Since the independent arrivals review (IAR) was published in January 2016, a great deal of progress has already been made in taking forward all of the review’s recommendations.

Bo Redeborn, who led the Arrivals Review and is the Independent Chairman of the Noise Management Board, updates on progress to date:

Update 1 February 2017

After extensive community consultation, the IAR made 23 detailed recommendations aimed at reducing Gatwick’s noise impacts from arriving aircraft, and strengthening the airport’s relationship with those communities most impacted by noise. 

Gatwick accepted all the recommendations, and in June 2016 published a Final Action Plan that set out the expected implementation details and target timescales for delivering the IAR recommendations.

Now, a year on, Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL) has published its Progress Report from January 2016 to January 2017, which is one of the 23 recommendations (IMM20).

I’m pleased to report that very good progress is being made, with 11 of the 23 recommendations complete and a further five nearing completion.  Work on the remaining recommendations is ongoing, as is new follow-on work stemming from the original recommendations as part of a programme of continuous improvement.

Noise Management Board  (IMM18)

One of the review’s core recommendations was the establishment of a Noise Management Board (NMB) for Gatwick, to bring all parties together to work through and agree often complex issues, as well as to identify any future work that may be needed. 

The NMB oversees the implementation of the Arrivals Review’s recommendations, while further informing future noise management strategies for Gatwick, including departures.

It is made up of representatives from the local community, Gatwick Airport Ltd (GAL), NATS (formerly National Air Traffic Services), Air Navigation Solutions (ANS), the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the Department for Transport (DfT), the Gatwick Airport Consultative Committee (GATCOM), County Councils, Airline Operators Committee and Community Noise Groups.

The NMB is also helping to ensure that community concerns about aircraft noise are fully understood by key stakeholder organisations considering issues that may affect such noise management around Gatwick.

These objectives are being achieved through the progressive development of consensus across the NMB constituency. This coordination is improving the alignment of responsibilities, and the relevant initiatives and priorities of the key organisations able to influence change in the effect of noise from aircraft using Gatwick. It is also helping Community Noise Groups to refine and develop their own perspectives and priorities.

It is now a little more than six months since the NMB met for the first time. The constitution and governance structure and related processes are in place. Given the number of organisations involved, and a great diversity of views represented, this is already a significant milestone. My thanks for this achievement are due to the pragmatic and constructive attitudes of all the members.

A reduction in the minimum final approach joining distance (IMM-10)

The reduction in the minimum ILS (final approach track) joining point distance was widely identified by residents as a priority and communicated as such to us during the arrivals review process.

These requests to the IAR had arisen from an increased concentration of arriving flight tracks that had occurred following an approach stabilisation initiative in 2013.

The intention of the IMM-10 recommendation is to, as far as possible, increase the arrivals dispersal to more closely emulate the circumstances prior to 2013. Following detailed planning with NATS and the CAA, the IMM-10 ILS minimum joining point change was accordingly introduced on August 15th 2016.

Measurement and analysis has since clearly indicated the achievement of a sustained reduction in traffic concentration at the 11-nautical mile (nm) point. The number of aircraft joining at this previously concentrated location has been reduced when compared to the prior year, on average by more than 25%. [25% August (after change), 29% September, 25% October, 34% November, 28% December].

Even so, it is also evident that much more work is necessary as regards the ‘fair and equitable dispersal’ (FED) of aircraft before they reach the ILS. This complex dispersal issue has been at the centre of NMB debate since it was constituted, and is a focus of priority work for GAL and the NMB, with a separate sub-group set up to work out between communities and industry the definition, delivery and measurement of FED.

Continuous descent procedures (IMM05)

This recommendation aims to keep aircraft at a higher altitude for as long as possible and to fly a continuous descent approach using lower power settings and reduced use of drag techniques, which are often applied to slow aircraft down in preparation for landing. The objectives are to reduce both engine and airframe noise from aircraft. 

The monitoring and reporting of aircraft adherence to this newly adapted procedure began on 1st August 2016. Improvements to continuous descent procedures are expected to increase the actual altitude of aircraft over both urban and rural areas under Gatwick’s approaches. Reports will be provided to the NMB. 

Additional measures and initiatives are also being developed by GAL, in order to improve adherence to the procedure and an operating culture of continuous noise improvement. 

Modification to the Airbus A320 family of aircraft (IMM01)

While work to address the characteristic ‘whining’ sound produced by the A320 family of aircraft has been underway for some time, the review team recommended Gatwick incentivise this work to be fast tracked.  

I am pleased to report that the proportion of modified aircraft increases each month as part of established airline initiatives, and over half of the affected fleets are now modified. A table showing airline progress is shown within GAL’s IMM20 Progress Report under the IMM01 section.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the review’s recommendations, Gatwick has proposed two key steps: 

  • an adapted charging mechanism to further speed up the process of modifying aircraft which will be introduced in January 2018
  • measures by the Department for Transport to require all affected Airbus aircraft operating in UK to be modified, and to propose similar steps by international policy makers. 

Outlook

Through close collaboration between all parties, excellent progress has been made to date. While many of the recommendations by their very nature, will take time to implement, I have been encouraged by the achievements so far and the willingness of all partners to work together. 

I remain confident that the Arrivals Review and the NMB has the ability to contribute to a significant reduction in Gatwick’s noise impacts and the strengthening of the airport’s dialogue with its neighbours and other stakeholders through improved collaboration, communications and information.

I will continue to do my utmost to ensure continued and sustained progress to the noise reduction objectives of the NMB. 

Bo Redeborn - Chairman 
Noise Management Board