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Noise

Aircraft noise in general is a growing problem in South East England and its not just the increase in private jets at Farnborough. While commercial aircraft have got quieter, there are more of them and they are frequently flying at night which is disturbing people in their homes and disrupting their sleep. These aircraft can be at 5,000ft - 10,000ft going in and out of Gatwick and Heathrow, over west Surrey and east Hampshire. There are also a lot of light aircraft operating from Blackbushe, Fairoaks and White Waltham that are 40 – 60 years old. Many were made before there was any consideration of the noise they produce. Then there are helicopters that are extremely noisy (often 80dBs at 1,500ft). Noise is recognised as a serious health risk and this report from UECNA (that FNG is a member of) provides the clinical research relating to health impacts of aircraft noise.

 

The change in Farnborough’s airspace in 2020 resulted in aircraft flying lower and it resulted in quiet rural areas that were previously only overflown 5 – 10 times a day now being overflown 80 – 120 times a day. There is guidance (e.g. Air Navigation Guidance 2017, British Helicopter Association Guidance) that is supposed to be applied to reduce aircraft noise, especially over National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. However, Farnborough's new airspace designs implemented in 2020 ignored the guidance and now many rural areas are blighted by aircraft noise. To make matters worse, Farnborough Airport is not yet at full capacity and it has applied to increase the number of flights, particularly at weekends. To accommodate the increase in flights, Farnborough Airport has joined the government's Airspace Modernisation Strategy. This plans to double the number of commercial aircraft by 2030 and new flightpaths will be introduced by 2028 for Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton and Farnborough. That will mean 2.5 million flights a year could be put over anyone. The restrictions on night flights end next year and the CAA is looking at changes in the future. Many people are understandably very annoyed and concerned.

The CEO of the CAA (Richard Moriarty at the the time) committed to local MPs in 2021 that aircraft noise would be measured. It hasn't been - either in the airspace review process or following pressure by FNG. The airport is only measuring the noise of some Farnborough aircraft but ALL noise needs to be measured as people do not isolate different noise sources.

Farnborough Airport New arrivals and departures

Farnborough’s new flightpaths – departures & arrivals

 

Farnborough aircraft now fly using GPS navigation on the centreline of the flightpath so they fly over the same people time and time again. They are also flying lower than before (by about 500ft). They are supposed to climb quickly to reduce the number of people experiencing noise – but this isn’t happening. For much of the time, 50% of flights do not follow the designated flightpaths and climb/descent profiles.

Farnborough Airport Flightpath Map

Even though the airspace consultation said aircraft would fly within the flightpaths, they actually continue to fly within the black area. So in reality, there are no fewer people overflown as a result of the airspace change. Towns such as Farnham were specifically supposed to be avoided but this is not the case.

Controlled airspace areas

These are the new controlled airspace areas and their heights. The blue areas mean that light aircraft and helicopters fly under them – avoiding having to ask for permission to use controlled airspace.

Flightpaths of aircraft avoiding controlled airspace

Many non-Farnborough aircraft choose to avoid controlled airspace. It happens 10 – 30 times a day. By flying under controlled airspace and because of the hills in the area, aircraft are often very low (1,000ft – 1,500ft above the ground). As a result, aircraft, particularly helicopters, are very noisy. These “rat-runs” are under the new jet flightpaths so people living in these areas get a second layer of noise disturbance.

Some of the flightpaths for Gatwick and Heathrow are also over the same area

Some of the flightpaths for Gatwick and Heathrow are also over the same area. Large aircraft frequently fly as low as 5,000ft, often early in the morning or late at night. With the restrictions on night flights ending next year, it is a concern that more aircraft could be using these flightpaths at night.

Calibration of instrument landing systems

Farnborough, Odiham and Lasham airports have Instrument Landing Systems that require regular calibration. Aircraft fly repeatedly, at low height, over the same tracks. Sometimes these are at night when the airspace is quiet.

Flight training school flights

The rural areas west, south and east of Farnborough are popular with flight training schools. Especially on sunny days and weekends, there can be almost constant noise disturbance from light aircraft with one aircraft after another circling for 15 minutes at a time.

Paraglider over Tilford

Paragliders like this one over Tilford sometimes fly below the minimum legal height but they can’t be identified and reported because they have no markings.

Military activity from Chinooks

While they are a necessary military activity, Chinooks also operate over the same area. Sometimes during the night at very low height.

View a video of a low flying Chinook

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