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Modern aircraft and technologies

Better control of noise with modern aircraft and navigation technologies

Modern aircraft don't just have quieter engines, they can fly in ways that mean fewer people hear them. Navigation systems have also improved. By switching from traditional ground-based navigation to a satellite-based system (known as performance-based navigation or PBN), aircraft can follow flight paths far more precisely.

Airspace modernisation at Heathrow gives us a chance to improve the way we fly. By adopting PBN, redesigning flight paths and making full use of the capabilities of modern aircraft, we can make the skies quieter and offer more communities guaranteed respite from aircraft noise.

Achieving steeper angles of ascent and descent

If we create the right airspace, modern aircraft can arrive and depart at steeper angles than older aircraft. By modernising the airspace around Heathrow to take advantage of steeper angles of ascent and descent, we reduce our noise footprint. Fewer communities will be affected by noise from aircraft flying at low altitudes.

Steeper angles of ascent also reduce CO2 emissions because aircraft reach a fuel-efficient cruising height much sooner in their journey.

Achieving narrower, more precise outbound flight paths

The UK's ground-based aircraft navigation systems are no match for PBN. With PBN, a departing aircraft can navigate within a much narrower corridor.

Compare that to our current flight paths for departing aircraft. They’re typically 1.5km wide. PBN produces such precise flight paths, we can fit two of them inside a single existing flight path.

PBN provides noise relief to more communities

The accuracy of PBN-controlled flight paths allows us to do something that's never been possible before. We can offer Heathrow communities noise relief from departing aircraft.

Our current flight paths are too wide and imprecise for us to vary them with any hope of reducing noise levels for any given community. But when we have the ability to fit two narrow flight paths so precisely within the shadow of an existing flight path, we have a choice. In the morning we can fly one narrow flight path; in the afternoon we can fly the other.

For the communities beneath those two flight paths there's a guarantee of noise relief for half of the day. At the moment they both suffer from noise all day long.