12:07PM, Friday 20 March 2015
Heathrow Airport has been left red-faced after residents who claimed to have more planes flying over their homes turned out to be right – despite being told by the airport no changes had been made.
An urgent review into the way National Air Traffic Services (NATS), the main air navigation service provider, shares information with the airport has been agreed following the revelation.
The flights affect a number of residents who were also affected by flight trials that took place from summer to November, specifically people living in Ascot and Bracknell.
After the trials, Heathrow was approached by residents and their elected representatives with concerns that flights were being routed differently.
The airport asked NATS if there had been any relevant changes to airspace and were told that no changes had taken place, which turned out to be incorrect.
NATS has apologised to the airport for not highlighting the changes. In a statement on its website NATS said: “There is no suggestion NATS did not follow the current agreed process. However, we have already taken steps to ensure more robust processes are in place to share relevant information with Heathrow so they are aware of any changes that may be noticed by local residents.”
A statement from Heathrow said there is no suggestion NATS had any intention to mislead, but by not identifying the change it meant the airport wrongly told residents that no changes had happened following the end of the trials.
The airport has asked NATS to consider reverting to the prior operational procedures on Easterly departures, but it is not planning to do this.
Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said he was ‘very concerned’ NATS made the change without telling the airport or affected communities about its potential impact.
“Because of the assurances we received, we in turn told residents in good faith that no changes had occurred,” he said.
“That is unacceptable and I unequivocally apologise.”
Windsor MP Adam Afriyie said Heathrow and NATS have some ‘serious questions’ to answer.
“I am deeply concerned on behalf of the residents who have suffered from extra aircraft noise without so much as a warning,” he said.
“Heathrow must take the blame for misleading residents and being dismissive of their concerns.”
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