Air stack plans are 'flawed' - watchdog

A HERITAGE watchdog has urged air traffic bosses to rethink their plans to stack aircraft over the countryside.

Russell Claydon

A HERITAGE watchdog has urged air traffic bosses to rethink their plans to stack aircraft over the countryside.

The Suffolk Preservation Society said it saw no reason why stacking should take place at all but said holding planes over the North Sea would be preferable to shattering the peace and quiet of villagers.

NATS, formerly the National Air Traffic Service, has outlined proposals to move a stacking area for planes heading into Stansted Airport away from Sudbury to an area affecting 32 villages, including Lavenham and the surrounding area.

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It has argued that circling planes over rural areas would affect less people, but Suffolk campaigners took their fight against the plans to NATS' headquarters in London last week.

Richard Ward, director of the society, has written to NATS, which controls airspace, asking why plane stacking from the ground, instead of in the air, was not mentioned in the proposals.

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“We can see no rationale or justification in the consultation why stacking has to take place over any part of the Suffolk countryside, or any inland area altogether,” he said.

“Holding aircraft at the end of their journey is both disruptive, wasteful on fuel, adds to climate change problems and is the worst possible way of dealing with the phasing of the landing of aircraft.

“With others, we would support a wholly different approach where stacking effectively takes place at the commencement of the journey, on the runway before departure, rather than at the end.

“We do not underestimate the significant work and changes that would be made to facilitate this but believe such an option requires proper and careful consideration.

“It could deliver a significant number of major benefits for airlines, not least a saving in fuel, reduced costs, greater efficiency and mean that aircraft movements have less impact on the population as a whole.”

He said NATS' consultation process and proposals were flawed because the primary purpose seemed to be to reduce the number of people affected by stacking without examining whether it is possible to stack away from populated areas or the alternative to stacking.

A NATS spokesman said bosses had been listening to people's comments during the consultation, which finished last week, and the plans were put forward because based on the guidelines they had been given by the Civil Aviation Authority, which is due to make the final decision in the autumn.

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