| AIRCRAFT NOISE AND BAD TRACK-KEEPING
HOW TO COMPLAIN. WHAT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DO. and 'THE RULES'
1 How to Complain
Complaints are dealt with by Stansted Airport's Flight Evaluation Unit (FEU). An easy way to complain is to use the SSE form, which provides all the information the FEU requires. It is important to complete each box, especially the date, time and postcode, which allow the incident to be identified by FEU. Every complaint made using our form is automatically forwarded to the FEU. A copy also goes to the SSE Noise Group, which helps us monitor the pattern of complaints. Alternatively, contact the FEU direct - details below. If you email the FEU, please send a copy to: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want a written reply from the FEU, it is important to request this.
2 What to Complain About
You are entitled to complain about any nuisance from the airport, particularly if you believe that a particular aircraft was either excessively noisy, too low, or off-track. Rules governing noise and track-keeping are complex - we have summarised some of the main regulations below (4 The Rules). It is helpful to have some knowledge of these and also to be familiar with flight paths and minimum heights relating to where you live or work. In general, though, our advice is to use commonsense in deciding whether you have been upset, annoyed or disturbed by a noisy or off-track aircraft.
Legitimate complaints are important because they inform BAA about the impact the airport is having on the community and whether their counter-measures are effective. Lack of complaints can be seen as a sign of acceptance. You may also feel satisfied that you have at least registered a complaint. If you also inform SSE it helps us to judge whether the situation is getting better or worse.
How often you complain will depend on where you live and what your particular criteria are for 'nuisance', eg sleep disturbance, interruption of music or conversation. Some may complain when they feel the overall noise climate has changed for the worse or the pattern of operations has changed. You should be aware that those who complain most regularly or frequently may eventually receive less informative replies from the FEU or have the validity of their complaints implicitly undermined. Those who complain at least 30 times every month are put in the 'multiple complainers' category (see 3 What happens when you complain)
SSE encourages residents to complain responsibly and according to their own consistent criteria, and if necessary, to keep complaining even though they may feel their complaints are not yet achieving the desired effect.
3 What Happens When You Complain
If you requested a written reply, you should receive a letter or email, usually with a map, within about a week (although occasionally longer than this during peak seasons). However you should note that the FEU only guarantees a reply where an 'infringement' is involved (see 4 The Rules below), although in practice many 'non-infringement' complaints are also replied to. The reply is based on information taken from National Air Traffic Services radar tracking system. If the incident qualifies as an 'infringement' you may also receive a later, additional reply as the FEU will pursue the matter with the airline and may impose a fine, which is added to BAA's charitable community donations fund.
Details of your complaint will be added to the Airport's statistics, which are reported quarterly to the Stansted Airport Consultative Committee (STACC), comprising representatives of local councils and other stakeholder organisations (with meetings attended by Stansted Airport's management). The data are also considered in more detail by the Airport's Noise and Track Keeping Working Group and the quarterly statistics are also reported to the Department for Transport. Complaints from 'multiple complainers' (see 2 What to complain about) are totalled separately from the main statistics.
Complaint statistics are published on the STACC website (www.ukaccs.info/stansted). The statistics will be found towards the end of the Agenda Papers (follow the link from 'The Committee' on the menu bar).
4 'The Rules'
This is a summary of the main regulations, as set down by the Department for Transport, covering noise and track keeping. SSE does not agree with many aspects of the official noise control regime and continues to press for improvements, including the establishment of an independent complaints handling body.
Complaints fall into one of two categories: infringements and non-infringements.
These include the following:
- An aircraft exceeding the noise limit when passing by one of eight noise monitors positioned 6.5 km from the runway (four at each end). Noise limits are set by the Department for Transport (DfT) and vary according to the time of day, as follows:
Hours||Noise limit (decibels [dBA])
- A departing aircraft that passes over the noise monitors at less than 1000 feet above the airport.
- A departing aircraft leaving the 3 km wide swathe of one of the six departure routes (Noise Preferential Routes or NPRs) before attaining 4000 feet altitude (or 3000 feet between 0600 and 2330 in the case of two of the routes). With some aircraft, this can happen very soon after leaving the runway.
- A departing or arriving aircraft routed over Central Bishop's Stortford; or one that is less than 2,500 ft over Sawbridgeworth or Stansted Mountfitchet; or one that is less than 2500 feet when it passes over Sawbridgeworth or less than 4000 feet above St Elizabeth's Centre in Much Hadham.
- Unmuffled engine testing between 2200 (2100 on Saturdays and Sundays) and 0700 (0900 on Sundays)
- Other incidents such as very low flying aircraft over built up areas and use of excessive (in the Airport's judgement) reverse thrust when landing at night.
Altitude: All references to altitude are those above sea level, so in practice the distance between you and the aircraft will be less than the height quoted in the FEU's reply (the airport itself is about 350 feet above sea level).
Exceptions: In some instances the regulations can be relaxed, eg aircraft acting under special instructions from Air Traffic Control for safety reasons.
Helicopters: Helicopters do not fly the Noise Preferential Routes but have 'Visual Flight Routes' and are under the constant guidance of air traffic control.
Non-Stansted traffic: The FEU cannot deal with complaints about aircraft not taking off or landing at Stansted. These will normally be at higher altitude than Stansted traffic.
For more information: Contact the FEU for a copy of the Airport's leaflet 'Managing Aircraft Noise from Stansted Airport', which can be downloaded here in Acrobat format or requested from the FEU (details below).
Events that qualify as infringements are comparatively few. Arrivals, which account for half the operations at the airport, are not obliged to keep to a specific noise preferential route (ie equivalent to the departure NPRs), so there cannot be a track-keeping infringement by an arriving aircraft. For safety reasons, air traffic controllers have the power to route incoming aircraft wherever they need to, and at whatever altitude is necessary, although they will normally take into account environmental considerations.
In practice, however, arrivals normally follow a fixed route ('final approach') in line with the runway for at least the final 7 miles, approximately (or 11.5 miles between 2330 and 0600 hours). Arrivals may not descend below an altitude of 2000 feet (3000 feet between 2330 and 0600 hours) until they are established on their final approach, except for reasons of safety, emergency or bad weather.
With regard to noise, although arrivals are the cause of many noise complaints further out from the airport, there is rarely a technical infringement involved: by the time that an arriving aircraft reaches the noise monitors the engine noise is so low that it is extremely unlikely that it would breach the noise limits.
SSE Noise Group
Stop Stansted Expansion
PO Box 311
Herts CM22 6PY
Tel: 01279 870558
Fax: 01279 870786
Flight Evaluation Unit
Stansted Airport Limited
Essex CM24 1QW
Tel (FEU 24-hour Freephone): 0800 243 788
Fax: 01279 662971
Complaints about military aircraft: www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/ContactUs/LowFlyingComplaints.htm
Aircraft Noise & Track Keeping Complaint Form