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Heathrow Airport: Noise

Volume 470: debated on Thursday 24 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many fines have been issued for breaches of aircraft following noise preferential routes at Heathrow airport in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. (179964)

[holding answer 17 January 2008]: At Heathrow airport departing aircraft have to follow noise preferential routes (NPRs) until they reach 4,000 ft, or are directed off the NPRs by air traffic control for safety or efficient air traffic management reasons. These routes are designed to avoid over flight of built-up areas by departing aircraft while under 4,000 ft, wherever possible. Aircraft which deviate outside an NPR swathe (which extends approximately 1.5 km each side of a nominal centre line) while under 4,000 ft are considered to be flying off track.

The airport monitors track keeping as a noise mitigation measure. Track keeping performance is kept constantly under review and reported regularly to the Airport's Noise and Track Keeping Working Group on which local residents are represented by a number of organisations. In addition, the airport continues to work with NATS, airlines and representatives of the local community to consider whether further improvements can be made.

Since the introduction of the airport's noise and track keeping system which enabled monitoring, track keeping has improved from around 85 per cent. to around 96 per cent. Given this high level of airline performance and the fact that some of the remaining 4 per cent. is due to instances where air traffic control have directed aircraft off the NPRs, at this stage it has not proved necessary to introduce a financial penalty system.