Heathrow�s Night Flight Noise Increasing

Government accused of concealing true scale of Heathrow noise

A Wandsworth councillor has claimed that reports from the Government stating the noise climate at Heathrow has been getting better has been undermined by transport department figures. New research shows that the true level of noise caused by early morning arrivals is up to 75 per cent higher than that implied by the Government's official method of classification.

There have been repeated calls for noise limits to be set on the basis of actual readings rather than the established desk-top calculation. This method, known as the QC system, assigns theoretical noise values to individual aircraft according to the type of engine used. In its current consultation document on night flights the Government repeats its claim that the noise climate has improved and by pooling noise monitoring data across all three London airports it is able to state that most aircraft (60 per cent) operating at night are placed in the appropriate QC category.

The information, contained in a technical document published by the transport department on April 8, is still not based on live noise monitoring but does attempt to measure whether the noise impact of each aircraft type is properly ranked by its QC rating.

What the document fails show is the accuracy of the QC ratings for aircraft at each individual airport. Private studies reveal that using the DfT's own data almost two out of three early morning arrivals at Heathrow are incorrectly placed in a lower (quieter) band. In general terms airlines can fly twice as many QC2 aircraft as QC4s. In some cases a QC8 rating is now appropriate which would actually mean the aircraft was banned from flying at night.

Wandsworth Council leader Edward Lister believes that ministers should now own up to the true scale of the noise misery caused by night flights at Heathrow "The Government has known that their noise figures were wrong for almost four years. yet they continue to tell those of us under the flight path that things are getting better.

The fact that night noise has now been proved to have deteriorated could open the floodgate to a wave of compensation claims from people woken up by early morning arrivals.�

The current consultation comes just as a decision is expected from Strasbourg on the European Court of Human Rights case challenging night flights.

Anti-noise campaigners fear that rather than reducing the number of noise quota points ministers will simply allow the airlines to trade their noisier B747-400s for quieter aircraft and enable them to bring even more night flights into Heathrow.

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