by Roger Abbott on 15 February, 2017
It is no surprise that the new departure routes introduced in 2014 caused such rumpus. Gatwick Airport had started using a new satellite navigation system that concentrated all departure flight paths along almost the same line rather than having them spread out across their permitted range as had always been the case. In addition, what is known as “Route 4” (westerly departures that subsequently turn north and eventually head back east) was very badly designed with many flights spreading outside the specified tracking zone. Many more people, particularly in Beare Green, Brockham and Betchworth, were suddenly directly under relatively low flying aeroplanes.
There was a massive protest that included over 15,000 written complaints to the CAA. Eventually, in May last year and under direction from the CAA, Gatwick modified the routes. This has ensured more aeroplanes are now keeping within the approved boundaries: but not all. It has also resulted in more dispersion round the bend than existed even before 2014. These are welcome improvements.
However, on the negative side, the straight leg of the turn is still very concentrated and passes over people who have not had planes for many years, even though their homes are in the centre of the tracking zone.
I want to see an end to the misery of concentrated departure routes. Communities in Newdigate, Leigh, Norwood Hill and further east towards Salfords are those who suffer most.
The problem is Government policy. Originally it was decided to concentrate flights in a narrow flight path with the objective of having the minimum number of homes directly under the aircraft. When Gatwick implemented the new navigation system in 2014 it very quickly became obvious that the policy resulted in making life intolerable for those unfortunate to be under the concentrated routes. Protests started and campaign groups, such as Plane Wrong, were formed to call for a fairer sharing of the burden.
To date the CAA and Gatwick Airport have refused to take any further action until there is a change in Government policy. On 2nd February the Government issued a consultation paper on airspace policy. This suggests respite and dispersion can be considered and Gatwick should use this new freedom to end the misery. They should, as requested by their neighbours, implement the changes before the summer schedules come into effect.
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