from the S-W (as evidenced by their own tracking system which shows a wind speed of 4.1m/s from the S-W - see below) but they were using the concentrated flight path over Forest Hill. If anyone knows why I’d be interested.


yeah heard some flights quite early this morning (6.30 or so maybe). Not sure if it was a Heathrow or City Airport flight but it was loud

Yes woke me up early. I may be imagining this but aircraft noise seems worse this year than it was last year.

It is much worse - in 2017 about 30% of City arrivals overflew Forest Hill, this year it has been over 40% - they say this is based purely on wind direction, but as my post above points out, their explanation doesn’t seem to tally with the reality. I have written to them for clarification.


The standard airport line on this is that wind speed and direction can differ with altitude, so it is not always ground level wind direction that dictates flight direction. Today is one of those light wind days where Heathrow lands from the east and City from the west, giving SE23 both overflights. Heathrow started over us from about 5am, City from 6.30 am.

Following pressure from local people, Heathrow and London City have begun a monitoring project, which they recently referred to in public as the ‘Dulwich Case Study’, which includes a temporary noise monitor somewhere in our area. Recently Heathrow said that the wind direction does not always clearly drive flying direction, there are times of light winds when it is inconclusive and airports have a choice. In the case study they are looking at ideas such as whether, on days like these, the two airports could coordinate operations and choose maybe just one airport to overfly us. Sounds obvious but they’ve never done it…

Anyone writing a complaint letter to London City (and if you are at all bothered please do) - they claim that things are ok because in 2018 they are getting only about one complaint per day on average - could also ask when they will publish a plan for this Case Study and when they expect to make findings and conclusions public.

However, they seem rather relaxed about complaints from outside Newham Borough, who they are accountable to:- as their last annual report says ‘in 2017, there was a fall of 9% in complaints compared to 2016. A total of 320 complaints relating to Airport operations were received during 2017, 81 of these were received from just 2 complainants. Of the 320 complaints, only 11% were from residents within Newham with the majority coming from outside the Borough, particularly Waltham Forest.’


Thanks - the response from LCY on the wind direction issue today is below - noting the reference to NATS I wonder whether it would be more productive lobbying NATS to ensure they understand that Easterly operations at LCY cause considerably more noise disruption than Westerly operations (where aircraft are always above the Thames) and so they should implement a policy where LCY uses Westerly operations unless the wind is from the east (ie in cases where wind is north/south like today (although it was from south-WEST today) they should default to Westerly operations).

One other observation - on Westerly operations arriving aircraft (which are above the Thames) approach at 3000ft before descending into the airport, whereas Easterly operations (above Forest Hill and other built up residential areas of SE London) approach at only 2000ft from Catford and then maintain that altitude for ~15km over SE London before beginning their descent over Limehouse - in other words the planes are LOWER over residential areas where noise disturbance is an issue than they are when they approach over the Thames with minimal noise disturbance. It’s ridiculous.

"The runway is aligned between east and west. When there is an easterly wind aircraft land and depart facing east. When there is a westerly wind aircraft land and depart facing west.

When the wind is straight across the runway (northerly or southerly) then aircraft may land and depart facing either east or west. The choice of runway in these cases is largely to do with whether or not there is a slight easterly or westerly component in the wind direction and what direction the wind is forecast to move towards. The direction of operation is determined by NATS air traffic controllers who monitor wind speed and direction on the airfield and at different levels up to 3,000ft."


turning to Heathrow for a moment, I attended the Heathrow Community Noise Forum on behalf of Forest Hill Society last week. By far the most important info for SE23 is that a major consultation will launch in January about how the Airspace used by Heathrow will be redesigned. We’ll need to keep an eye out for that so SE London is properly represented. Important issues like how planes will be routed - dispersed? concentrated as with London City?, night flights, early morning flights etc. The design principles need to be developed whether or not the 3rd runway goes ahead, but they are of course planning that it will.

There is a very accessible presentation about how they are thinking here. Open the presentation for 21 November titled future runway operations.


The new independent Heathrow Community Engagement Board has started work by talking with community and campaigning groups all over London (I met with them with the group from Plane Hell Action recently). Now they have an online survey to get an initial take on the priorities of individuals- also an opportunity to opt in to further communications from them. It’s a 5 minute job here
It seems important to let HCEB have a few responses from SE London, to let them know we are concerned with issues around aircraft noise, despite being so far away from Heathrow.

In my response I mentioned noise, ending simultaneous overflights over London from the 2 airports, and giving all areas of London not in the final descent path planned relief from aircraft. Both airports - City and Heathrow- have plans for increasing aircraft flights, 3rd runway or not.

HCEB has an independent brief to ensure that Heathrow is consulting and dealing properly with Londoners. It is neither in favour of nor against the 3rd runway - more concerned with fair processes. We must hope for something rather better than London City Airport managed in their almost invisible consultation on flight path changes in 2014. They imposed their new concentrated flight path over SE23 in 2016.


Continues at: Aircraft Noise over SE23 [2019]