Update 26th January 2019
The Government has recently published a Green Paper entitled "Aviation 2050 - The future of UK aviation". It is available to view by visiting https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/769695/aviation-2050-web.pdf. It is a weighty document and though concerned with aircraft noise and the effect it has on people below seems to fail to address low flying helicopters and the noise they make.
Residents will be aware of the overflying aircraft from Heathrow and perhaps Gatwick, but by and large the noise from those aeroplanes is minimal and not intrusive. However helicopters flying across Ashtead can be just that and the noise is far worse and due to the occilation of the blades can be almost uncomfortable.
The Residents' Association has therefore written to the Secretary of State pointing out the failure to address helicopter noise in the Green Paper and requesting similar controls on flight paths, flight height and noise limits be addressed. We will let you know his response.
Residents of Ashtead cannot fail to have noticed the numerous overflights by helicopters travelling east/west or west/east. These aircraft are much noisier than the large commercial jets that fly over us, often unnoticed. Cllr. Patricia Wiltshire has raised the problem with Chris Grayling who has responded very quickly, and he believes the very recent increased activity is linked to the Farnbrough Air Show.
Ashtead sits on the edge of the London Control Zone which is a portion of controlled airspace that extends from ground level to an altitude of 2,500 feet, within a 10-mile area of Heathrow airport. (See plan). Flights therefore need to skirt the CTR which puts them on a direct path across Ashtead.
Helicopter noise is far more complex to measure and assess than fixed-wing aircraft noise. Helicopters do not have to follow predefined routes; may hover over a specific area (increasing the impact of the noise in that location); and create asymmetric noise distribution because of variations in the speed of rotor blades.
About the City Control Zones (CTRs)
All helicopters flying in the London (Heathrow) and London City Control Zones (CTRs) are subject to an Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance and particular visibility minima. In the main, pilots navigate by visual reference to ground features with only limited ATC Radar assistance.
Single-engined helicopters are required to fly along designated helicopter routes. These routes have been selected to provide maximum safety by avoiding flying over built up areas as much as possible. However, it should be noted that multi-engine helicopters can be provided with an ATC clearance to transit on more direct routes through the CTRs.
The Police and the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) operate multi-engined helicopters, but their operations are subject to special requirements associated with the nature of the tasks they are performing. Therefore, Police and HEMS helicopters may need to operate at lower altitudes or hold over specific locations.
Finally, at a recent meeting of Road Stewards we were asked how to report a helicopter flight we believed as flying too low. Generally helicopters have to fly above 1,000 ft if over a built-up area, but how do you judge that height? The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Shard in London are just over 1,000 feet high.
The CAA can investigate unsafe flying, but helicopters are allowed to land away from airfields providing they can do so safely and they have the landowners’ permission. To report an aircraft you need evidence of the unsafe height plus the aircraft’s registration number. This is a letter G- followed by 4 letters. These requirements make identification of culprits very difficult if not impossible.
It was suggested that some Phone Apps will track overflying aircraft and an example of this is http://www.crondallweather.co.uk/flighttracker.html. This live map shows all aircraft in the air, where they are from and where they are going, plus flight number and airplane registration. However the majority of helicopters do not have the necessary transponder to place this information in the public domain.
To make a complaint visit http://www.caa.co.uk/Our-work/Make-a-report-or-complaint/Report-a-potential-breach-of-aviation-law/ and use the online form.
Note: The writer of this article is not an aviation expert and has gleaned the above information from the CAA web sites. Therefore E&OE !