Heathrow Airspace and Future Operations Consultation

The current operating regime used by Heathrow for their runways can be summarised as follows

  • There are two runways
  • One is used for arrivals and one for departures
  • These swap round every half day

  • The airport operates a “Western approach preference”, which means that 70% of the time planes land coming from the east towards the west (i.e. over our area) and take off over Windsor, and the remaining 30% of the time (Eastern approach) they land coming from the west over Windsor towards the east and take off over our area. On the Western approach when the planes are landing over us, aircraft arrive from anywhere but are fed into arrival streams on descent and become stabilised on final approach over central London so they pass over us in a line, lined up on the runway approach. On the Eastern approach, when they are taking off over us, they travel in several directions depending on where they are heading. The “swap” diagram above shows the swap for Western approach operatoions.

  • Under Western approach the Northern runway is denoted 27R, and the southern runway 27L. Under the Eastern approach the Northern runway is designated 09L, and the Southern runway 09R.

  • No flights are scheduled to land or take off between 23:05 and 04:45.

As part of the planned expansion, Heathrow is consulting over changes to how it will manage arrivals and departures of aircraft, both under the current 2-runway structure and the proposed future 3-runway structure. They talk about their being three parts to the consultation (and there are three sets of documents)

  • The 3rd Runway – called “Future Operations (how we will use the runway)”. Operating three runways will be different to operating two. This covers the general principles of use of the 3 runways (directional preference, night flights, runway alternation between takeoffs and landing, night flight bans, etc.).
  • Flight Paths – called “Airspace change for expansion (The flight paths aircraft will fly)”, This covers the routes aircraft will take to arrive and depart from the 3 runway airport and
  • Greater use of the current 2 runways – called “Airspace change for our existing two runways (Independent Parallel Approaches – IPA)”. This would come in irrespective of whether the 3rd runway is built, and is a change to the current “one runway for arrivals, the other for departures” approach through making changes to arrivals. Under this both runways would be used for arrivals for periods of time, and one for departures.

However there is one consultation and questionnaire to complete. The current consultation runs until 4 Mar 2019 and is part of a long review and approval process under which the earliest anything would actually happen would be 2022 (the IPA change) and the 3rd runway would not open before 2026.

The consultation asks a number of questions on different topics. There is a good summary of these here (http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Consultation-summary.pdf ).

A common question in our area is “where will the flight path for the new runway be for our area?” For departures it will essentially follow the same routes as today (whereby the aircraft effectively “fan out” after take-off depending on the direction they need to head in). The runway they take off from does not really affect the impact they have on our area (as the direction they need to head in drives whether they overfly our area).

For arrivals the flightpaths for arrivals at the current runways will remain unchanged, where they arrive in a line aligned to the runway they are landing on. For the new runway there will be a new line aligned to the new runway. This document ( http://hacan.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Heathrow-Airspace-Consultation.pdf ) shows this arrivals line for the three runways on slide 8. Basically the arrivals flight path for the 3rd runway will go over Osterley Park as it passes over our area.

The consultation can be accessed here (https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/ ). Once you start the consultation there are a series of 7 pages with questions as follows. Note there is no obvious logic or sequence to the numbering of the questions…. 😉

Page 1. Flightpath design local factors. This asks 2 questions (nos 6 and 7) about any local factors in the area that should impact the design of flightpaths for either the two runway or three runway airport. Halfway down the page is a search box on a map. If you enter your Post Code, a number of Design Envelopes will appear (when I entered mine, 5 appeared – A1, A2, D2, I2, I1. A means arrival flightpaths, 3 runways, D means departure flightpaths, 3 runways, I means arrivals flightpaths with 2 runways using the proposed new IPA). A Design Envelope is the area within which the new flight paths will be designed. The questions appear once you use the above search.

NOTE. For arrivals from the east travelling over us to the airport to the west (i.e. Westerly Approach), whatever the arrival flightpaths are in these envelopes will have little or no impact on us. This is because the planes landing over us will already be flying in a line, lined up with the runway they are landing on, as at present.

Page 2. Other airspace points. This asks one question (No 8) as to whether there is anything else you wish to be considered re airspace changes.

Page 3. Noise objective. This asks 2 questions (nos 1a and 1c) about whether Heathrow should have a noise objective.

Page 4. Respite patterns. This asks 2 questions (nos 2a and 2c) about respite patterns. At present they operate with two runway operating patterns and switch them every half-day. in this area it means we have planes landing on one runway for half a day (with departures being from the other runway), and then switching runways for the rest of the day i.e. half a day of “respite” every day. With the three runway airport the two options now on offer are a 4-5 hour respite period every day (i.e. they change the runway operating pattern every 4-5 hours), or longer periods of respite but not every day (by changing the runway operating pattern each day).

Page 5. Directional preference. This asks 3 questions (nos 3a, 3c and 3e) about directional preference. At the moment the default (70% of the time) is Western operations (planes land over us and take off over Windsor). 30% of the time (when the direction of the wind changes) they land over Windsor and take off over us. Also Western operations are preferred for early morning and late night operations (i.e. landing over us and taking off over Windsor). They ask whether this should be maintained.

Page 6. Night flights. This asks 2 questions (nos 4a and 4b) about night flights. Currently there are no scheduled departures later than 22:50 or earlier than 06:00, and no scheduled arrivals later than 23:05 or earlier than 04:45 (which means no scheduled movements between 23:05 and 04:45 (a period of 5:40 hours). The proposal is to extend this quiet period to either 6:15 or 6:30 hours, by having no scheduled flights after 23:00 and arrivals starting at either 5:15 or 5:30, and departures from 06:00 as at present.

Page 7. Other night restrictions. This asks for views on other night restrictions (particularly how to incentivise use of quiet planes at night).