Night Flights Loophole Could Mean Twice As Many Planes

Because of the way Government currently defines the word ‘night’

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BAA could exploit a regulatory loophole to double night flights at Heathrow, Hounslow Council has warned.

The airport operator could be allowed to send twice as many planes in and out of the airport between 11pm and 7am if a third runway is built, because of the way the Government currently defines the word ‘night’.

At present, there are no restrictions on the number of aircraft that can land or take off between 11 -11.30pm and 6-7am.

Campaigners are concerned that BAA will exploit the Government’s guidelines and squeeze an extra 80 flights into the 8 hour period (11pm to 7am) when many residents and their children are trying to sleep – known as the shoulder period.

Now the 2M Group of local authorities, which includes Hounslow Council, is calling for the early morning and late night shoulder periods to be included night flight controls, which are due to be reviewed in 2012.

Hounslow Council is pushing for a more permanent solution, which would be a total ban on night flights.

Cllr Barbara Reid, the council’s lead member for aviation said:

“Our main focus at the moment is to do everything we can to stop the third runway ever being built.

“But we are also campaigning to make Heathrow better not bigger by introducing improvements such as a total ban on night flights.

“Night flights damage people’s health, they damage the environment and they create untold misery for local people.

“In 2006 we managed to stop Government plans to increase the number of night flights at Heathrow, after local residents backed our campaign to say NO to night flights.

“This shows that we can make a difference when we take a stand and make sure our voice is heard.

“That is why we must all continue to fight any plans to increase the number of planes using Heathrow, whether it’s by building a third runway or trying to sneak more planes into the night time period. “
The Government acknowledged the problem of noise from night-time aircraft operations in its 2003 Aviation White Paper and promised to “bear down on night noise accordingly”. It subsequently tried to increase the number of planes flying from Heathrow from 2006.

Opponents to night flights have long expressed concerns that night flights re linked to health problems such as insomnia, stress and asthma.

In 2008, a study of 5,000 people living near Heathrow and other airports found that night flights may be harming the health of local residents.

The study published by researchers at Imperial College found a significant link between night-time noise around airports and high blood pressure, which can cause strokes, kidney disease and even dementia.

The researchers had previously shown that people who have been living for at least five years under a flight path near an international airport are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure than people living in quieter areas.

Taken together, the two studies suggest that living under a flight path could almost double the risk of hypertension (increased blood pressure).

Night flights have also been found to have a far greater impact on climate change, with research by scientists at Reading University showing that one night flight could create as much global warming as 12 daytime flights.

March 20, 2009