Cathay Pacific, SAA and Thai up their game in response to Heathrow's noise performance league table ratings
(photo: Cathay Pacific Airways)
Tue 25 Feb 2014 – Following the launch last November by London’s Heathrow Airport of its ‘name and shame’ quarterly Fly Quiet noise performance table, a number of airlines have responded by replacing older aircraft on their Heathrow route and improving track keeping procedures. The table lists the top 50 airlines serving the airport by number of flights in the quarter according to six noise-related criteria. Each airline receives a red/amber/green rating according to each criterion, as well as an overall score that allows comparison with other airlines. The second table, covering the period October to December 2013, has just been published. Heathrow singles out Cathay Pacific Airways, South African Airways and Thai Airways for special mention over their improved noise performance.
The top three airlines in the first table – British Airways’ short-haul operations, Virgin Atlantic’s short-haul airline Little Red and Aer Lingus – remain the same in the new list. Forty-seven of the 50 airlines are now using a fleet that is Chapter 4 noise compliant and 48 achieved a high standard of track keeping, in which aircraft keep within designated routes. Around 80% of airlines achieved adherence to the pre-04:30 arrivals measurement, an important indicator for Heathrow since early morning flights are a source of particular disruption to local residents.
On a negative note, Heathrow says more work needs to be done with airlines to encourage the use of Continuous Descent Approaches (CDAs) as the number of airlines rated red for the landing procedure increased from three to nine in the last quarter. By following a CDA on arrival, the noise on the ground can be reduced by up to 5dBA in areas away from the final approach path, says the airport. The minimum performance target under the Fly Quiet programme for CDA compliance is set at 55%, with an airline achieving this but not exceeding 75% getting an amber score and above 75% scoring green.
Heathrow said the aim of the programme was to recognise good performance, provide airlines with regular feedback, identify more specific areas to be targeted for improvement, establish minimum performance targets and provide further insight into airline performance. The latest table, it claimed, showed airlines were responding positively to their ratings and improving performance.
In particular, Heathrow praises Cathay Pacific for working with the airport to improve its track keeping over the past three months and has also continued to replace its Boeing 747s with quieter, cleaner 777-300ER aircraft, leading to a rise of 12 places in the table.
“We are pleased to see that our on-going and significant investment in newer and more environmentally-friendly aircraft as part of our wider commitment to sustainability is paying dividends, particularly at London Heathrow where environmental issues remain key,” commented a Cathay Pacific spokesperson.
Similarly, Thai Airways managed to improve its ranking by six places through improved track keeping and replacement of its 747 aircraft with an Airbus A340-600.
Heathrow reports that within 10 days of publication of the last table, it had been contacted by South African Airways and had helped the airline trial a new track-keeping procedure in its simulator, tested it and has now incorporated it into its Standard Operating Procedures.
Along with variable landing charges, the programme was incentivising airlines to use their quietest aircraft around 15% more on Heathrow routes, believes the airport.
“This table shows that airlines are committed to reducing the number of people affected by noise and want to work with us to improve their performance,” said Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability Director. “The Fly Quiet programme is part of our firm commitment to being transparent about aircraft noise and is already helping us make progress in reducing its impact on local communities.”
Earlier this month, Heathrow sent out booklets to around 140,000 households and businesses as part of a six-week consultation on its plans for a new north-west runway. The results, says the airport, will help it understand what is most important to local residents and promises to refine the runway proposal before it is resubmitted in May to the Airports Commission, which is tasked with making recommendations to the UK government on runway expansion in the South-East of England.