Aircraft Noise over SE23 (2020/21)

One of the most read threads of 2019 discussed expansion of Heathrow (3rd runway due late 2020’s, flight path redesign due 2025), and expansion of London City airport (their Masterplan proposed to treble current flight numbers low over SE23, flight path redesign also due 2025). Here’s the link to the 2019 thread.

But now with a New Year = a new 2020 thread!

2019 was incredibly busy, with both airports busy planning expansion and issuing numerous, and simultaneous public consultations. Meanwhile many of those overflown by increasingly low and concentrated flightpaths complain about persistent and unreasonable noise, and increasingly about climate concerns.Many London local authorities including Lewisham and many MPs, including our own Ellie Reeves were persuaded to take a clear public position to defend the overflown against the local environmental impacts of further expansion.

Next up in 2019 will be London City publishing its Masterplan ‘consultation’ findings and a new Masterplan. But rather than go into all the detail (which some of you may have seen me do at the Forest Hill Soc AGM) here is a scene setter which looks at aviation expansion from a climate emergency stance. I thought it well worth a read.

CO2 from jet fuel is soaring 4 times faster: what can save the day? | National Observer


Extinction Rebellion Newham is hosting a peaceful event at one of the main Canadian pension fund backers of London City Airport on 11 Feb. Leading XR spokesman Rupert Read is coming.
Campaign group HACAN East are supporting- we have recently written to key executives in investor organisations pointing out the strong opposition across London to expansion of this airport.
And at the Lewisham Climate Emergency forum this week, Cabinet member Sophie McGeevor confirmed that Lewisham would continue to oppose expansion.

ICCAN (independent aircraft noise body) is interested to hear opinion on how airports consult with their community - short questionnaire here.

this morning it feels like the efforts of local community groups and the Forest Hill Society have been worthwhile. At yesterday’s meeting of their Consultative Committee London City Airport backed down and withdrew their proposal to end the weekend flight ban and to extend their operations at the beginning and end of the day. Thanks to everyone who wrote, responded, delivered leaflets under the flight path, sent a postcard, spoke to an MP.

Thanks are also due to local MPs Ellie Reeves and Janet Daby, plus several local Councillors including Leo Gibbons and Sophie McGeevor who all totally understood and supported our argument and have ensured that Lewisham residents have been properly represented.

We’ll never know what swung it, but we campaigners are declaring victory, they don’t come frequently. I am convinced that the public campaign including mass postcard campaign from HACAN , our XR demo last month at the London offices of the airport’s owners, the mass anti expansion campaign at Bristol (same owners) , plus our behind the scenes lobbying at the GLA, with Sadiq Khan’s advisors, with AM’s plus with quite a few MPs, and many Councils influenced a wave of anti expansion responses to their consultation from individuals, Borough Councils and MPs. We also lobbied the executives from their owning Canadian investors. And their planning authority, Newham. I don’t think they are ready to apply for expansion planning permission to Newham now. Looks a bit toxic publicly after the Heathrow supreme court and Bristol council decisions, even if they are appealed.

Obviously the air industry is in disarray right now- so, having flown their expansion kite, its not a bad time for them to put expansion plans on a shelf for a while, whilst appearing to have listened to feedback.

For the first time yesterday I thought the CEO appeared as though he understands what the London opposition is about. (He’s under enormous pressure to deliver value to the overseas shareholders who paid £2billion for the Airport). Instead, I picked up yesterday that they plan to differentiate themselves by becoming the leading world airport on use of green (hmm…) fuel and electric/hybrid planes. New strategy. They will publish their new Masterplan by end of the month.

Next week we will press on with the launch to MPs in Westminster of an independent economic report that will closely examine the economic claims that City made in their draft plan.

Where it leaves us is where we were when City launched the expansive draft plan last summer. That is with noisy overlapping flight paths over SE London with Heathrow, and still City have permission to increase flight movements over the present day level within existing planning permissions. The line that we took last year is still a good one - that no expansion should be even considered until such time as the overlapping flight paths over London have been satisfactorily sorted out.

So with the immediate threat of new Heathrow and City expansion at least delayed for a couple of years, local focus moves to ensuring that the Airspace Modernisation (= sort out the flight paths) project, delivery due 2025/26 involves close cooperation between the two airports, with a view to improving the double/simultaneous overflights of SE London, and increasing the altitude of planes from both before their final approaches. The Forest Hill Society is engaged with periodic stakeholder workshops at both airports pushing them to work together and not lose focus on SE London as they push their two projects along.


Well done @ThorNogson and everyone else involved, as you say victories don’t seem to come that often and it’s clear from your posts how much work from many people has gone into this. Good stuff!

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Outstanding result. Congratulations to all those working effortlessly on the committee and with your partner organisations.

The sun came out to celebrate.


Great news and a great result! Well done everyone! :+1:

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Well done @ThorNogson and thanks for sharing back to the forum.

Hopefully this kind of successful pressure on airports will help accelerate the transition to quiet electric aircraft as battery energy density improves.

Yes hope so. I heard Cranfield Aerospace say on BBC the other day that commercial airliners on electric power are 2-3 decades away. They are currently developing a kind of electric flying car for 5 people by the sound of it. The London City CEO said a bit less time for commercial flights. But said massive investment going into the ideas.

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It is good news. It’s also a reminder of how dependent we (citizens) have become on volunteers like yourself. It is scandalous and disgraceful that our supposedly representative bodies - Local Authorities and Mayors, Greater London Authority and London Mayor, and Westminster itself - have negligently allowed a situation to develop where human habitat becomes unliveable.

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As much as I support HACAN and the volunteers, we have a growing population and economy, so we cannot hold off airport expansion forever without damaging opportunities for people, and limiting the supply chains we all rely on for our quality of life. Our leaders aren’t necessarily “negligent” - they are just trying to balance the priorities of everyone, and that can’t be an easy job.

The best hope we have, IMO, is new technology, and new airports built near the South and East coasts to avoid over-flying urban areas.

There’s only so far we can go with zero-sum strategies

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Well done and thank you to all involved.

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I had the following recent assurance from Heathrow and London City about my concerns that they are not in fact jointly planning flightpaths and cumulative noise impacts…we will watch closely.

'Thank you for your feedback regarding the recent workshop at Heathrow and the airspace programme in general. As you’re aware, Heathrow and London City Airport are both reviewing their airspace in line with the CAA’s Airspace Modernisation Strategy and CAP1616.

I would like to assure you that all major airports in the South East are working together to ensure that airspace redesign is undertaken in a collaborative way, ensuring that the resulting airspace design is efficient for the airport and takes account of cumulative noise impacts.
We cannot say at the moment what specific airspace changes will occur over Forest Hill because design options have not been fully developed and consultation hasn’t yet occurred. However please be assured that London City Airport and Heathrow are working closely, along with ACOG, to ensure that each airport considers airspace change in a collaborative way throughout the CAP1616 process rather than in isolation. '


Everyone must have noticed that it is a different experience with London City Airport closed and very low flight numbers in to Heathrow. A new survey asks people from all London postcodes under Heathrow flight paths to report on what difference they are noticing at the moment. please consider completing this. Hope we can make sure SE23 gets a few responses so we are properly represented. Takes just a few minutes.


The difference is certainly noticeable and together with generally less traffic on the South Circular it’s now almost as quiet as being at my family home in Hampshire! The air is definitely less polluted as well but I’m not sure how much that is due to less air traffic as opposed to less road traffic. The worry is how much we’ll notice the changes even more when things eventually start to return to normal! Survey completed.

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Four flights coming into Heathrow in quick succession, all at around 4.30am, all from Hong Kong. So bloody loud. I’ll put in a complaint but really hoping this is an anomaly and not a regular occurrence.

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Historically flights from Hong Kong have always been some of the first arrivals into Heathrow every morning however this morning’s arrivals landed earlier than scheduled. Strangely though the Virgin flight on your screenshot isn’t displaying on Heathrow’s flight arrivals or Virgin’s or Flight Radar’s!

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that’s an early wakeup. Heathrow always argue that the very early morning far east flights are very important to their business as a hub airport as they allow business passengers time to get an early connection to elsewhere in Europe. They have a regulated allowance of night time flights which allows them to fly in at times when we are usually asleep. Looks as though this was worse in our area today, because they were using the southern runway, so they lined them up in a procession over Greenwich, Brockley, Nunhead at about 4500 ft.
All showed up on the Heathrow Webtrak.

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Thanks for the responses. Way back in the precovid there used to be a 4.45 ‘redeye’ arrival from the Far East that would always wake me up. Rarely have they arrived at 4.30 and four in quick succession. Very unusual.

Who knows what will happen air travel wise now but I cautiously predict no 3rd runway at Heathrow but Gatwick will cease to exist so Heathrow will absorb the demand and sadly (eventually) return to its old levels of business /noisiness.

News is that both Heathrow and London City have stopped work on the redesign of arrival and departure flight paths. Along with the other 18 airports in the South of England. Without the CAA sponsored ‘airspace infrastructure’ project, called FASI-S, there will be no change to the low altitude London City path over Catford/Forest Hill/Dulwich, or any change to Heathrow either. Just the steady build back up to where we were. Might take 3 years though. FASI-S was due to be delivered in 2024/25.

Meanwhile, this is what Heathrow has just reported to its Community Noise Forum and overflown communities.

'As you will be aware, we wrote to you at the beginning of April to inform you that Heathrow would be moving to single runway operations due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

We recognise the importance of keeping local residents and stakeholders updated on any significant milestones or changes to our operations, and so the following briefing aims to give you an update on the current situation, and our medium to longer term expectations as the airport begins to recover from these unprecedented times.

COVID-19 and operational impacts
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on Heathrow’s operations with our latest traffic figures showing a continued decline of 97% in passenger traffic compared with the same time in 2019. This has consequently meant that the number of flights operating in and out of Heathrow has been significantly lower than we would normally expect.

During 2017-2019 we averaged around 1,300 flight movements per day. In contrast, over the last three months these figures have reduced to an average of 845 (March), 177 (April) and 223 (May) a reduction of around 90% at its lowest point.
With the announcement that the Government will relax quarantine measures from lower risk countries - and as other countries begin to ease travel restrictions and emerge from lockdown - we are expecting to see an increase in passengers flying through Heathrow. Many airlines have already indicated that they will begin gradually resuming services in July to coincide with the easing of restrictions.

Fight movements
Resuming of services will consequently mean an increase in the number of flight movements from July compared to what we have been seeing. Based on our latest forecast and the information we currently have available to us - we are expecting to see between 300-450 flight movements a day during July - although this may vary, as airline schedules are continuously being revised due to the current circumstances and are therefore much more unpredictable the further ahead you look.

Whilst we expect the number of flight movements to increase, they will still be relatively low, and so we will continue to consolidate our operations by operating on one runway until flight movements reach around 45% of our normal operations. At this point, we’ll return to operating on two runways.

We recognise that any increase in the number of flights following a sustained period at lower levels is likely to be more noticeable to overflown communities, and although there will be no more noise than before the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to make you aware that this is what we expect to see from July.

We can also assure you that Heathrow remains committed to finding ways to reduce the impact of our operations. For example, although our airspace and operational projects are all on pause as we focus our efforts on recovering our operation from the impacts of COVID-19 – we have extended the Slightly Steeper Approaches trial, with the aim of completing the Airspace Change Proposal to make it a permanent procedure in 2021.

Slightly Steeper Approaches for arriving aircraft (3.2° as opposed to 3.0°) have been shown to provide noise benefits to communities living close to an airport. Between 2015 and 2017 we ran two trials to investigate how Slightly Steeper Approaches would impact Heathrow operationally, whilst at the same time attempt to measure the benefit in noise reduction that could be achieved. Local communities supported the trials and results demonstrated that a small noise benefit can be provided whilst experiencing no negative environmental or operational dis-benefits.

Future forecast
Last month we published our current view of the future forecast. It concluded that we expect passenger numbers for 2020 to be down by 64% to 30 million, and although we expect passenger demand to steadily increase over the remainder of 2020, it is unlikely to be back at previous levels until after 2022.

Whilst we want aviation to recover to pre-COVID-19 levels, we will continue to deliver on our Noise Action Plan and work with our industry partners such as the airlines and NATS to ensure Heathrow continues to get quieter into the future.

We recognise the importance of communicating transparently through this process and so we will provide regular updates to all of our stakeholders on our progress.

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