27 December 2015
The Executive & Resources Policy Development & Scrutiny Committee called in the Executive's decision on 14 December. The Agenda for the meeting on 5 January was published on 23 December.
Following the publication of Report No. DRR15/097i and prior to the Executive meeting on 25 November, where the proposals were agreed, Bob Trott (a retired senior air traffic controller) submitted the following statement to Bromley Council:
BIGGIN HILL AIRPORT LTD – LEASE CHANGE APPLICATION
It must seem fairly obvious from comments of the general public that there is a considerable surge of opposition to the extension of the hours that could potentially cause noise intrusion early in the morning and late in the evening.
Many of the suggested advantages to both the public and the LBB are either perceptions or promises rather than specific undertakings and, bearing this in mind along with the objections to the noise concerns, there surely has to be a compromise. Few will want to see the loss of potential for BHAL to both thrive and expand, if any of the aspects can be guaranteed, whilst mitigating the noise as much as possible, but surely there has to be some leeway in the final decision on days/times approved? This invariably means that, despite some laudable ideas in the NAP[i] (Final), most people would not want the hours agreed as requested.
My own view – which has already been stated in previous submissions to the Airport Consultation Group – would be 0700/2230. I have no personal objection to weekends/Public Holidays being any different, although many local residents want limitations and the Airport seems to accept this rationale.
My reasons for the above, along with general comments on the Report, are as follows:-
As a consequence of the foregoing, in the absence of the full information required to understand how aircraft operations will change from those currently experienced, I do not think it is either fair or possible to determine the application pending the full data being published.
[i] Noise Abatement Procedures
[ii] Instrument Flight Rules
[iii] Aeronautical Information Publication
[iv] Noise Monitoring and Track Keeping System
[v] Visual Flight Rules
[vi] Combined radio navigation station for aircraft
[vii] National Air Traffic Services
[viii] Residential Sound Insulation System
[ix] International Civil Aviation Organisation
[x] Noise Preferential Routes
17 October 2015
FlightpathWatch is encouraging residents to attend the Executive on Wednesday 25 November at 7pm in the Great Hall at the Civic Centre, where Bromley Council's final decision on the proposals for extending operating hours at Biggin Hill Airport will take place. Anyone wishing to put questions to Members at the meeting should submit them by 5pm on Thursday 19 November - they can be emailed to: email@example.com or posted to Democratic Services, London Borough of Bromley, Civic Centre, Stockwell Close, Bromley BR1 3UH.
More information also on Orpington Community website.
29 May 2015 - State of the art Noise and Track Monitoring system demonstrated
On 27 May, Biggin Hill Airport invited Bromley councillors, residents' associations and residents to a presentation from Bruel & Kjaer, a Danish company specialising in airport noise management solutions. Jesper Simondsen explained how their software monitors aircraft noise and compliance. Data quality is analysed to ensure validity - but this would not be an issue at Biggin Hill as there is only one runway. In the 'Investigate and Process' system, rules can be entered - noise levels, flight path corridors - and the system notifies any non-compliance. There is also a 'Review and Report' section which produces monthly reports with comparisons with previous periods.
The system can be filtered to monitor specific flights and can calculate how close flights are to a specific house. Analysis can be carried out on multiple aircraft. A particular flight path can be exported into Google Earth to provide a visual picture in 3D.
Noise monitors are mainly placed under the flight track but can be positioned in sensitive spots, such as schools and no fly zones. The system can detect if aircraft are using continuous descent operation (CDO), which reduces noise, as there is less thrust. Noise events are recorded and can be investigated to identify if they are caused by aircraft or otherwise (traffic, lawnmowers, other machines).
The system allows for a much quicker response to complaints and accurate information. All enquiries can be entered in the system and investigations carried out quickly. Enquiries and complaints can be mapped so that an area where there is an intensity of complaints can be monitored more closely.
Biggin Hill Airport (BAH) will be agreeing the details about maximum allowable noise levels, the siting of noise monitors and the scope of the flight paths with Bromley Council but there is still at least a couple of weeks for residents to give feedback on their concerns and suggestions. An assurance was given that only aircraft of Stage 3 and above (more modern ones with reduced noise levels) will be allowed to use the airport. Public access to the system will also be agreed, once conditions have been discussed. BAH is 'ready to go' and hopes to install the system as soon as possible. The importance of transparency and being able to provide the public with accurate data was emphasised. BAH were keen to reassure local residents of their commitment to ensure aircraft flying in and out of the airport are compliant and infringements will be dealt with effectively.
Will Curtis was unfortunately unwell and unable to attend the meeting but stated today that 'once the Council finalises arrangements arrangements, we will place a firm order and install the system before we actually extend the operating hours.'
Margot Rohan, Orpington Community
25 March 2015
Consultation now over. Decision taken at Full Council on 25 March.
Below is the link to the extensive consultation carried out by an independent consultation company in November 2014:
Biggin Hill Future Consultation Report. Link to Biggin Hill Airport website
See also Orpington Community website article here
Some further thoughts from Bob Trott, Chair of Green Street Green Village Society & retired senior air traffic controller
There are two items of particular interest, both on the question of noise. Firstly the Council Noise Consultant, Cole Jarman, is quoted as having expertise in aviation but, regarding para 3.52 and 3.61 of Marc Hume’s Report DRR15/035, the following comments need consideration:
1. If noise is a concern, then the earlier times for Saturdays and Sundays should be applied to weekdays as well. If sleep is being
disturbed then surely weekday nights, when most ‘office hours’ workers will be affected, should be taken into account. In addition,
GSG residents are likely to be affected by departures and a 2300 take off at any time – especially when using the preferred runway 21
– which will not be limited to the airport hours, as the time over the village is going to be even later when the aircraft track of around 6
or 7 miles is taken into account. Despite the assurance from Will Curtis that he has discovered why IFR departures are tracking north
of GSG when they should be to the south of the village and over ‘open’ land, this still regularly occurs. BRAAD has advised me that
some departures go over Locksbottom and, whilst I cannot comment on this as ‘fact’ (and I would be surprised if it is correct), I have
certainly seen some go over the centre of Orpington.
2. (As explained in an email to LBB) The ‘no fly zone’ as described is not legally enforceable, and has both only limited applicability and
impact from a BHAL aspect, although it cannot be discounted for being totally ineffective.
2 March 2015
Assessment of the BHAL Consultation Proposals
by Bob Trott, Chair of Green Street Green Village Society & retired senior air traffic controller
I have been resident in Green Street Green (GSG) since 2012, and was well aware of the potential noise problems associated with Biggin Hill Airport (BH) – an airfield where I did some of my training for extra ratings to my Private Pilot’s Licence. I am firmly of the opinion that if you purchase a house near an airport then you are going to experience noise, although I accept that some people will claim that things have changed since they have been in residence in the area but few will have actually purchased their property prior to the airport being built. I am also currently Chairman of the Green Street Green Village Society, and we were among a number of residents’ associations approached by BHAL in the attempt to quash much of the incorrect information that was being circulated. Because of my background I wanted to pass on to the Membership via our web site and Committee Meetings, what ‘true facts’ I could derive; this is the basis of the following comments.
I am generally confining my comments to the potential impact on my own life, but will also comment briefly on general topics where I feel the waters are a little muddied. I am more than happy to elaborate on any particular area that the Council may like to question, as I feel almost all the information from the opposing sides in the debate has been confusing at the least, and downright wrong in others. Invariably both sides will present information in a slant that infers interpretation towards their side of the equation, and it is very difficult for the lay person to see through the confusion. There have been some excellent points made by opposing parties in the various comments that are very relevant to the argument, but generally I feel that little meaning can be attributed to the full facts (as I see the descriptions) until many of the aspects have been made a good deal clearer than at present.
Whilst not wishing to complicate matters right from the start, it is important, however, to understand what aircraft are likely to affect me, and why. There are two types of flight, one that operates under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and the other is Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) and, although the specifics are not relevant to this discussion, any pilot has to select one system or the other, depending on the aircraft equipment fit, the pilot’s qualifications, which airspace he/she wishes to fly in, the weather situation and, finally (in some circumstances), personal preferences.
Irrespective of the availability of an airport, in terms of times/days open, some of those which BHAL professes to be a competitor of are likely to restrict or even ban business type aircraft, in the same way that Heathrow has done for many years. Luton is the most likely operator to end up in this situation, bearing in mind that, although it operates 24/7, it will come under pressure from the Charter/Hub airlines to give them preference and therefore an opportunity to attract some of the displaced customers, should the facilities available match requirements. This aspect has been partially covered by the Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners’ (NLP) submission to the Mayor of London on behalf of BHAL, in its letter of the 9th of April 2014.
Because of the runway configuration at BH, there is unlikely to be any IFR arrival aircraft over the village of GSG, as the procedures take them to the Dartford area and then begin descent crossing over Sidcup, Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Locksbottom before landing. However, the departing IFR traffic is routed to a navigation beacon at Detling, a few miles north east of Maidstone, and this track is just to the south of the village – unfortunately, as I write this in the middle of February, the experience has been that the great majority (if not all) of the aircraft actually fly north of track and overfly the village and the area south of Orpington. I raised this with the BHAL MD and he later advised they had found out why it was happening and would resolve it – but so far the jury is still out.
VFR aircraft tend not to overfly the village, as legislation requires them to be at minimum heights over built up areas, but they are restricted vertically because of the London Airspace used by IFR aircraft - although twin engine aeroplanes and the occasional light single do so. We do, however, need to look at the suggestion that BHAL will prevent light aircraft from overflying designated areas – later amplified by saying not below 2000ft, and there are two aspects that have been associated with this potential that I have not rationalised completely. One is safety and the other noise. Safety is already covered by Aviation Law applicable to pilots, so the only rationale for the proposal can be for noise purposes. With the NATS controlled airspace having a base of 2500ft amsl, and much of the ground in the local area being up to 600ft amsl, the level of an aircraft above the ground which has to remain below what is known as ‘Controlled Airspace’ is going to be around 1800ft. It is not a simple task to ascertain the corresponding heights above ground level for the various stages of the Instrument Landing System approach without accurate contours on a map but, as an example, the aircraft will begin descent at 4 miles from touchdown (approximately the middle of the wood of Petts Wood) at 1800ft amsl and this is 1283ft above the runway touchdown point, whilst at 2 miles (Locksbottom) the figures are approx. 1205ft amsl and 688 ft agl. However, to give some idea how this impacts on residential properties, some parts of Chislehurst are above 300ft amsl, areas of Locksbottom above 400ft amsl whilst Green Street Green goes up to 450ft amsl. What complicates the matter is aviation terminology, whereby height, level, altitude and elevation all have specific meanings that the lay person might not appreciate. For BHAL to keep an aircraft above 2000ft above the ground – which as a minimum is what I suspect residents would see as desirable – may not be possible in all areas of the Borough, whilst to keep them at 2000ft amsl may mean they are actually around 1500ft above the ground – little different to what is required by Low Flying Legislation. However, there may be some advantages in achieving the proposal, but it may not be quite as good as may be perceived on first reading. In addition, one has to evaluate whether BHAL can enforce the proposal anyway – but it is not clear which reference is being quoted i.e. amsl (altitude) or agl (height). There are three aircraft circumstances that might be applicable:-
The same Licence will permit the aerodrome operator to prevent what may be perceived as a noisy aircraft type, whether or not it complies with the Chapter 3 conditions published in the Approved Category required by the lease. Consequently, a particularly large/noisy aircraft could be ‘banned’ even though it is allowed to operate there under the lease conditions, and thus (despite the claim that noise Business aircraft at 3000ft or above - again amsl or agl – is not discernible from the ground ) some of the potential clients could be excluded. The theory is debatable as, without doubt, although some small business jets might create little noise at that level, some of the potential aircraft being sought as clients will certainly be heard at, and even above, that level. Therefore a balance between income and noise is always on the agenda, and it could be that, with the stated usage of the type currently based at Biggin Hill, where, on average it has been stated, they are used once a fortnight, the decision might be to accommodate an operator – potentially leading to the occasional disturbance to residents. With more aircraft based there, this incidence of noise might become more unacceptable to some people, although personally I am unconcerned if this takes place during the times I stipulate at the end of my comments. One of the other factors that has to be taken into account is the ability of BHAL staff (or their contracted service provider) to carry out the checks and instruct pilots on the requirements. The ATC service at BH does not have its own radar facility, as this is provided by National Air Traffic Services (NATS) using ‘Thames’ or ‘City’ Radar, although there is installed a piece of equipment known as an Air Traffic Monitor (ATM) that can be used in certain circumstances to provide information to the controllers. However, this would not be their primary task (nor that of the NATS employees) and any actions on noise or overflying villages/towns would be at the bottom of any priority list of tasks. However, any action that can be taken would be advantageous, and invariably of some use in the noise concern area, albeit quite small.
Whilst the headline BHAL proposals of 2300 jobs and a 50% reduction in noise is attractive to all bar the vociferous few, things are not quite as simple as first seen. There are a number of other areas of interest such as road traffic, visual intrusion, the smell of aviation fuel and a host of items described in the various documents available on the internet. I have no objections to any of the proposals other than the noise potentially coming from the extension of hours, and then only early in the morning and/or late at night. I have some empathy with some of the concerns expressed by others but, on a purely personal basis, I am remaining outwith those arguments. However, whilst most people will infer from the 50% quote that noise will be reduced by that amount (I did when I first read the proposals) what is actually said is that the noise footprint will reduce by 50% over the term of the Noise Action Plan – a markedly different kettle of fish, and generally not relevant to many residents of the LBB! My interpretation of the situation (I have had a meeting with the BHAL MD and considerable email exchanges with both the airport and BRAAD) is therefore that, although the work will take place on a general reduction in noise, the promised reduction of 50% is probably restricted to a relatively small number of people residing in an area close to the airport, even if the figure is achieved.
With the BHAL interpretation of the Lease page 64 section (c) ‘ground running of aircraft’ as not applicable to taxiing aircraft, the operating hours will permit landing at exactly 2300 but, more importantly to me, a departure taking off at exactly 2300 is not going to be over my area until around a few minutes later, especially when using the predominant runway 21, with a departure at 0630 being correspondingly a little later too. However, if the wording of that clause does apply to taxiing aircraft (and my belief is that it does), then everything will change by a few minutes so as for aircraft to park and shut down/start up and taxi out for departure, in order to comply with the restriction! I accept that the number limitations offered will also seem attractive and, in practice, I very much doubt that these will ever be necessary save in strange conditions such as the sudden lifting of fog or the re-opening of the runway after a period of closure for some reason. However, for those people still/already asleep, depending on whether it is morning or night, even one such intrusion might be unacceptable although to some extent this occurs from Heathrow aircraft routing via the Biggin Hill VOR navigation aid that has nothing to do with BHAL. My personal view is that the times of operation of other airports seen as relevant to the change of times for BH are irrelevant. Yes, it is possible that someone might route to the airport should it be open when others are not, but the complications of transport both for crews and passengers who have started their journey at another location and may have left a car there, are likely to put most people off – especially late at night! Neither do I see it necessarily pertinent what times BHAL opening hours are permitted as, in practice, operational requirements will determine whether it is viable to open or not. There would be little point in providing a service that nobody wants to use, and it is this point that prevents much UK aviation policy in the attempt to persuade aircraft operators to use one of the provincial airports for international services rather than Heathrow or Gatwick. Lease amendments may therefore be allowed, only for them to end up unused.
I said I would touch on some elements not specifically of interest to my residential location.
The idea of increasing the Instrument Landing System (ILS) Glide Path angle that would mean the aircraft being higher over the built up areas mentioned above, associated with a lower engine power setting requirement, sounds good but, in practice, I believe it will make little difference to residents under the flight path. At seven miles out from touchdown (approx. Sidcup) traffic would be 350ft higher than at present, but over Locksbottom the difference would only be about 100ft and I doubt the human air can differentiate between minimal differences in power settings.
The proposal to amend the runway 03 approach procedure, should the required airspace be made available, will invariably be advantageous to those under the ILS Localiser (the centreline alignment system) and the villages to the west of the airport. A GPS approach will also enhance the airport’s facilities; thus noise will be reduced and the airport made more attractive to users – however, this is only going to be around 20% of the time when the wind is from the east. There has been a suggestion by BRAAD to move the inbound arrival leg to the east of the ILS Localiser and thus avoid the noise sensitive areas between Sidcup and the airport, but this is completely impractical for runway 21. With regards runway 03, it does offer an alternative track if there is a navigational aid on which a route can be aligned so as to position appropriately, although ultimately this might be achievable using GPS .
I do not believe it relevant to the argument whether the proposed hours are shorter or longer than other General Aviation or International airfields, and it seems to me that weekends are no different from weekdays unless it happens to be a lovely summer’s day and individuals wish to sit undisturbed in their garden. Similarly, the amount of increase, either in real terms or as a percentage is also irrelevant to the rationale of the arguments. No doubt some of these people are amongst many who loved to watch and admire one of the Concorde fleet fly over the area when they were still operating – there cannot be many who did not do this but invariably one or two who would complain! The size of the aircraft has some link to the noise created, but not necessarily a direct relationship and, although some of the aircraft might seem to be almost identical to some of those used by the commercial airlines, they may not be similar in weight or noise.
One other point does not ring true. It may well be correct that, on average, there are 8 airport employees for each aircraft, but it does not necessarily follow that one additional lodger will need a further eight staff. It might do, but it actually depends on whether it is a brand new company moving there, when that might be the case, or merely an additional aircraft for a company already established there, when it may only require one or two people, if any at all – a lot depends on crewing arrangements and whether it is a new type or the same as others already based there. However, it has to be accepted that there will undoubtedly be more staff needed if the operating hours are increased, particularly where employment or aviation legislation limits the work hours allowable, but probably in general too. I do not accept the ethos of all (BHAL suggestion) or none (BRAAD inference) of any new jobs going to the local populous – I suspect it would be something in the middle of the two extremes, rather like many of the aspects being argued about.
The Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners study quoting extra benefit of £230 million a year GVA by 2030 seems somewhat far-fetched when compared to the current income to the London Borough of Bromley, but again I have to admit ignorance of this sort of calculation. However, there is a distinct lack of information on the source of funding for the Aviation College and/or the move of Bromley College either in whole or in part to Biggin Hill, and any subsidy gleaned from LBB coffers. I don’t think anyone could be against extra jobs no matter who gets them, but it is a fine balancing act between this, extra revenue for both LBB and BHAL, and the noise pollution or visual intrusion that many residents may suffer.
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