London Heathrow Airport is to allow certain aircraft to increase the approach angle on finals as they near the runway as part of a noise reduction programme. UK pilots are however questioning how effective the trial change from the international standard of 3 degrees to 3.2 degrees is going to be measured.
The concerns are that this scheme could in some outlying areas possibly increase noise for Heathrow’s neighbours rather than reduce it. The steeper approach to Heathrow is different from the accepted standard around the world.
Pilots need to be aware of how the increased angle affects the handling of the aircraft and have to adapt flying technique to take this into account, according to British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa).
Balpa stressed that flying a 3.2 degree approach path in a modern aircraft is not a problem in itself, as most are certified for approaches of more than this and pilots are more than capable of adjusting flying techniques to cater for it. However when coming in to land, an aircraft must be at a specific height and speed and configured correctly when it reaches 1000ft above the airport. If it does not meet the criteria the landing must be abandoned, and a go around undertaken.
Balpa claims that adjustment to a steeper angle means an increase in the number of aircraft failing to meet the criteria and having to go around and begin the approach again resulting in more noise, more pollution and an increase in workload for both air traffic controllers and pilots.
Under the change parameters aircraft will need to slow down earlier in their preparation for landing. Balpa suggest that using speed brakes, lowering the undercarriage and using flaps to reduce speed could possibly increase the noise levels further out on the approach to the airport.
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