Control of Noise
In common with Heathrow and Stansted, Gatwick Airport is designated under section 80 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 for the purposes of the regulation of noise. Noise from aircraft using the ‘designated’ aerodromes is regulated according to notices and directions made under section 78 of the 1982 Act. This gives the Secretary of State powers to direct aircraft operators using these airports, or the airport operators themselves, to adopt procedures which limit noise and vibration.
Noise Exposure Contours
The airspace around Gatwick is the busiest airspace in the world due to the UK’s geographical position in Europe and the proximity of several other major airports. As a result of this the Government, the UK aviation industry and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) are working together to modernise the UK’s airspace.
The UK’s airspace modernisation strategy sets out a range of connected initiatives which are aimed to deliver wholesale change. This will be one of the most complex change programmes the aviation community have embarked upon. The initiative in which Gatwick is playing a significant role, which will change the airspace and flight path network across the South East of England, is the Future Airspace Strategy Implementation – South or FASI-S. The DfT has asked NATS/NERL to lead on the re-design of airspace above 7,000 feet and all airports affected, including Gatwick, to lead their own airspace changes below 7,000 feet. All changes will be overseen by the CAA and follow the airspace change process set out in the CAA’s CAP 1616.
Further information about how and why UK airspace is changing is on Our Future Skies website.
Consultation on P-RNAV departure routes at Gatwick Airport
In July 2012 Gatwick Airport Limited launched a consultation on proposals to accurately refine the existing aircraft departure routes from Gatwick Airport (RNAV-1 departure SIDs). The consultation closed in November 2012.
RNAV-1 departure SIDs were made mandatory on all departures routes at Gatwick in May 2014, after which the CAA began a review process called a post-implementation review (PIR) which is standard practice following an airspace change. This review began in November 2014 and was published in November 2015. Full details of the CAA’s PIR can be found on the CAA’s website
The review concluded that 8 out of Gatwick’s 9 routes were fully compliant and were approved.
One route however (Route 4/ 26 LAM) required some work to make it more accurate and fully compliant. More details about Gatwick Airport Limited’s work to progress these changes are given on the airport’s airspace blog.
Night Noise Restrictions
The Government has imposed restrictions on night flights at Gatwick for many years. The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for defining these restrictions which are based on movements and quota count (QC). QC is a classification based on certified noise levels which allocates a certain amount of points (0-16) to an aircraft – the louder the aircraft, the higher its QC. The loudest aircraft types (QC8, QC16) are prohibited from operating during the night period (23:00 – 07:00) and QC4 aircraft may not be scheduled to operate during this time.
During the night quota period between 23:30 and 06:00 the airport may facilitate a set number movements and quota count. The restrictions are divided into summer and winter seasons, which are in turn linked to daylight savings (BST/GMT). Gatwick Airport has an allowance of 11,200 movements and 5,150 QC in summer, and 3,250 movements and 1,785 QC in winter. These limits are designed to encourage the use of the quietest aircraft types within a limited number of movements.
The DfT launched a review of the night flights regime in December 2020. It is a two-stage consultation process which seeks views on the current regimes at the designated airports (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) beyond 2022, and night flights in the national context.
Stage 1 of this consultation has been separated in to two parts :
(1) proposal to maintain the existing night flight restrictions for the designated airports from 2022 to 2024, and the Government’s proposal to ban QC4 rated aircraft movements during the night quota period (23:30 to 06:00). This part of the consultation closed on 3 March 2022. Click here to see GATCOM’s response. The Government’s decision on this part of the consultation was issued on 19 July 2021 – click here to see.
(2) seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally. This part of the consultation closed on 3 September 2021. Click here to see GATCOM’s response. The DfT will now analyse the responses to this part of the consultation, which will be used to shape long-term policy proposals for the period beyond 2025.
Consultation responses received on revisions to the night flight dispensation guidance will be used to revise the guidance for airport operators with a view to providing better clarity. The DfT will publish this updated guidance before the new night flight regime takes effect in October 2022 (see part (1) above).
The Stage 2 consultation on future night flight restrictions beyond 2025 will be issued during 2023, and it is at that stage that the DfT will set out firm proposals for longer-term policy reform. A DfT consultation on Night-time noise abatement objectives for the designated airports was agreed by GATCOM in May 2023. Click here to see that response
Noise Action Plan
The Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006 require airport operators to develop noise action plans designed to manage noise and effects arising from aircraft departing from and arriving at their airport, including reduction if necessary.
In July 2013 the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) provided amended guidance for airport operators in respect of the production of noise action plans under the terms of the Environmental noise (England) Regulations. Existing action plans are to be revised taking into account current DEFRA noise mapping (as required by the EC Environmental Noise Directive), airport specific operational changes, new actions that may influence aircraft noise and progress against actions within the current action plan.
The guidance states that the airport operator will present its revised action plan to the airport consultative committee for comment after which the airport operator will reflect on comments raised and include them in the revised plan together with a response to the issues raised. GATCOM therefore has a role in the development and monitoring of Gatwick’s statutory Noise Action Plan.
Gatwick’s Noise Action Plan is a living document and is reviewed every three years. The Airport consults interested parties on the review of the action plan. The current Noise Action Plan, covering the period 2019-2024 is available on Gatwick’s website.
The progress made by Gatwick Airport Limited in delivering the actions contained in the Noise Action Plan is reported quarterly to the Airport’s Noise and Track Monitoring Advisory Group (NATMAG) and annually to GATCOM.
GATCOM has agreed with Gatwick Airport Limited in January 2021 a comprehensive progress monitoring process – click here to see report to GATCOM (see item 8(a).