Government Night Flight Consultation

We welcome the news that the Government is consulting over the issue of night flights and that it wants to know what airlines, airports, industry and residents think about the noise and disruption caused by flights that land and take-off between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Like Back Heathrow supporters the Government recognises that night flights are an important part of operations at airports around the world. The time differences in an inter-connected global transport system mean that it is difficult to avoid flights at night and early in the morning.

There has been a limit on the number of flights that can take place between 11.30pm and 6am since 1963. This is referred to as the night quota period (NQP). However, as the night period is 11pm to 7am, the consultation wants to know resident’s views about broadening the NQP to cover this period.

The Government regularly consults on the amount of noise and aircraft movements that can take place at night. This consultation will set the rules for night-flights at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead in July 2024 to start in October next year and run through until October 2028.

As a starting point it says the existing restrictions on night flights are sufficient to meet the new night-time noise abatement objective. Therefore, while it awaits further evidence, it proposes to keep movement limits and noise quota limits the same until 2028.

Night flight restrictions of some form have been in place at Heathrow since 1962 to protect local communities from excessive aircraft noise at night while allowing the operation of services that provide benefits to the aviation industry and the wider economy. Getting the balance right between noise, jobs and the economy is vital.

There are limits on the amount of noise that airports are allowed to make during the night, although there have always been dispensations for certain night flights such as humanitarian, national interest, emergencies and widespread air traffic delays. However, the Government feels that some airports are allowing too many dispensations, it is asking that the Secretary of State be informed by letter every six months as to why dispensations for late flights have been approved. These letters must be published by the airports - the first ones will be at the end of this year’s summer season.

While there are limits on the total number of aircraft that can take off or land during the night quota period, there is an incentive to use quieter aircraft as technology advances, but noise from aircraft taking off and landing at night is often regarded by communities as the most disturbing form of airport operations.

As the Government awaits the results of studies into the effect of noise at night and the when the most disturbance is caused, we believe there should be another study into the impact on jobs and the economy should any ban be increased beyond the current six and a half hours. Another important study is the aviation noise attitudes survey which will gather data about experiences of exposure to daytime aviation noise, to be published next year or the year after. Because of these studies the Government proposes a night flight regime of three years instead of a much longer period.

In summary the government are proposing that for the next three years movement and noise limits for Heathrow Airport would remain as they are now.

Some questions for you to help shape our thoughts:

We want to know what you think and in particular your views on these three questions:

  • Is the Government right to keep existing noise limits and aircraft movements as they are now?
  • Should the Government demand airports inform them of why they have approved any dispensations for the late arrival of night-flights?
  • Should the night-time flight period be extended to 11pm to 7am, even if meant reducing freight, jobs and services that provide benefits to the local community and the wider economy?
  • Do you agree that the Government should do further research on the impacts on local communities, jobs and the economy of a change to the night flight regime?

Please reply to [email protected] and help shape our local response to the consultation.