Meriden MP, Dame Caroline Spelman, has issued a challenge to Birmingham Airport to adopt tougher regulations to improve the accuracy of aircraft departing from Runway 15 and Runway 33. If successful, these measures will benefit the communities both the north and south of the airport.
Under current national regulations, the largest and nosiest planes must fly ‘Noise Preferential Routes’ (NPRs), unless otherwise directed by Air traffic Control. Fundamentally this is to reduce the impact of noise over communities directly under the flight path.
Together with the Castle Bromwich Airport Forum (CBAF), Dame Caroline has succeeded in fighting for the NPR threshold (the point at which air-traffic leaves Birmingham Airport Airspace and are adopted onto the main UK air traffic routes under the supervision of National Air Traffic Controllers), to increase from 3,000 ft. to 4,000 ft.
This will ensure that the airport’s air traffic controllers (ATC) are more accountable to local residents and that flights will be further away from the foot of the runway before pilots cease to be directed by local ATCs.
In addition to this height threshold, each Noise Preferential Route is contained within a corridor extending 1.5 km either side of the NPR centre line. Aircraft flying inside this 3-km corridor are considered to be flying ‘on-track’.
At the present time, Birmingham Airport state that circa. 97% of departing aircraft fly within the NPR corridor, but Dame Caroline Spelman and the Castle Bromwich Airport Forum have identified concerns in the community that the corridor is too wide and this is having a detrimental impact on communities.
In response to this, Dame Caroline has written to the airport to urge them to reduce the width of this corridor by 500m on either side, a move which would bring Birmingham Airport’s NPR corridors more closely into line with Dublin Airport which has a 1.8km wide NPR corridor.
Dame Caroline said, “Through my regular contact with local residents and the CBAF, it is clear to me that the current NPR margins are too wide. Many of us would recognise a flight as ‘on track’ only if it flies directly on the designated line of route. However, because there is a 1.5km wide NPR margin either side of the designated route, planes flying within a 3km corridor are still recognised as being ‘on course’.
This has given rise to the belief that the vast majority of flights are ‘taking shortcuts’ or ‘cutting the corner’ and adopting a shallower turning circle which increases side-line noise and sees flights fly over homes that are not directly under the line of route.
For that reason, and whilst the airport are confident that tracking will improve as a result of the roll-out of new satellite navigation systems later this year, I want to see them give a firm commitment to enforce stricter rules to manage this”.