The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport has responded to comments made by airport boss Vincent Hodder about night time flying at LBA. In the aviation industry journal Routes, Mr Hodder said he would tell airlines that use ‘more efficient’ aircraft at night: “you can fly as much as you want.” GALBA said this would be very bad news for people living under the flight path but also pointed out the current rules on night time flying prevent an unlimited number of flights.
Chris Foren, chair of GALBA, said: “We only saw Mr Hodder’s interview yesterday and it shows just how little he cares about the airport’s neighbours. He always puts his company’s profits above the health of our communities. Fortunately, he’s wrong about the existing rules - they do prevent an unlimited number of night flights - and that’s the way it should stay. But the airport’s planning application wants to rip up these rules. GALBA won’t let that happen.”
Andy Tait, who lives under the flight path in Headingley, said: “Mr Hodder talks about ‘more noise efficient’ aircraft like the 737 MAX and A320neo. They may be slightly less noisy than other aircraft but no one could describe them as ‘quiet’. Just ask anyone who lives under the flight path if they think there should be no limit on flying at night. You’ll get a loud and clear answer - no!”
Victoria Smith, who lives directly under the flight path in Kirkstall, said: “I can actually smell the kerosene dropped from planes landing at LBA. And the noise from both departing and landing planes forces us to halt conversations until the plane has passed. And we have to close all our windows. This is particularly disruptive in the summer and especially bad on weekends. Departing planes fly directly over our house from 6:10 am."
Chris Foren added: “In the same interview, Mr Hodder said he believes that the airport has ‘an obligation to be encouraging people to reduce their carbon emissions.’ If he was serious about that obligation, he’d withdraw the airport’s expansion plans which would cause a massive increase in emissions from the 16,000 extra flights per year using LBA.”
1) Mr Hodder’s interview in Routes: in answer to the question: Do you see a time when airlines or airports would refuse to partner based on green credentials? Mr Hodder said: “I don't know if that would never happen, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon. But if you take LBA as an example, we have a noise cap on overnight operations that restricts us to 2,800 overnight movements between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. during the summer. But that limit only applies to aircraft with a noise quota rating of 0.5 or above. So there's no limitation on flying a 737 MAX or an A320neo into the airport overnight, but there is a restriction on flying older technology. That's not something which is said by us as an airport, but absolutely we have to say to airlines: ‘I'm sorry, we cannot operate any more aircraft overnight during the summer period, but if you were to operate with a more efficient aircraft and more noise-efficient aircraft, you can fly as much as you want.’”
The full interview is available here.
2) Existing rules on night flights at LBA: Mr Hodder is correct to say that LBA’s overnight aircraft movements are currently restricted to 2,800 between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am during the summer. LBA’s planning application wants to remove that overall night time limit and also reduce the definition of ‘night’ to 11.30pm and 6am, allowing an additional 90 minutes of unrestricted daytime flights.
However Mr Hodder is wrong to suggest that there is currently no limit on night time flights of ‘more noise efficient’ aircraft. The current rule, known as a NOTAM, includes a weight limit to ensure that only light aircraft are exempt from being counted towards the overall limit on night flights. Commercial jet airliners weigh much more than the weight limit therefore they are not exempt. The NOTAM regulation was passed into law in 1993, it is administered by the Civil Aviation Authority and LCC is the monitoring authority.
When GALBA presented a legal challenge to LBA’s claim during the planning process, LBA issued a Further Information Report and adjusted their prediction of the number of night time flights, thereby acknowledging the fact that their interpretation of the rules was erroneous. In a later FIR, LBA continued to ignore the weight limit and proposed what they described as a ‘common sense’ interpretation. GALBA says that rather than ‘common sense’, it’s clearly ‘nonsense’ to say that a regulation designed to protect the public would allow unlimited numbers of aircraft to fly at night.
3) Climate science and LBA expansion: the Leeds Climate Commission and experts in climate science from the University of Leeds have calculated that LBA’s proposals mean greenhouse gas emissions from the airport would exceed the amount allowed for the whole of Leeds, as set out in the Leeds Carbon Reduction Roadmap, from 2026 onwards. See the report here.