London Luton Airport and NATS will go ahead with Huntingdonshire flight path
- Credit: NATS and London Luton Airport
London Luton Airport and NATS will go ahead with Huntingdonshire proposed flight path.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has approved the airspace change known as ‘London Luton Airport Arrivals.'
The holding stack will be near the A1-A14 junction and will go over rural towns such as Huntingdon and St Neots.
London Luton Airport and NATS have explained they have adjusted the lowest standard altitude of the hold and raised this by 1,000ft, to reduce potential noise impacts on residents.
When the proposed flight plan was announced Huntingdon MP, Jonathan Djanogly, previously said: "Although I welcome that NATS are making the right noises about having listened to local feedback and have altered their proposals accordingly, I remain concerned about what this means in practice and particularly what the effects on St Neots and the surrounding areas will be.
"For instance, their change of raising the lower altitude of the stack by 1,000ft is welcome in itself, but how this affects the overall proposal is yet to be seen.”
A public consultation was held from October 2020 to February 2021, where London Luton Airport and NATS received feedback from residents and other stakeholders.
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The co-sponsors of the proposal, LLA and air traffic control provider NATS reviewed and categorised feedback from more than 2,400 respondents.
St Neots Town Mayor Councillor Stephen Ferguson was also worried that the holding stack will go over rural places such as Abbotsley.
Councillor Ferguson previously said: “There have been hundreds of responses from St Neots, complaining about the air stack being put over the biggest, fastest growing towns, in the east of England.
“We welcome the fact that they have decided to increase the height of the stack by 1,000 feet which will obviously mitigate some noise effects.
“But we very disappointed in the consultation process, because when this was presented to us at a consultation, the consultation was really only on the approach routes, it had nothing to do with the stack.
“Which was kind of pre-determined, so what they have done is move the stack up a bit and they have rotated it around a bit, to avoid Huntingdon.
“But it still over St Neots and even more worryingly, part of the approach is going to be over Abbotsley.
“Which is a rural community with a much lower kind of noise tolerance, now in the countryside.
“So they have done a little bit, but we would have liked to have been involved a little earlier on.”
Lee Boulton, head of airspace development & future operations for NATS, said: “We listened carefully from the start of the consultation to the feedback we were getting, and provided more information as we went along, particularly on the hold and why we need it.
“I sincerely hope that people will see our genuine effort to respond to their concerns and I believe the adjustments we are making will make a real and positive difference.
“It was clear from the outset that people’s two main concerns were around the need for, and position of, the new hold; and their preference for dispersion of flights under Option One, rather than our preference for Option Two, which offered the very accurate use of two alternating routes.
“In responding to those, other more indirect concerns have also been addressed, as we set out in our Feedback Report.”
Feedback was incorporated into the final design submitted to the CAA earlier this year, with three notable changes to the original proposal.
A modified version of ‘Option One’ was progressed (minimal changes from today’s flight paths below 5,000ft with greater dispersion of flights above 5,000ft); the location and orientation of the new holding area near the A1-A14 junction was adjusted; and the lowest standard altitude of the hold was raised by 1,000ft, reducing potential noise impacts on the residents of St Neots and Huntingdon.
Now that the airspace change has been approved, work is underway to train the air traffic controllers and ensure pilots are familiar with the new routes and accompanying procedures ahead of implementation, which will take place overnight from 00:01 February 24, 2022.
After a year of operation and for the final stage of the official airspace change process (CAP1616), London Luton Airport and NATS, will submit the past 12 months of real flight performance data to the CAA (from February 2022-2023) so this can be compared to the expected outcomes of the change as outlined in the proposal.
The CAA will then undertake a post-implementation review.
To follow the progress of this Airspace Change Proposal, you can check the CAA portal here.