St Albans Quieter Skies – STAQS –
is a group of residents concerned about noise pollution from aircraft that use the corridor between St.Albans and Harpenden. Most of these aircraft are departing London Luton Airport, taking off into the prevailing westerly winds but then turning back en route to destinations in northern and eastern Europe. The group was formed following a public meeting in September 2016, following months of unprecedented noise across the area throughout the summer.
Very few of us had any prior knowledge of aircraft routes and operational procedures. It has been a steep learning curve, but we discovered how the sudden increase in air traffic was the consequence of two significant factors.
The first of these was the introduction by Luton Airport of changes to the departure route. This required aircraft to use a GPS based technology called RNAV to fly the aircraft more precisely than ever before along a theoretical “motorway in the sky” towards a navigational beacon near Brookmans Park.
Previously, pilots had flown this route in the traditional way which introduced a degree of variability in the tracks flown, RNAV lets a computer fly the plane, and so the track keeping is more precise but more annoying to those on the ground.
Coupled with this change, Luton Airport has been achieving unprecedented growth. Plans originally approved in 2013 to grow the airport towards 18 million passengers per year in 2028 were in full swing and the airport has continued to experience annual growth of between 10% and 20%. While this is a major boost for the revenue of the Airport and consequently its owners, Luton Borough Council, it has almost all been achieved by increased flights along the routes to central and eastern Europe, which, for the 70% of the time when the wind blows from the west, requires them to fly this route.
Traffic has increased by 75% since 2013 – the planes have got larger to accommodate more passengers, which means they have got louder, and the average altitude has got lower.
Many residents over flown in this corridor now feel that they are carrying an unreasonable proportion of the noise being generated by flights from the airport. Luton Airport operates 24 hours a day, and has a considerable number of night flights carrying passengers and cargo.
We are very proud of the fact that we have as members elected representatives from all three main political parties working together for the benefit of the community. We understand that the management of a congested airspace is complex, especially when safety has to be the number one priority. However, the noise burden now being borne by the residents over flown is unreasonable, and we seek to work with our political representatives, airspace regulators, and the airport operators in order to secure a more equitable solution.
Stay informed – join STAQS
Sign up to STAQS! St Albans Quieter Skies (STAQS) is a campaign group representing residents of Sandridge, Jersey Farm, Marshalswick, North St Albans and Wheathampstead.
Chaired by Sharon Hollingsworth, the group has held a number of recent meetings researching why the area has become so badly affected by the issue, and exploring options that might provide some relief in the future.
STAQS was recently accepted as a member of the London Luton Airport Consultative Committee (LLACC) and is seeking input from local residents.
If you are affected by the noise you are invited to join STAQS: firstname.lastname@example.org