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Slightly steeper approach trial update

31 October 2017

This summer, we carried out a second trial of a slightly steeper approach angle for aircraft landing at Heathrow. This is one of 10 practical steps Heathrow is taking through its Blueprint for Noise Reduction to explore ways to improve the noise climate around the airport.

Steeper approaches graphic


The international standard approach angle for most airports in the world is set at 3°, except where enhanced obstacle clearance is required (e.g. buildings and high terrain). We believe that a steeper angle is possible and will lead to quieter approaches. In September 2015, we ran a 6-month trial testing a 3.2° approach angle and sought permission to introduce the procedure permanently. The CAA was supportive but requested further data during warm months to consider the effect warmer temperatures have on approach angles flown. A second trial was therefore conducted between 25 May 2017 and 11 October 2017. The data is now being analysed while we investigate options to make the slightly steeper approach permanent, and as such, we have extended the trial for a further 12 months.

We believe that a steeper angle is possible and that this, in conjunction with a number of other Heathrow initiatives, will lead to quieter approaches to the airport. As we have done over the last few decades, we will continue to explore initiatives like this to further reduce Heathrow’s overall noise footprint to improve the impacts on the ground. Our long term aim is to introduce approaches of up to 3.5° in the future, and we plan to incorporate steeper angles of descent into our proposals for redesigning the Heathrow airspace as part of the Government’s airspace modernisation strategy.

For more information about the most recent trial you can download our fact sheet here.