An independent report has concluded that night flight trials carried out earlier this year brought predictable noise respite to nearly 100,000 people living under the Heathrow flight paths.
The Helios Report found that respite trials, backed by both the aviation industry and the residents’ group HACAN, benefited thousands of people in South-East and East London as well as many residents of Berkshire.

During the five month ‘Early Morning Noise Respite Trial’, which ended in March of this year, air traffic controllers were instructing pilots to avoid specified areas on alternate weeks in order to give residents a break from the noise. The scheme only involved flights arriving before 6am. There were very few infringements of the designated areas.

The trial, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, did though have some unforeseen results. Some areas, such as Brockley in South East London saw an increase in night flights.

Also during the trial aircraft joined the approach paths further from touchdown in order to avoid overflying the exclusion zones. This in turn resulted in the areas between the zones being overflown more during the trial.

The Helios report recommends that the trial should not be taken forward in its present form and adds that, in future, pre-trial assessments should be undertaken to predict likely outcomes to better understand the balance of likely the benefits against the unintended negative outcomes.

The trials, which started in November 2012, were run in partnership with HACAN, NATS and British Airways.

Captain Dean Plumb, Strategy and Environment Manager, said, “British Airways is glad to have played a role in trialling these innovative procedures to reduce early morning noise. We are entering an exciting era where modern aircraft are capable of flying more flexibly and quietly than ever before. It is particularly satisfying to be working with local communities, through HACAN, to understand how to best use these new capabilities.”