22 June 2016

Update by Charles Kirwan-Taylor, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director

22 June 2016  

Charles Kirwan-Taylor

 In a previous blog entry on 1 June, I explained how the direction of operation of the runway changed during the afternoon of 26 May to ‘easterly operations’ and remained so for over two weeks.

As of writing, we have been operating in a predominantly westerly direction with intermittent easterly operations for a couple of weeks. This has allowed us to make a number of initial observations regarding the operation of the amended route.

Before I go into detail regarding those observations, it is important that I reiterate certain key points regarding the route and the amendment.

Firstly, the requirement placed upon us by the Civil Aviation Authority is to attempt to replicate the original conventional route (the route that existed prior to the introduction of R-NAV1) within the confines of the Noise Preferential Route.  This is in order to better mirror the tracks that were being flown before the introduction of R-NAV1.

Secondly, we have always been clear that in making this amendment, there exists no perfect solution to Route 4 that will deliver the required outcome for local communities that would be acceptable to airlines and air traffic control alike. Therefore, this amendment is likely to experience instances of poor track-keeping when the wind is in a south-westerly direction.

The map below illustrates a typical 24 period of Route 4 departures prior to the introduction of R-NAV1 departures from 2012.

The map below illustrates a typical 24 period of Route 4 departures after the Route 4 amendment was implemented. 

To allow comparisons to be made, this map illustrates a 24 hour period of R-NAV1 tracks prior to the amendment being put in place.

Example of poor track-keeping as a result of the south-westerly wind direction on 20 June 2016.

Our initial observations are as follows: 

  • The amendment is working broadly as anticipated.
  • A number of aircraft have been identified as flying the conventional SID.
  • Community perception in certain locations is that nothing has changed.
  • Some aircraft have been observed as turning too early. (Exiting the eastern most part of the NPR).
  • Small numbers of aircraft have also exited the NPR in the north-westerly section, thus ‘ballooning out’. This has been exacerbated when the wind has been in a south-westerly direction.
  • Communities that are located under the NPR but have not been overflown in recent years are contacting the airport and making aircraft noise complaints.

During the six month monitoring period from 26 May to 26 November 2016, Gatwick Airport will continue to engage with our airlines, air traffic control and our airspace designers to improve adherence to the amended route, and to explore how track keeping can be improved when the wind is in a south-westerly direction.

With reference to keeping the CAA informed of progress, we continue to discuss the amendment with our Airspace Regulator and we have been advised what information we are required to provide on a monthly basis, this will follow a similar format to the information provided in the original PIR.

Finally, a number of individuals have contacted the airport with screenshots of various flight tracking applications stating that aircraft are off-track and then looking at Casper and questioning the accuracy of the system. For the avoidance of doubt, Casper utilises actual radar data and has been assessed for accuracy by the CAA; a report is published on our website. 

I will continue to keep this Blog updated with developments relating to Route 4 and please continue to forward your feedback to: Route4@gatwickairport.com.