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Heathrow Flight Paths

Volume 116: debated on Tuesday 12 May 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the present controls on flight paths from Heathrow airport, in view of a recent near miss involving Concorde; whether the density of air traffic at Heathrow is approaching a level which would he considered a hazard to safety; if he will ask the Civil Aviation Authority to inquire urgently into the situation at Heathrow; and if he will make a statement.

The Civil Aviation Authority fulfils its responsibilities for air traffic control through the National Air Traffic Services. In the London area, air traffic control is exercised by the NATS from the London air traffic control centre at West Drayton and from air traffic control units at the three London airports. The arrival and departure routes to and from those airports, including Heathrow, form part of a complex airspace system in which pilots fly in accordance with prescribed air traffic control procedures. Following the recent incident in which a Concorde was involved, the relevant ATC procedures have been reviewed and confirmed to be satisfactory.With regard to the increase in air traffic at Heathrow, air traffic management measures are taken to ensure that in busy periods the capacity limits of the airport are not exceeded. These measures include a European-based system of flow control where, if necessary, aircraft are kept on the ground until an airspace slot becomes available. I am assured by the Civil Aviation Authority that the NATS would not allow the pressure of demand in any way to jeopardise the safe operation of aircraft at Heathrow or elsewhere in the United Kingdom airspace for which it is responsible.