Luton Airport flight path change means less noise for St Albans

London Luton Airport

London Luton Airport - Credit: Archant

Plane noise should hopefully decrease for residents in St Albans from now on, after Luton Airport’s proposed flight path changes were approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

In response to a call from local campaigners for flight path changes, the airport asked the authority to back a cut to the width of a route over the district, from three to two kilometres.

It also sought approval for planes to fly at a higher altitude of 4,000ft as opposed to the 3,000ft currently flown over densely populated areas.

As a result, the number of people being overflown is expected to decrease by about 80 per cent.

In his decision letter Mark Swan, the CAA’s director of its safety and airspace regulation group, says that as he was ‘content’ the proposed airspace design was safe, the revised route would become effective from last Thursday (20).

Mark said that for over 10 years, Luton had been working with airlines, the airport’s air traffic control provider (NATS) and the CAA to look at ways track-keeping could be improved on a particular flight path.

Aircraft using the runway 26 Clacton, Dover and Detling route “often fly outside of the noise preferential route swathe, overflying densely populated areas such as Hemel Hempstead and St Albans”.

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In an attempt to halt the practice, Luton trialled two possible route alterations in 2013, followed by consultation to gauge the impact.

Mark said that Luton received strong objections from Flamstead, along with 78 objections from people in Sandridge - the latter village is situated “precisely under the centreline” of the existing departure route.

But there was ‘significant support’ from people in St Albans, as planes have been repeatedly straying over the district.

Mark said he anticipated the change would “provide some environmental (in noise terms) benefit to St Albans.”

However, “the noise impact on Harpenden will not be significant.”

His approval has been welcomed by Sabra Swinson from campaign group Save Our Skies.

She said: “Hopefully the residents of north St Albans and surrounding villages will enjoy a reduction in noise and overhead flights as a result.

“However, we will be monitoring the situation to see that planes do keep to the revised flight path.”

Neil Thompson, Luton’s operations director, hailed it as a great achievement for the airport, adding that when the change went live last Thursday pilots responded well, with 50 per cent of planes on that departure route using the narrower airspace.

He added: “By Tuesday this had increased to 70 per cent.”