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Slightly steeper approaches

Making slightly steeper approaches permanent at Heathrow

Slightly steeper approaches for arriving aircraft (3.2° as opposed to 3.0°) have been shown to provide noise benefits to communities living close to an airport. Although these procedures have been operational at Heathrow for over 3 years, to introduce them permanently requires an airspace change proposal to be approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). More information about the CAA’s process can be found here.

Between 2015 and 2017 we ran two trials to investigate how slightly steeper approaches would impact Heathrow operationally, whilst at the same time attempt to measure the benefit in noise reduction that could be achieved. Local communities supported the trials and results demonstrated that a small noise benefit can be provided whilst experiencing no negative environmental or operational dis-benefits (the reports can be found here).

Since the end of the trial, the CAA have allowed Heathrow to maintain these procedures on a temporary basis whilst we prepare to submit an airspace change proposal for their permanent adoption.

Airspace change process - design principles

As with our other planned airspace changes, we will need to go through the CAA airspace change process which sets out a number of stages when making an airspace change. The first stage in the process is to define the ‘design principles’ which are essentially a list of high-level criteria that the proposed airspace design options should meet. In June 2019 we wrote to our key stakeholders (community, local authority an industry) to develop and seek feedback on a proposed list of design principles.

Once feedback is received and analysed, we will develop our final set of prioritised design principles. We will share these with stakeholders before we submit them to the CAA for approval in August 2019. If accepted by the CAA, the design principles will be used to qualitatively evaluate our airspace design options as we move towards the next stage in the airspace change process.

Our design principles submission and any supporting documentation will be available from the CAA website and on this webpage in due course.

We will keep this page updated as we progress throughout the airspace change process for the permanent introduction of slightly steeper approaches.