24th February 2010

Low Flying Light Aircraft

A Forum Member recently made the following enquiry:-

Dear Sir/Madam,

I wonder if you bring this to the attention of the forum, which, sadly, I cannot attend on Thursday.

As a tenant in brackendale road for 3 years now i thought it appropriate to contact you re what i consider to be a local nuisance.

I have noticed a marked increase in the last few weeks in low flying light aircraft carousing around the Strouden Park / crematorium 'airpath' causing an increase in air and noise pollution, and no doubt a considerable nuisance for the mourners at the local crematorium. Over half these aircraft are almost buzzing the gardens in Strouden Park Road and Brackendale Road at a height of less than 400 feet. Some times during the day the frequency is one every 10 minutes, and then of course you get them turning round over Strouden Park itself.

Now I am no NIMBY when it comes to aircraft. We lived under the Heathrow flightpath in Hammersmith for 18 years. But I understand both a pilot training school and normal flying school are based at Hurn airport. Has there been a relaxing of the flight frequency rules in the last year?

As a business journalist I am used to tackling consumer inequalities. But this is something different and I am interested what you have to say in the matter.

Thank you for your time.

Yours Sincerely,

(Forum Member)

Brackendale Road

Forum contacted Ray Coggins, Environment and Community Manager at Bournemouth Airport, who responds as follows:-

From: environment@bournemouthairport.com

To: Wendy Sharp tmsthareaforum@yahoo.com

Sent: Mon, 22 February, 2010 15:21:47

Subject: Re: Throop Muscliff Strouden Townsend and Holdenhurst Area Forum

Dear Wendy Sharp,

Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

There are a number of general issues raised in your member's letter, which I will try to answer.

"..marked increase in low flying aircraft around Strouden Park"................

There are a couple of issues here. I have checked with the Operations Manager and our Air Traffic Control who tell me there has been no increase in light aircraft traffic lately. Light Aircraft are directed by Air Traffic Control to orbit in certain locations so that they do not conflict with an incoming or departing commercial flight. This orbiting activity can be some distance away from the aerodrome (they need to be 5 miles apart for safety reasons), but at some stage the aircraft has to approach the runway. Orbiting light aircraft is the acceptable solution to establish the sequence for landing aircraft and the closer to the airport they hold, the easier it is to establish the sequence with minimum delay. The low flying aircraft you mention are all performing with the sanction of air traffic control within these regulations. It could be that due to weather conditions, more aircraft were placed in the Strouded area temporarily. Without knowing exactly which days and times, I cannot check the radar. Additionally, these might not be Bournemouth Aircraft, as there are a number of agencies who operate aircraft, such as the police, Environment Agency, and emergency services, which are not based at Bournemouth.

"at a height of less than 400 feet."

The Air navigation Order (Section 3 Low Flying Rule) states that aircraft ‘shall not fly below a height of 1000 feet over cities, towns or settlements’. However, there is an exception to this rule. (Para 6 [a] [I], Landing and Taking Off.

‘Any aircraft shall be exempt from the low flying prohibitions in so far as it is flying in accordance with normal aviation practise for the purpose of: taking off from, landing at, or practising approaches to landing at; or checking navigational aids or procedures at a Government or licensed aerodrome.

Additionally, some light aircraft do not have much sophistication when it comes to instruments and the pilots fly visually (known as VFR - Visual Flying Rules). These rules do not allow pilots to fly through cloud, but remain below it, so although the low flying limit is 1,000 feet as described above, they could, if there is low cloud be justified in flying below that height. If the cloud base is descending, then so are the aircraft.

There are indeed flying schools at Bournemouth where pilots are trained. I do not understand the reference to "flight frequency rules" as I am not aware of this, so cannot comment on the relaxing of them.

Bournemouth Airport operates a strict noise abatement policy to minimise the airports effects on the environment and surrounding community, and I am sorry that these flying operations have caused your member annoyance. I have though, recorded this as an official complaint, - Reference No 20/10.

I am happy to investigate any breaches of the rules, but will need a specific date, time, and location to be able to identify an aircraft.

Kind Regards,

Ray Coggins

Environment and Community Manager - Bournemouth Airport

Tel: 01202 364111

Complaints line: 01202 364500

Fax: 01202 364134

E-mail: environment@bournemouthairport.com

Part of Manchester Airports Group

Forum Chairman Dom Coleman adds:-

As my parents live just off the flight path to the main runway, we’ve had much contact over the years and, if people do complain about noise, aircraft height, frequency etc..., it is incredibly important that they note the time; without this, the whole process is not going to get anywhere.

If you go to www.bournemouthairport.com there is an icon in the bottom left of the page, called ‘webtrack’, this allows you to go back in time and observe the exact flight details for all traffic to and from Hurn, you can see the flight path and heights; this data is taken directly from the Air Traffic Control radar and, as such, should be beyond question.

With the greatest of respect to anyone who feels that an aircraft is flying too low (there is a 1000 ft limit excluding take-off and final approach); I could not accurately estimate the height of a passing aircraft to the nearest 500 ft.

Try it for yourselves, watch a couple of aircraft go over, estimate the height, note the time and then go on the website (it runs with a 24 hour lag, so you’d have to wait till the next day) and see if you were right.

Have any other Forum members also noticed these aircraft? Please contact us tmsthareaforum@yahoo.com