Aircraft noise – make your views known to the CAA

I have been extremely concerned by recent reports from across the constituency of the misery caused by increased air traffic at all times of the day, including in areas not previously overflown. With both Heathrow and Gatwick insisting that recent flight path changes have not affected our area, I have held a series of meetings with local residents and the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, Gatwick and Heathrow airports and National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to understand the source of the problem. It transpires that the core issue is the use of the Precision Area Navigation (PR-NAV) system, which allows planes to fly with increased accuracy in and out of Gatwick. Designed to maximise runway use at Gatwick, the changes are part of a wider consideration of our National Airspace Strategy, which feeds, in turn, to the European Airspace Strategy. The effect, however, has been to concentrate aircraft along a much narrower 250-500m corridor of airspace over Felbridge, Lingfield and Dormansland. The system became mandatory in May this year and coincided with changes in weather conditions causing the normally westerly take-offs to switch to easterly. Typically, 70% of departures from Gatwick will fly to the west, with the remaining 30% taking off to the east. But recent weather has seen this figure reversed, with 90% of flights in September taking off to the East and just 10% flying west. This has caused an unacceptable concentration of aircraft over our area, which clearly was not taken into account when the system was trialled two years ago. It is shocking that so little has been done to make residents aware of this change, or to ensure an effective mechanism through which they can register their concerns. The Civil Aviation Authority has responsibility for PR-NAV, and are due to undertake a post-implementation performance review. Working with other Surrey MPs I have already requested an urgent meeting with the CAA, but I would encourage everyone affected to make their views known by contacting them directly. You can contact the Civil Aviation Authority by email (airspace.policy@caa.co.uk) or post (Airspace Policy Directorate, CAA, CAA House, 45-59 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6TE). I have also raised concern about the unusual level of noise over Warlingham, Woldingham and Oxted with Gatwick and Heathrow. Neither airport accept responsibility for the increase in complaints. I would encourage constituents experiencing increased noise in these areas to report times and dates of specific planes flying overhead, so that we can present a clear case to stop these unwelcome disturbances.