Helicopter noise still a blight despite promised route changes

PUBLISHED: 19:04 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

HELICOPTER noise is still blighting residents in parts of the district despite assurances that flights over homes would be reduced. Earlier this year Luton Airport published guidelines asking helicopter pilots to follow the route of the M1 and A1 rather

HELICOPTER noise is still blighting residents in parts of the district despite assurances that flights over homes would be reduced.

Earlier this year Luton Airport published guidelines asking helicopter pilots to follow the route of the M1 and A1 rather than built-up areas including Harpenden and Redbourn where residents had complained about the noise from the low-flying aircraft.

But more than nine months later local residents believe the situation is as bad as ever.

Alan Bunting, of Ridgewood Drive, Harpenden, said the problem has been ongoing for between five and seven years and he logged 84 complaints about flights over his house in less than five weeks between August and September.

And he pointed out that many more helicopters would have flown over his house when he wasn't at home and so wouldn't have been logged.

Although some of the noise comes from the police helicopter he believes the real problem lies with rich executives favouring travel by helicopter rather than by road.

He said: "The situation goes in waves - we have good and bad days. It varies from one or two a day to, under normal circumstances, five or six - and some of them are in the middle of the night.

"Even though we get the jets still coming over, which is annoying enough, it is not as aggravating as the noise of these helicopters. They come right over the top of our house very low. I can't honestly say the vibrations shake the window frames but it almost reaches that point. It is a very annoying phenomenon."

Mr Bunting added: "We were promised that they would be diverted either in the westbound direction following the line of the M1 or alternatively to the east of Harpenden right over the A1 -- in other words not flying over so many residential areas so as not to cause a disturbance."

Colin Weaver, of Tuffnells Way, Harpenden, has also experienced disturbance with the noise from helicopters.

He explained that the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) legally allowed helicopters to fly within 500 feet of a person or structure but NATS (National Air Traffic Services) did not allow helicopters to fly at more than1,500 feet above sea level (ASL).

"So we have these helicopters 'sandwiched' above us at heights of 500 to 1,200 feet because some parts of north west Harpenden can be 300 feet above sea level," he said.

Mr Weaver added: "The low level air corridor above us used not to be an issue when it was used by light aircraft. However in the past four to five years, there has been an expansion of executive aviation at Luton Airport and effectively this previously relatively-quiet air corridor has now been hijacked by the helicopters. My solution - ban them from flying below 1,500 ft ASL which would rid this air corridor of their irritating presence!"

A spokesperson for Luton Airport said there had been a significant drop in the number of complaints about helicopters flying in and out of the airport but complaints had remained consistent for the helicopters that overflew Luton.

Although they have issued guidelines to helicopter pilots, she emphasised that aviation rules prevented them from following fixed flight paths as they used visual flight rules instead.

The spokesperson accepted that there was still work to be done on the situation and said that the airport would continue to look into the matter together with NATS.

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