The Department for Transport (DfT) announced recently that night flights at the Heathrow, Gatwick, and Stansted airports in London would be going under review as part of a government plan to improve the balance of local and economic influence in the city.
The government has arranged a 6-week long consultation surrounding the night flights and noise abatement objectives at night. The DfT has stated that this will give the government the ability to gather evidence of views on the matter from both the aviation industry and the local communities surrounding the London airports.
These objectives that will be settled upon during the consultation will be the groundwork for the government and the aviation sector to address any issues with night flights and disruptive noise surrounding the airports. This means striking a constructive balance between the needs of the locals surrounding noise and continuing to fund the aviation sector reasonably. With these plans in place, the government will be able to begin managing night flights issues from October 2025.
The starting point for this major discussion surrounding an aim to manage aircraft operations in a way that allows the reduction of negative effects on local residents to the point that they do not outweigh the positive effects of night flights and the aviation sector on the economy.
The DfT said, “Aircraft are becoming quieter as technology advances, and we expect this trend to continue. However, the government recognises that noise from aircraft taking off and landing at night is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations.”
Baroness Vere of Norbiton, the aviation minister, added, “There’s no doubt night flights have an effect on local residents underneath busy flightpaths, but as aircraft become quieter, we have an opportunity to strike a balance to make sure we can support the aviation industry without having a debilitating impact on people’s lives. This consultation will help us to shape policy and create a flightpath towards a more sustainable approach to night-time aviation noise.“
A general and overarching aviation noise policy statement was also released today alongside this announcement. The noise policy statement reinstated the foundation of noise policy across the aviation sector, regardless of the time of day that the flight is due to take off or land.
The transport department said, “Through this statement we aim to balance the health and wellbeing of communities with the clear economic and consumer benefits of aviation. In addition, the guidance used to allow dispensation for operators to fly night flights will be looked at in the wake of last summer’s disruption across the sector.
“The summer of 2022 was particularly challenging from an international air traffic control perspective and resulted in an increase in late-running flights, and a corresponding higher number of night flight dispensations. Such a rise was in stark contrast to the summers of 2020 and 2021 when the numbers of dispensations were very low.
“Given the number of night flight dispensations allowed during the early part of last summer, it’s vital to take this additional evidence into account before publishing any revision to our night flight dispensation guidance. Updating the dispensation guidance will form part of the main night flight regime consultation, which we aim to publish in late 2023.”
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