Category Archives: Briefing papers

We produce briefing papers to make it easier for people to understand and put forward the case for sensible aviation policy.

The Most Overflown Boroughs in London

An Analysis by HACAN (2009)

 Hounslow is the most overflown borough in London.  Richmond is in second place.  But the big surprise is that Waltham Forest comes third.   Indeed half of the top twelve boroughs are in East or South East London.  In part, this is due to the impact being overflown by both Heathrow and City Airport aircraft.  It is also indicative of the way aircraft noise has become a London-wide problem.

Read the full briefing: Most overflown boroughs in London

Airports Consultation Explained

Your last chance to tell the Airports Commission what you think………..

The final consultation from the Airports Commission was launched on 11th November. We have produced a 4 page summary outlining the key points of the consultation. Airports Commission Consultation Briefing Explained

The Commission is asking for comments on whether it has assessed its three shortlisted schemes correctly.

You may simply want to email the Commission to say in your own words why you oppose a third runway.  Email:  This short paper on may help you:

50,000 newspapers with reasons for NO 3RD runway

Today, HACAN proudly launches Third Runway News, a new publication providing residents of west London, east Berkshire and north Surrey with the facts about what an expanded Heathrow Airport would mean for them.

Read the illustrated 4 page newspaper: Third Runway News-digitalversion

HACAN is a residents-led campaign and indeed this very newspaper was designed by one of our local members, not a hugely expensive professional design company.  HACAN relies on donations and membership rates to fund our activities. Unlike some other campaign organisations, we are not bankrolled by Heathrow Airport!

Whether it is noise pollution, air pollution or increased traffic, there are plenty of reasons why a third runway should never be allowed to take off. This newspaper explains why.

Find your village or town in the yellow banner running across the top of each page and spread the word around your neighbourhood today!

For much more information on our campaign and activities, email us on

Third Runway’s Flight Paths

It is becoming clearer where the flight paths may be if a third runway is built.  HeathrowAirport commissioned a report, Air and Ground Noise Assessment01: Air and ground noise assessment – from AMEC which includes an assessment of the new flight paths.

The report includes interesting options for respite (which could be implemented with a two runway airport and which are detailed below) but it is the arrangements for new flight paths which will be of most interest to people closer to the airport.

Hammered by a Third Runway

A third runway will be to the north of the current northern runway.  It will be built between the A4 and the M4.  In its report AMEC says that planes will need to be lined up with the new runway around five miles from the airport. Areas within these last five miles that can expect a plane overhead, one every 90 seconds, between 6am and 11pm, with a break of just over 4 hours.  Places in the firing line include Sipson, Harlington, Heston, Norwood Green as well as the areas of Brentford close to the M4.  Areas beyond the five mile joining point, like BedfordPark and Hammersmith, will also feel the impact.  To the west of the airport places like Langley and Eton will be hardest hit.

Runway Alternation to be cut by Half

At present people in West London enjoy a half day’s break from the noise when planes landing at Heathrow switch runways at 3pm.  This will change if a third runway is built.  For some people this will be cut to just over 4 hours.

How the flight paths will work if a third runway is built


  • Planes will land on the new runway for 12-13 hours a day
  • Planes will land on the current northern runway for 6-7 hours a day
  • Planes will land on the current southern runway for 12-13 hours a day

Places like Kew or Hounslow West under the northern runway will continue to get around 8 hours of respite but this will be off-set for many because they will be able to hear aircraft from one of the two other runways.  For places like Richmond under the southern flight path the respite period will be cut from 8 hours to just over 4.

A similar system of respite will apply when planes land from the west

The same system will also be introduced for take-offs to allow periods of respite for communities within a few miles of the airport

Periods of Respite

A greater sharing out of flight paths than now can take place will be possible beyond about 5 miles from the airport; that is about as far as Windsor to the west and Isleworth to the east.  And, on departure, it will become possible 3 miles out from the airport.  This change is made possible by the new technology which can guide planes much more precisely.  Aircraft will not need to join their final approach path until about 5 miles from the airport.  At present they are required to join it much further out and can be lining up with the runway over 25 miles from the airport.  It is this long concentrated approach that has brought misery to so many.  HACAN has done surveys which show there can be over 40 planes an hour passing over the Oval or Clapham at heights of around 3,500 feet.  Places, like Peckham or Brockley, even further east, are equally plagued by this constant noise.  The same applies to people living west of the airport.   If the joining point was only 5 miles from the airport, it would allow the planes to fan in from different angles, both sharing out the noise and allowing everybody some respite from it. However, it cannot be said strongly enough that this sharing out of flight paths, is not dependent on a third runway being built.

This briefing has been produced by HACAN, a voice for residents under the Heathrow flight paths.  We can be contacted at 13 Stockwell Road, London SW9 9AU; email; tel 0208876 045                           August 2014

Do Heathrow Airport’s noise claims stack up?

HACAN Briefing
29 June 2014

Heathrow’s claim that a third runway will improve the overall noise climate seems to defy common-sense.  It certainly leaves people at public meetings shaking their heads in disbelief. Is it true?

HACAN assessed Heathrow noise claims against two recent independent reports.

1. The CAA published Managing Aviation Noise – Download the pdf.

2. The Mayor of London published the Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study – Download the pdf. Its noise assessment was based on work commissioned by Atkins on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) from The Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the CAA to calculate noise exposure contours for a series of scenarios that were developed by Atkins, and that relate to Heathrow Airport. Download the pdf.

On the basis of this we have awarded each Heathrow claim a reality check star: five stars if it has a real ring of truth about it to one star if it is hardly believable.

  1. Quieter planes star_tinystar_tiny
  2. Quieter operating procedures star_tinystar_tiny
  3. The location of the new runway star_tinystar_tinystar_tiny
  4. Periods of relief from noise star_tinystar_tiny
  5. Noise insulation schemes star_tinystar_tiny

In short, Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of independent evidence.

1. Quieter planes star_tinystar_tiny

Heathrow:  90% of aircraft at Heathrow will be ‘next generation’ technology like the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and Airbus A320 by the time the new runway opens.

CAA:   The CAA acknowledges aircraft will become quieter but is less confident than Heathrow about how quickly the quieter planes will be introduced.  Its report says: “Introducing new aircraft types is a slow and typically cyclical process that can be fraught with delays and issues, as recent experience with the introduction of both Airbus and Boeing’s new models, the A380 and 787, has shown. Even when new aircraft types are available, refleeting [converting the whole fleet to quieter planes] is a lengthy and expensive process for airlines, with significant resource impacts.”  It goes on to point out that hundreds of the aircraft types would need to be removed by 2026 if Heathrow Airport were to meet its target: “in early 2014, British Airways’ long-haul fleet consisted of 55 Boeing 747-400s, 21 Boeing 767-300s and 55 Boeing 777s.”  It could be 25 years before some of these planes were replaced.

Atkins (for the Mayor of London):   Atkins is even more doubtful than the CAA that the fleet mix will be as Heathrow Airport predicts by 2026 when a 3rd runway opens. It cites as evidence the fact that: “IAG (BA and Iberia) are still placing orders for conventional A320’s [one of the aircraft types that would need to be phased out].”  It is also sceptical the new aircraft would be significantly quieter than the existing ones: “An older Boeing 747-400 has an Lmax (peak noise event impact) when arriving at 1,000 ft of 86dB. An Airbus A380 has an Lmax arriving at 1,000 ft of 85dB. This represents a relatively insignificant difference, despite the A380’s much heralded status as a quieter aircraft.”

Verdict: There is real doubt Heathrow can defend its prediction that 90% of the planes using the airport in 2026 will be the quieter ‘new generation’ aircraft.

There is also doubt that these quieter aircraft, when introduced, will cut noise for residents as much as Heathrow claims.  The Atkins report says the difference will be ‘relatively insignificant’.

Reality check:  star_tinystar_tiny

2. Quieter Operating Procedures star_tinystar_tiny

Heathrow: A mixture of steeper landing approaches, displaced landing thresholds (where aircraft touch down 700 metres further along the runway) and new flights paths brought in to avoid the most populated areas will cut noise levels.

CAA:  The CAA stresses that only a marginally steeper approach – 3.25 degrees rather than the current 3 degrees – is possible, and that even 3.25 might cause problems in low-visibility.  At Frankfurt 3.2 degrees is used but it reverts to 3 degrees at times of poor visibility.  Although a steeper descent approach would mean planes remain higher for longer, it concludes “the additional benefits of 3.2 degree approaches are relatively small.”  The CAA acknowledges that there would be noise benefits to displaced landing thresholds.

Atkins:  The Atkins Report doesn’t analyse the feasibility of a steeper approach, nor does it comment on the impact of displaced landing thresholds; it simply assumed both will be in place when it made its calculations of the total number of people likely to be impacted by a 3rd runway would be over 1 million.

Neither the CAA nor Atkins assesses Heathrow’s claims the “new flight paths will avoid the most populated areas.”   Partly this is because Heathrow has not yet published these new flight paths but probably also due to the recognition that altering flight paths will have a minimal overall impact since all of London is so heavily populated.  Moreover, as Atkins points out London’s overall population is likely to have increased significantly by 2026.

Verdict: Steeper approach paths might reduce noise but the impact would be “relatively small”. There would be benefits from displaced landing thresholds (aircraft touching down further along the runway). Given the density of the London population – and the fact that the number of people living in London is expected to increase – it will be difficult to find “less populated” areas over which flight paths could be routed.

Reality Check:  star_tinystar_tiny

3. The location of the new runway star_tinystar_tinystar_tiny

Heathrow: “Our proposal sites a third runway one nautical mile (1.1 miles) further to the west than the previous proposal for a short third runway.  Every mile further west an aircraft lands means it is flying approximately 300 ft higher over London on its landing approach.

Verdict: It is clear that this proposal would reduce the noise over West London a little.  It would not, in itself, benefit areas to the west of Heathrow.  This, though, would be mitigated by the fact aircraft would be landing further along the runway.

Reality Check:   star_tinystar_tinystar_tiny (This would have been higher if it wasn’t for its potentially negative impact on areas west of Heathrow).



4. Periods of relief from the noise star_tinystar_tiny

Heathrow:  “We have maintained the principle of runway alternation.  This provides periods of respite from noise for all communities around Heathrow.”  It will also guarantee “periods without over-flights for every community.”  Heathrow argues that a 3rd runway would provide additional respite at night for residents under the current flight paths as they would only get night flights one week in every three.

Atkins:  Atkins questions how long these respite periods will be: “One of the few aspects of the current noise regime at Heathrow that  affords local residents any relief from aircraft noise are the periods of respite that are secured by operating the airport in ‘segregated alternate mode’. With one runway used for departures and the other for arrivals before being switched round at 3pm, this gives local residents half a day without aircraft overhead. However, Heathrow Airport have made clear that their three runway proposals would require at least one runway to operate in mixed mode at all times. For the majority of affected residents, that will mean just 4½ hours of respite a day within operating hours – half the respite offered to local communities today.”  Additionally, with the new flight path being close to the existing northern flight path it is probable that many people will be impacted by noise from both runways, thus making the period of real respite even shorter.

CAA:  The report doesn’t look at respite specifically but does point out that “anti-noise groups report complaints about aircraft noise (especially early morning or late evening noise) as much as 20 miles from the airport”.  It is not at all clear just how far Heathrow intends to, or is able to, extend its respite periods.

Verdict: There is no doubt Heathrow recognizes the value of respite and is trying to ensure all communities have some respite but it is clear that people in West London, who currently enjoy a half day’s break from the noise, will see that cut to a third and it is unclear whether communities further from the airport will enjoy respite periods.  In fact, with the increased number of planes to be accommodated, it is possible that most communities will enjoy less respite than they currently do.  Heathrow has a lot more to do to convince on respite.

Reality Check: star_tinystar_tiny

5. Noise Insulation star_tinystar_tiny

Heathrow: “£550 million will be allocated to noise insulation or compensation.”  Of that, £250 million will go towards noise insulation schemes for people under the flight paths. For people whose homes will be demolished it is committed to offering 25% above the unblighted market value of the property plus legal fees and stamp duty paid on a new home.

CAA:  The report found that in France, there is a statutory scheme to insulate all housing within the 55 dB Lden contour…….. funded through a noise tax on each departure, introduced on the 1st January 2005.

Verdict: The Heathrow scheme is not ungenerous but the problem Heathrow will always face is the sheer numbers of people under its flight paths. It would cost Heathrow billions to match the Paris scheme of compensating everybody within the 55Lden contour.  It would never be possible.  The vast majority of those under the flight paths will remain uncompensated.

Reality check:  star_tinystar_tiny


There is no doubt Heathrow understands the need to deliver on noise.  However, these two new independent reports underscore the task Heathrow faces to improve the noise climate and suggest that it cannot deliver.  In fact, Heathrow’s claims are unravelling in the face of the independent evidence. And Heathrow continues to skirt round what is the biggest problem for most residents: the increased number of aircraft.  The last study into noise annoyance was carried out in the 1980s.  Flight numbers have more than doubled since then.  The CAA is clear that it would “support the need for a new aviation noise attitude survey.”  Surely that should be the starting point.

This short report was compiled by John Stewart for HACAN.
We can be contacted at:
tel 020 7737 664


Heathrow’s Claims

  • Not “a choice between more flights or less noise.  Heathrow can deliver both.”
  • A third runway will mean “at least 30% noise reduction” by 2030
  • The number of people inside the 55Lden contour will fall by 48%. (55Lden contour is where the EU says noise becomes a problem).

The Counter Claims

  • A report for the London Mayor revealed Heathrow’s claims are based on the assumption the new runway will be only operating at one-third capacity.
  • At full capacity, over 1,000,000 people will be impacted by noise, up from 725,000 today.