Route 4 blog - first edition, 23 December 2015

Initial update by Charles Kirwan-Taylor, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director

Charles Kirwan-Taylor


We received the CAA’s post implementation review on November 11 and met with the regulator very shortly afterwards. They had reviewed all the modified flight paths that sit within our nine noise preferential routes (or corridors) for departing aircraft and found eight to be compliant with regulations.

We have known for some time that the introduction of the new technology on Route 4 – a flight path close to the Redhill and Reigate area – did not perform as expected, and so we have been working on a new plan for a while. Consequently we were able to submit a proposal for a modification to this route soon after we received the results of the review. The CAA suggested some amendments, particularly as to the speed specified in the turn, and has just approved our subsequent modification. 

Next steps

We now need to go through a number of formal steps to prove the viability and ‘flyability’ of the proposed modification to this route. This includes contracting with specialist computer software houses to get it coded appropriately, running it through two sets of flight simulators (for Boeing and Airbus), submitting the results of those tests to the CAA for further analysis and, once approval has been received, distributing the new route to airlines for adoption. There are variables in this timetable which include how long it will take the coding houses to translate the proposed route into code, and getting the necessary time in the appropriate simulators, which are always well booked up, but we are working to as tight a timetable as we can.

The last step, the distribution of the modified route to the airlines, can only happen at certain set times over the year as it is good practice for new routes across the whole airspace (not just around Gatwick) to be adopted only on certain specified days so as to maintain consistency and safety. We are aiming to have this distribution done in February, which will then allow for implementation in May (this gap is a procedural one and is something over which we have no control as it involves further testing and safety clearances etc).

How long will it take?

This timetable is driven by a strict procedure, which is as it should be given the paramount need to preserve the safety of our airspace. We are aiming to have everything on our side completed by February and we believe that our other stakeholders in this (in particular the CAA) are committed to that too. However, getting the necessary steps completed by February is actually quite tight and if there is a delay in one of the steps outlined then the timetable may still slip.

I will continue to update everyone on the progress of this process through this regular blog and more information will also be published in this area of our website.

Read my latest blog