Gatwick said in a statement on 17 March that it is deferring spending on its investment programme for the forseeable future, and all Noise Management Board meetings and activities have been suspended.
When we hear an aircraft overhead we now express surprise instead of irritation. Gatwick is now seeing a daily total of flights that would have taken 20 minutes in the high season. The tranquillity we now have is delightful, a reminder of why we were driven to challenge Gatwick’s ambitions.
As we emerge from the Coronavirus/ Covid-19 crisis - whenever and however that happens - it is unclear what the issues and concerns will be. We are going through an unprecedented world health and economic upheaval. It seems inconceivable that Gatwick’s Master Plan will remain as it is, but Gatwick’s response is likely to be aggressive and we need to be prepared.
Gatwick and the aviation industry as a whole will be wanting taxpayer’s funds, and these must be accompanied by conditions requiring them to take their health, environmental and noise responsibilities much more seriously than before.
The Good News In response to events, the oldest and largest aircraft, including Boeing 747s and many Airbus A380s, are being withdrawn from service and flown to storage parks where they are likely to end their days. As activities recover these will be replaced by newer, smaller, cleaner and quieter aircraft. At first there may be less flights as well.
Less good Boeing’s 737 Max remains in trouble. The most recent issue to emerge seems to be that the onboard computers, inherited from earlier 737 types in the hope that they would be tried and tested and therefore reliable, are not powerful enough to cope with the demands of the latest software.
We need these aircraft when flying returns as they will be replacing older, noisier and even more environmentally damaging types.
The introduction of the 737 Max was rushed and this cost 346 lives. The certification process was shortcut through a relationship that was too close between manufacturer and regulator. We think that there are lessons for our own aviation sector.
1. Who is TWAANG? A growing Group of residents of the town of Tunbridge Wells who are working in partnership with other action groups to limit the noise and volume of aircraft flying over our airspace. Contacts : Dr Irene Fairbairn, Chair, at email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. What’s the problem? Westerly arrivals flight paths to Gatwick were changed at the end of 2013 and now low flying airplanes (often at 4-4,500ft) fly over Tunbridge Wells day and night. This change was originally denied and no consultation with Tunbridge Wells residents took place. Government aviation policy is to avoid flight paths over densely populated areas where possible. Why is this policy not being implemented?
3. When TWAANG was formed in the Autumn of 2015 to ensure that the town’s particular concerns could be added to the Independent Arrivals Review then being undertaken for Gatwick by Bo Redeborn and Graham Lake. The deadline for responses and submissions was 30 November 2015. Up until mid October 2015 there had been no residents' voice for the town of Tunbridge Wells to add to those of the surrounding villages, all of whom have been affected by the changed flight paths.
4. Why? Tunbridge Wells is a town of 58,000 and will be expanding rapidly in the coming decade. It is at the heart of a conurbation with a current population of over 74,000. Since the change in flight paths Gatwick had received a 550% increase in complaints mostly from Tunbridge Wells. The health and wellbeing of residents is at risk through jet fuel emissions and the effects of sleep deprivation and intrusive aircraft noise when awake. An important characteristic of the town is the 300 acres of parks and commons, ‘countryside within a town’. Aircraft noise destroys the tranquility and purpose of these amenities. It may well begin to erode Tourism which contributes 30% to the town’s economy.
Gaining support from local residents.
Engagement via Gatwick's Noise Management Board with the implementation process of the Arrivals Review Report's recommendations for westerly arrivals into Gatwick.
Lobbying local MP Greg Clark and local Councillors to stand up for Tunbridge Wells.
Liaising with other pressure groups fighting the Gatwick flight paths and arguing for noise mitigation.
We have brought TWAANG's Aims and Objectives described here up to date with our Constitution:
SHORT TERM AIMS UNTIL 2022 - post Arrivals Review recommendations
In essence, full and speedy implementation of the Arrivals Review recommendations.
Wide Swathe with the earliest joining point at 8nm* on the ILS and emulating as closely as possible the pre-2013 flight path distribution.
Continuous Descent Approaches from maximum height and at approximately 3 degrees, using a Low Power Low Drag (LPLD) configuration. This would result in additional height over the Tunbridge Wells conurbation and elsewhere.
Early modification of all A320 series aircraft using Gatwick, including those of EasyJet and British Airways, to stop the whine.
To support Tunbridge Wells representation at GATCOM and to represent Tunbridge Wells on the Noise Management Board.
Reduction in numbers of night flights and implementation of the earliest joining point for night flights at 8nm (currently at 10nm).
LONGER TERM AIMS – Precision Based Navigation (PBN). 2022 ONWARDS
Influence the design of flight paths to avoid the Tunbridge Wells conurbation including schools, hospitals and heritage sites. This is in line with current government aviation policy where it is recommended that flight paths should avoid densely populated areas wherever possible and minimise the number of people affected. It is also essential to ensure that the adverse environmental impact from airplanes, most particularly aircraft noise, it is given proper consideration.
Maximum Height, 5* (high standard) Continuous Descent Approaches (CDAs) and the Arrivals Review recommendations with respect to stacking over water and timed arrivals etc.
The number of night flights and the impact of these on the population of the Tunbridge Wells conurbation to be minimised.