31 October 2016

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

31 October 2016

Charles Kirwan-TaylorDuring September Gatwick Airport operated the westerly runway for 84% of the month with 4,409 aircraft departing via Route 4 with a track keeping rate of 91.35%. Since the route amendment was introduced in May 2016 the average track keeping achievement from May to September has been 97.87%. The Flight Performance Team at Gatwick continues to engage with our airline and industry stakeholders to improve this as much as possible.

There have been notable fluctuations in track keeping, for example on the 24th September there were 50 track deviations from Route 4 as aircraft were ‘ballooning’ outside of the NPR. The Met Office figures for the Gatwick area on this date revealed winds at 3,000ft to be generally 180-200° 26-29 knots, increasing to 29-33 knots later that day. As we expected, strong winds can affect track keeping performance on this Route.

We continue to receive a substantial amount of feedback from local communities regarding Route 4. Sometimes this is not straightforward to interpret as we receive Route 4 related feedback even on those days when the airport is operating on the easterly runway. An example of this is the period 4 - 14 October during which we were operating on the easterly runway (so Route 4 was not in use) yet we received a volume of Route 4 specific feedback consistent with periods when the route was in use.

Horley overflight

We are acutely aware that overflight of the town, as published in the UK Aeronautical Information Publication, is expressly prohibited.

Aircraft that overfly Horley have invariably been ‘vectored’ away from Route 4 by the air traffic controllers at the NATS Control Centre at Swanwick. The practice of vectoring is not new but prior to the amendment currently in force, as the main swathe of traffic was further north than it presently is, aircraft vectored at the same stage of flight avoided Horley.

Levels of traffic being vectored after a Route 4 departure unnecessarily over flying Horley have increased from historical levels of approximately 1-3% to a high of 8-9%.

Since this increase was noted, all air traffic controllers at Swanwick who have duties relating to Gatwick departures have been briefed to avoid overflying Horley and received new guidance regarding vectoring as to when and how it should now take place, taking into account the amendment. Our initial impression is that this is now having some success as there is a more recent downward trend in Horley overflights; we will continue to monitor this matter closely and to do what we can to ensure that NATS stays vigilant on the subject.

Gatwick Airport will continue to provide the CAA with data throughout the monitoring period for this route, which will end on November 26. We expect the CAA to make and publish its decision within three to four months of the end of the monitoring period.