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Heathrow Trials Update

NewsA meeting recently took place between Heathrow and representatives from Teddington including myself, local councillors and a local residents group.

Much information was put forward from both groups, representatives from Heathrow (LHR) were keen to point out that the trials are a response to the mandated modernisation of airspace that many airports in European countries have been told must happen by 2020. It’s clear that LHR have been completely taken aback by the sheer number of complaints received since the trials began at the end of August – at the time they had seen a peak of over 500 complaints in a day, since this has risen to almost 3,000!

It was made clear that if these changes were made permanent, they would have a massive negative impact on residents lives as they had already done. A sample of the types of petition comments were handed to Heathrow grouping these into effects on health, business, schooling, sleep and enjoyment of outdoor space etc. Many locals moved here to escape excessive plane noise from elsewhere and many would move if plan noise increase to these levels long-term.

One of the aims of the trials is to help mitigate noise impact, as well as making flight routes more efficient so that when issues to occur, this doesn’t lead to as much plane congestion and departure delays for passengers. Some example postcodes were used to show the before/after tracks of aircraft – to LHR’s surprise, some aircraft were still ‘straying’ outside of the new accurately navigated route.

One area of disagreement was that residents believe that planes are now (individually) lower and louder. This was refuted by Heathrow and they can’t think of any reason why planes are now louder than previously – they did admit that the angle at which they turn may have an impact. But they are 100% sure planes aren’t any lower than pre-trial and have provided two example before/after charts to show the height & frequency of two ‘gates’.

One thing is for sure, Heathrow weren’t expecting such a reaction from changing flightpaths and didn’t predict that concentration would have such an impact on noise – this is worrying because it brings into question any similar predictions for flightpath changes including analysis of who would be affected by increased capacity at Heathrow with a third runway.

The charts below are for a postcode in Cambridge Road – an area where in theory, noise should be improved during the trial if planes are no longer flying directly over the High Street and are now further west over Broad Street/Bushy Park area. As you can see, planes that were originally using route 4 (SAM) are now slightly further away, but the now very-concentrated flight path at 0.9km away is what is causing the increased noise in Cambridge Road. The plane heights are not lower in general in great numbers although there is some variance.

If you are interested in the charts, here they are for two postcodes – with a September sample used for both from 2013 and 2014:

  • TW11 8DW (Cambridge Road) before and during the trial.
  • Also TW11 0NL (Admiralty Way, off Queens Road, near Bushy Park) before and during the trial.

It appears then that the reason why locals experience louder (and potentially more lower) planes is most likely a result of the much more concentrated & combined flight path now being more over Teddington – there are probably more of the lowing flying/larger aircraft over here than before with just the SAM route. One potential trial next year will be for aircraft to use steeper climbing in departure paths, but this may take place as a simulation rather than a real-life trial.

Although the trials will now end early on November 12th, Heathrow will be holding a public meeting in Teddington to discuss these and future trials. The meeting will be chaired by Vince Cable and take place on Monday 10th November 7:30pm-9:30pm at Teddington Baptist Church, Church Road. The meeting capacity will be 200 on a first-come first-served basis. The meeting will be recorded (audio) so if you can’t attend, you will be able to hear what was said after the date.

[Update 29/20/2014] This recently published Airspace Modernisation Trials FAQ is handy reading.


0 thoughts on “Heathrow Trials Update

  • Stephen Clark

    Why is the Heathrow noise meeting in such a small venue. If the consulation meeting is properly advertised there will be very many more residents wanting to attend. After Ascot perhaps Heathrow does not want a repeat!

  • Paul McG

    Where – other than on this site – has the meeting been advertised?

    • Stephen Clark

      I don’t think it has been widely publicised – however I have asked the Teddington Society to email members and understand this will be done today or tomorrow.

  • TW11 8BE. Heathrow can refute our complaints all it likes – but this eye witness 100% disagrees with their claims – those planes in September were directly over the roof of my home! On the river. So low you could almost see the passengers in the windows! Sleep deprived for more than a week (earplugs are no defence). Less aircraft noise in Central London (btw: did anyone else notice this increased activity coincided with Boris Island being thrown out of the pot?) Unfortunately can’t attend Monday’s meeting but this issue is of immense concern – for health (and safety), community and environmental reasons – and with flyers being handed out at Teddington Station tonight I hope you get a good representation. Richmond is already blighted by these thunderbirds in the sky. This needs to stop.

  • Neil Spurrier

    TW1 4RX Strawberry Vale: It is now the 14th November, supposedly 2 days after the trials have ended, and the planes are as frequent, as low and as loud as ever. It is impossible to sleep and we are swiftly being driven mad by this torture!

  • Jeremy Sandle

    So Heathrow and NATS told us the trials were in response to Government requiring them to modernise the airspace. So without and ground rules from the CAA, NATS apparently decided to test how narrow a corridor they could get flights to follow. This involves using the tight corridor over west Teddington and seeing how well aircraft could follow an 80 deg curve. After looking at this for a few months they decided they had enough data- that is until next year! So the trials have ended but the aircraft are still being directed to overfly west teddington, just without the monitoring of their strict path. So we need to tell them to stop the easterly take off and go back to the westerly take off, otherwise we will be suffering sustained noise and sleep deprivation ad nauseam.
    Interestingly the Davies commission report on which airport should have a 3rd runway is due before NATS have concluded their investigations on how well aircraft can be made to follow a specific flight path. Now wouldn’t you have thought this was relevant to the choice of airport expansion. Methinks they are just getting us used to easterly take off as a permanent feature of life in Teddington. Subject of course to a full Environmental survey which will be conduced with Teddington flight traffic as a ” norm” .
    We have to take action or face this intolerable noise for the foreseeable future

    • I think that it is right that we are going to have to take some action if we want to preserve the way of life that has existed before the trials. It seems to me that Heathrow have not been honest with us. It is simply not acceptable or reasonable for them to say that the trials have finished and that all is back as it was before. The planes are taking off to the east and we are being subject to intense noise from 5.30am to past 11pm every day.
      I think that we should consider a class action and I am prepared to put myself forward as a leader if needs be. We would need between 100 and 200 hundred people to share and probably be prepared to put in between £3k and £5k to take an action to a full trial with experts. We could launch an action for compensation of say the value of our homes plus a percentage for distress. I would be prepared to fund an initial consultation with a London firm of lawyers to get an opinion on how we might move forward. Personally I do not believe that talking alone will end this state of affairs. Hopefully Heathrow would talk to us with some commitment before a case came to a full trial.

      • Jeremy Sandle

        I understand how you might jump to this action. However please remember that safety of airspace is how any such challenge would be defeated. CAA are judge and jury on this. I’m of the view our first action is to get up a huge petition demanding that the easterly take off is used only as it was at the beginning of the year, now that the trials have ceased. We then get Cable to take up the cause.

        • The thing is that we already have a petition through Change.Org signed by 6,824 people but Cable has not been able to take this forward. Indeed I am not certain what action he is taking at the moment.
          I think that I want to know much more about what our representatives are doing and are not doing and who they are apart from Vince Cable. I am not confident of LBRuT doing much. They will probably claim that they do not have the funds. Regrettably I fear that the only people who are going to help us is us.
          I do not believe that any new sanction of flight corridors by the Government is needed. Routes 3 and 4 already exist. It is just that they have been used sparingly until now.
          Obviously we would need impact assessments and experts to report but this would be done within a court action or even pre-action but through lawyers who would be acting for us

  • Stephen Clark

    The continuing disturbance is really appalling – no apparent change since the trial allegedly stopped. A class action is worth considering but in the first instance we should look to our local representatives ie the council and MPs to take matters up with the CAA and Heathrow. There should be records kept of the amount of flights before the trial so it should be possible to compare whether in effect the intensification has been continued post trial. Provision of this information should be insisted upon.

    The recent interim Davis Commission is available on the web – it contains noise, wellbeing and health impact assessments as appendices – in my view these should be subject to independent critical analysis.

    Hopefully our representatives should also be commissioning an authoratative independent assessment of health, education and environmental impacts of the new flight paths and airport expansion to internationally recognised standards (eg World Health Organisation). This would make it far harder for government to sanction different flight patterns or airport expansion – which,obviously dependent on the outcome of the assessments, could be shown to be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of a substantial number of its citizens. I believe there is already some helpful research already out there which could be pulled together for an initial report. Without this type of empirical evidence it is likely to be very difficult to counter the economic arguments the airport promotor will undoubtedly throw at impacted areas.

  • The Trials have ended but the noise is worse than ever with planes now taking off over Strawberry Hill and Teddington as never before.
    Heathrow state that planes take off in a westerly direction 70% of the time and easterly 30% of the time. In the easterly direction routes 1 and 2 go north over Hillingdon. Route 3 (planes to India, UAE) goes over Strawberry Hill, Strawberry Vale, Swan Island, Ham Lands and over Kingston. Routes 4 and 5 (planes to west and south west Africa, South America and northern Europe) go over east and west Teddington. According to Heathrow, Route 3 provides for 22% of the easterly traffic with routes 4 and 5 together taking another 22%. 22% of the easterly 30% equals 6.6% of the whole. Therefore Strawberry Vale should have 6.6% of the whole and Teddington should have 6.6% of the whole. This accords with what has happened historically and all the figures are Heathrow’s own.
    The Trials were to establish the ability to fly planes more accurately into narrower bands in accordance with an EU directive. The Trials finished early on the 12th November according to Heathrow. Heathrow now claim that everything has gone back to the state that it was in prior to the Trials. This is clearly false. Over Strawberry Hill, Strawberry Vale and Teddington the proportion of flights must be approaching 75% – up from 12% combined. This is not just us complaining. The people the other side of the airport are noticing the long queues of planes coming into land early in the morning as shown by the BBC article referred to by Margaret. Flights are continuously flying over from 5.30am to past 11pm sometimes at two minute intervals.
    Heathrow seems to have deliberately and without notice or explanation changed the flight patterns interfering with hundreds, if not thousands of people’s lives, and yet continue to deny that this is the case. There seems to be no purpose to this or benefit to anyone.

    • Jeremy Sandle

      I think you are spot on. We need to go see Vincent cable with this and ask what he is going to do about it.

  • I am just emailing Heathrow, Dominic Raab MP and local Councillors. The noise is intolerable. Between 8.42 and 8.53pm I have counted 6 planes, one of which was so loud it stopped all conversation. Heathrow are NOT telling the truth.

    • Jeremy Sandle

      I have had a reply from Simon at Heathrow who says they have reverted to pre trial activity. I have pointed out that this is clearly rubbish and suggested that someone may have instructed this but it has been ignored. We are getting noise from 6 am to midnight at 2 minute intervals most of the day. People need to register objection with Heathrow or they will claim we are all accepting of it

  • I have had a reply from “Simon” in a similar form. I have put some of their statistics to them and asked them to let me have a proper reply and not a lame blueprint. I have cc’d Vince Cable openly.

  • I have sent this “Simon” chap an email saying that
    ” As the Community Communications Team seems to have such a problem believing what the communities of Twickenham, Strawberry Hill and Teddington are saying not to mention, according to the BBC, those of Ascot, Lightwater, Frimley, Bagshot, Windlesham, Sandhurst, Binfield and Sunningdale, I hereby cordially invite you to take coffee and drinks on our patio to view and hear the planes. You should arrive at 6am to catch the early flights. Carriages should be summoned at about 11pm although we may be able to provide some entertainment for you up to about 11.30pm. Hopefully I might be able to provide some evidence to convince even you with your ultra-high standards of proof that now more than 12% of the flights are using the flight routes 3, 4 and 5″.
    I doubt that I will get a reply

    • Jeremy Sandle

      Using flight 24 app, I logged last night all noisey flights between 9:30 and 10:30 pm with flight numbers and airlines. It worked out at one every 3 minutes. It’s a tedious task and maybe others would like to try it. Then submit the results to Heathrow noise email.
      I have a feeling that people are assuming the trials are continuing and are therefore not bothering to react to the noise nuisance on here.

      • Thank you – I will try the app.
        I had a reply from Domonic Raab saying he has contact Heathrow to ask for an explanation. Steve Bax (councillor) also asked for clarification.

  • I see that another round of the Heathrow “Communities for Tomorrow” grant awards closes on Jan 23rd 2015.

    Grants are ” to help groups across the Heathrow area to fund projects to support their community and improve their local environment.”

    and the funding comes from the fines imposed on airlines for breaching departure noise limits.

    Anyone else think that a web-linked noise monitor in Teddington might support the community and improve the local environment ?


    For criteria D “use best practice or innovation” there is the outstanding example of the public access network of monitors in the suburbs around Frankfurt airport . e,g, see the sample output at




    say they have a vision of extending across Europe.

    Is there a Teddington organisation with a bank account sufficiently motivated to assist with an application ?


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