If you have noticed that Hitchin seems to be overflown more frequently during the spring and early summer, the figures from the airport’s annual monitoring report bear out your impression. One reason is that the wind direction has been from the east more often of late, and that means that there have been more easterly departures. In March this year (the most recent month for which figures are available) 37% of all flights departed in an easterly direction compared to an average of 21% for the 5 year period ending on December 31st 2013. One route, for aircraft bound for Northern Ireland, Scotland or Iceland, and known as the Olney route, is responsible for many of the departing flights that pass over the town during easterly operations. A first glance at the Noise preferential routes (NPR)- suggests that these aircraft should pass to the south of Hitchin. However, any NPR only needs to be followed whilst an aircraft is flying below 3000ft (4000ft at night – between 11pm and 6am). In practice, most aircraft leaving Luton in an easterly direction reach 3000ft as they fly over Stagenhoe. After that, air traffic controllers ‘vector’ them onto flightpaths that are the most direct, taking into account such factors as weather and other traffic in the area.
A second map gives a sample of flight paths for 11th March this year. It would appear that anything goes, and the airport will doubtless claim that it isn’t their decision. I have been checking the altitude at which planes over-fly Hitchin, and it is often about 4000ft*. It seems to me that it would be possible to increase this to reduce the noise nuisance that we are subjected to. Often there seems to be a levelling-out at this altitude until after flying over the north western fringes of the town. Of course, increasing rate of climb uses more fuel and produces more CO2, which is not desirable. Also the costs would be passed on to the customer, and the airlines would argue that their competitiveness in flying from Luton would be reduced.
On Saturday 12th July, at about 8.10 in the evening, I heard a particularly loud aircraft over north Hitchin. I subsequently submitted a complaint. I have now received a written reply (delayed because email responses were sent, but for some reason did not arrive in my inbox). The Airfield Environment Officer confirmed that the aircraft concerned (a B737 executive jet from the US) was lower than normal, and did not follow Luton’s Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) procedure, which aims to reduce the noise on approach. Apparently compliance with the procedures is about 90%. I have replied with a number of questions about this – what action is taken to deter failure to comply, what percentage of non-compliant flights are made by executive jets etc. Watch this space for the airport’s response.
If you experience noise nuisance, especially due to the frequency of overflights from Luton, please do submit a complaint. In 2013, there were 52 complaints made by just 3 Hitchin residents. Multiple complaints from a few complainants carry less weight than the same number of complaints from more complainants. You can complete the complaint the form at http://www.london-luton.co.uk/en/noisecomplaint/ (which does not have a category for frequency of flights) or simply email to email@example.com which allows more freedom.
*Geek note. Luton TraVis http://www.london-luton.co.uk/en/flighttracking/ enables you to track flights and find data such as call sign, altitude and speed. It is also possible to find the noise level as the aircraft passes over the fixed noise monitors
Previous note on Luton Airport expansion here – and use the search option.
Bill Sellicks – contact: firstname.lastname@example.org