Over the next few years we would like to make changes to one of our departure routes, known as ‘Compton’. This is independent of our expansion proposal and is required for historical issues set out below. This route (illustrated below) is used by departing aircraft for around 30 per cent of the year when the airport is on easterly operations (i.e. when the winds are from the east).
This Compton route was designed in the 1960s when the number of aircraft using Heathrow were far fewer than today. Over time, the route has become challenging to manage because of its proximity to one of Heathrow’s holding stacks to the south of the airport. This requires NATS air traffic controllers having to manually direct aircraft using this route to separate them from the stream of arrivals making their way from the holding stack into the airport. One of the results of this is that a much lower percentage of aircraft are able to stay within the Noise Preferential Route (the specified departure routes as shown by the grey shaded area illustrated above) compared with other departure routes from Heathrow.
A redesigned route would significantly reduce the need for controllers to manually direct aircraft using the Compton route. It will also help us meet government and CAA requirements and ensure more predictability about where aircraft are flying.
We have held consultations in order to define the design principles, these have been used to create a proposed 'design envelope' (i.e. the broad geographical area where it is possible to position new flight path(s). Consultations are happening currently to seek feedback on these envelopes.
Feedback received will be incorporated into our comprehensive list of options, based on the design principles. Following the creation of this comprehensive list of flight path options we will then arrange further workshops in Q1 2020 to review and provide feedback.