Operational Freedoms Trials at Heathrow Inconclusive

Trials do not justify loss of half day respite from noise

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The final report into the controversial ‘operational freedoms’ trials carried out at Heathrow during winter 2011 and summer 2012, published last week,  has concluded that no firm evidence has emerged to show that they reduced delays at the airport.  The report from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) found that “it is extremely difficult to reach any strong conclusions on the benefit or otherwise of the trial."

During the trials Heathrow Airport had been given permission to land planes on both runways if delays were building up.  Normally, aircraft using Heathrow land on one runway until 3pm before switching to the other runway in order to give residents in the boroughs closest to Heathrow a break from the noise.  During the trials aircraft were also allowed to leave their designated take-off routes early in order to speed up the operation of the airport.  However, the CAA found that the problems of dealing with a huge number of planes on the runways at any one time meant that the experiment made little difference to the operation of October 22, 2013p HACAN, said, “It appears that these trials brought little benefit to the airport.  But they did deprive residents of their much-valued half day’s break from the noise.  To bring them back to be a lot of pain for very little gain.”

Heathrow Airport would like to retain operational freedoms.  That decision, though, will be up to the Government.  When he published the final reports new aviation minister Robert Goodwill said that he was sending them to the Airports Commission who will consider their findings first before the Government took any final decision.  If the Government did decide to make operational freedoms permanent, there would be a public consultation on the proposals.

October 22, 2013