London Heathrow Airport (LHR) has commenced a four-month trial which aims to make it easier to use its two runways simultaneously.
Previously, LHR’s the runways were restricted to either take-off or landing and alternate each afternoon – except in emergencies – to reduce noise levels for the airport’s neighbouring communities. The trial is intended to help the airport operator BAA minimise disruption by decreasing the threshold for triggering the emergency system.
During the trial, both runways can be used when an aircraft faces a ten-minute wait to land or take off and if 30% of all flights are delayed by over 15 minutes. Average delays at the airport currently stand at 12 minutes.
BAA has warned that local residents, particularly those at the end of the runways and below the final landing approaches, may now be affected by more noise. However, it has also said that there is a chance of fewer late-night flights (after 10.30pm GMT) and that emissions might be reduced as a result of the shorter waiting times in the holding queues. The number of flights at the airport will remain at 480,000 aircraft movements a year.
The trial, recommended by the UK Department for Transport and overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority, will continue until February 29, 2012. A second trial will run from July 1 until September 30, 2012 to coincide with the London Olympics.