ISSUE: Night Flights                       


Night noise misery to continue predicts Council

According to Wandsworth Council proposed changes to existing restrictions on night flights will continue to rely on a flawed system for assessing aircraft noise at Heathrow.

The current regime comes to an end in October 2005 when the new proposals would take effect.

The Department for Transport wants to extend the existing quota count (QC) system which 'measures' total noise according to the number of movements by each type of aircraft.

Wandsworth last year exposed the weaknesses of this approach which uses a points tariff to assign a noise rating to each aircraft. In general terms a QC2 rating is half as noisy as a QC4 rating.

The council's research revealed that the true noise level at Heathrow was much higher than admitted. This is because most of the early morning arrivals at Heathrow are B747-400s with Rolls Royce engines.

A DfT research study has recently shown that these aircraft fail to meet their certificated noise levels on landing. They are in many cases at least twice as loud as they should be.

Most of the aircraft concerned have been allocated a QC rating of 2 points when the DfT figures show that in fact these aircraft should be in a QC4 or QC8 category. Currently Heathrow operates a voluntary ban on all QC4 and above aircraft between the hours of 23:30 and 06:00 (The Night Quota Period).

The DfT's consultation document on the new night restrictions regime now confirms that the council was right to highlight this major discrepancy in the way noise figures are compiled.

Despite the admission, the Government says it intends to continue operating the points system and is now proposing a new lower category (QC 0.25) for the latest versions of jets such as the Boeing 757 and 737 which the DfT say are much quieter. This could pave the way for an increase in the overall number of early morning arrivals. -
There are currently 14 arrivals at Heathrow before 6am.

The consultation paper also suggests formally excluding all of the noisier QC4 rated aircraft from landing in the night period - although this would only have any impact if each engine type was accurately rated.

Council leader Edward Lister said local residents' interests would be best served by a complete ban on night flights.

He also called for an end to the discredited points system which had been used to mask the real level of night noise at Heathrow:

"The latest consultation paper concedes the flaws in the points system at Heathrow yet makes no attempt to come with a more robust measure for noise.

"For people who are woken up in the early hours by an aircraft landing at Heathrow and are then unable to get back to sleep these convoluted points tariffs are meaningless.

"The council wants to see a complete ban on all night flights - but at the very least there should be live monitoring of noise at Heathrow so that our residents can judge the true scale of the annoyance caused by early morning arrivals."

The new night restrictions regime would run for six years. Consultation is being conducted in two stages with the first part concluding by October 29.

The council will consider its formal response to the consultation paper in September. The closing date for comments is October 29.

Copies of the consultation paper are available by email from the DfT on or by calling 020 7944 5796.

For more information on aviation issues the Council invite you to visit

August 6, 2004


Associated articles:

Council pledges to fight any recommendation to relax restrictions on night flights 01.03.2004

Government wins Night Flight case 8.7.03

Richmond first with night flights cash 31.05.02

Wandsworth makes cash call to save night flights ruling May 2002

Residents face fresh night flights challenge April 2002

Night flights ruling could come before Christmas November 2002

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