Public meeting to discuss Luton aircraft stacking system

People living in Huntingdonshire villages are monitoring the height of aircraft flying over the district.

People living in Huntingdonshire villages are monitoring the height of aircraft flying over the district. - Credit: NATS

A public meeting has been organised to discuss an increase in the number of aircraft flying over Huntingdonshire's villages due to changes to the London Luton Airport flight plan. 

The meeting will take place in July and will also cover noise pollution. Residents believe the issues are related to the airport's new arrivals stacking system which came into effect on February 24.

The stacking system centred around Grafham, passes directly over St Neots, Brampton, Buckden, and the Paxtons, from where aircraft exit the stack and descend over Abbotsley, Potton and Gamlingay.

Rob Payne, who lives in Abbotsley, has been tracking the altitude of aircraft operations above the village (using transponders on the aircraft).

His data (as of last week) shows there have been more than 2,500 extra aircraft flying above these villages between 6,000 and 9,000ft.

Mr Payne believes these numbers are likely to significantly increase over the summer as air traffic slowly returns to pre-pandemic levels.

District councillor for Priory Park and Little Paxton, Stephen Ferguson, told The Hunts Post: "Although most of us understood from the consultation that aircraft operations would be at more than 9,000ft, the data suggests that almost 70 per cent of aircraft over Abbotsley are operating below 8,000ft.

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"There is a 12-month post-implementation consultation window from June 1, 2022, in which residents can provide feedback on any negative impact of the new arrangements.

"Cllr Richard West and I have been contacted by many residents who are bothered by the increase in noise from these aircraft. We are both very concerned with these developments and intend to raise a formal objection with the support of enough residents. We are also seeking the help of local councillors, MPs and Mayor Nik Johnson.

The public meeting will be held in Little Gransden Village Hall on Tuesday, July 5, at 7:30 pm.

The airspace change known as ‘London Luton Airport Arrivals’ was implemented on 24 February following a 15-week public consultation and approval from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The new holding area and flight paths simplify and modernise the arrival routes into the UK’s fifth busiest airport and separate them from Stansted’s. Given the growth at both airports in recent years, separate arrival routes and a dedicated hold for each airport will ensure improved safety and help reduce delay. 

In a statement, National Air Traffic Services (NATS) said: "We are still far off from pre-pandemic air traffic levels; in Q1 2022, we were at 70 per cent of 2019.

Due to lower traffic numbers, the majority of aircraft are not using the new holding stack and are being instructed by air traffic control to take available shortcuts to join the lower-level airspace away from the hold.

"This scenario was outlined during the consultation and in the final submission document. We are already amassing information and statistics from the change, including analysis on altitudes, which will be used in the post-implementation report that we will submit to the CAA after 12 months of operation."