Redesigning the ‘Compton’ departure route (on easterly operations)
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).
Why are we reviewing the Compton route?
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.
What happens next?
Over the next few years we would like to propose and implement changes to address the long-standing issues with this route. As with our other planned airspace changes, we will need to go through the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) airspace change process which sets out a number of stages including public consultation.
The first stage in the process is to define the ‘design principles’ that should be used when designing a new Compton route. The next stage is to seek feedback on the ‘design envelopes’ i.e. the broad geographical area where it is possible to position a new flight path/s. We will consider local factors that should be taken into account when designing the route(s) within this envelope.
Both steps will be carried out in 2019 through specific engagement with communities and interested stakeholders potentially affected by a change to this route. This will be followed by a statutory public consultation on the flight path options (i.e. the actual route(s) that aircraft will fly), currently planned for 2022.
Indicative timeline - redesign of Compton departure route
- Design principles and design envelopes engagement (2019)
- Statutory ‘flight path options’ consultation (2020)
- Submit ACP to CAA (2021)
- CAA decision followed by implementation (2022)