Luton Airport apologises to St Albans villagers

New flightpaths over open countryside to be investigated

LUTON Airport has apologised to villagers in St Albans plagued by a sharp rise in noise due to an unprecedented number of aircraft at low altitude.

Admitting some planes are not flying where they should be, it has pledged to have quieter skies over Flamstead by the end of September.

The airport has also promised to look at initiating changes to a “historic” flight path affecting Redbourn residents, saying flying over less populated open countryside would be preferable.

At a Flamstead parish council meeting last week, Luton’s operations director, Neil Thompson, explained that some flights following a route near Flamstead and Redbourn were flying hundreds of metres from the centreline because of gradually changing magnetic measurements from “old technology” near the airport.

That was discovered following investigations into a recent rise in complaints about plane noise from Flamstead and Redbourn, with Luton establishing that navigation beacons, calibrated every five years, are out by one degree.

Planes on a flightpath between Flamstead and Markyate use information from a navigation beacon at Bovingdon. A naturally occuring phenomenon called magnetic variation has aircraft flying closer to Flamstead than they were previously.

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That route is 3km-wide, but because of the one degree magnetic shift, planes have been flying about 400m from the centreline, prompting residents in Flamstead and Redbourn to complain of noise from up to 120 planes a day.

Airlines have been informed of the magnetic change and told they have to alter the computers that fly the planes.

Neil said: “Hopefully from the end of this month the aircraft should be flying that centreline that they were flying beforehand. There is no intention to disturb Flamstead. I can only apologise on behalf of the airport.”

He added: “At the end of this exercise we might prove that the published flight track is no longer in the right place. Once we understand what impact that magnetic shift has had on the flights where the aircraft are flying then we will look at the route that is the most appropriate place, over the open countryside around these areas and try to minimise the noise impact on people.

“If we were going to change the route at all we would look at going between Harpenden and Flamstead, between Hemel and Redbourn and between St Albans and Harpenden.”

He stressed that any changes would be subject to public consultation.

St Albans City Football Club chairman Ian Ridley, who lives in Flamstead, cautiously welcomed Luton’s announcement and warned residents would be “watching closely” to ensure the village once again has peaceful skies.

He said: “It is a shame we have had to go through these months of misery with all this increased noise over Flamstead.”