BAA to introduce mixed mode at Heathrow by the back door

BAA are due to introduce controversial mixed mode flight operations at Heathrow in the next few months, Murad Qureshi AM has learned.

Murad Qureshi AM said: "When Geoff Hoon announced the cancellation of the 1952 Cranford Agreement in January this year, he specifically said this would not lead to mixed mode operations at Heathrow, but now BAA has quietly decided to operate take offs and landings on both runways simultaneously, which to my mind is mixed mode. BAA thinks that by redefining the term they can get round the ruling that prohibits it, but they’re merely playing with semantics."

Mixed mode is the standard operating procedure for all single-runway airports in the UK, whereby planes take off and land on one runway at the same time. Heathrow currently uses a segregated mode on its two existing runways, whereby at any one time one runway is used for take-offs and the other for landings, either to the East or the West, depending on the wind direction. On westerly operations, which occur some 70% of the time, they swap over at 3pm to give people under the flight paths some respite from the noise for part of the day.

However, for over 50 years, planes have been prevented from taking off from the Northern runway in an Easterly direction by the Cranford Agreement, established because of the proximity of the village of Cranford to the runway. This has in effect prevented mixed mode working at Heathrow – until now. When the Secretary of State decided to cancel the Cranford agreement in January this year to reduce the noise experienced by people in Windsor, Hatton and North Feltham, BAA seized on the opportunity to re-interpret the rules and introduce mixed mode working by the back door.

Ealing resident Margaret Majumdar, who has been campaigning for many years against the unacceptable noise from Heathrow said: “BAA may try to dress it up as something different, saying that the airport will only operate in this way for a small part of the day, probably in the late evening, but their plans constitute introducing what people have understood for decades to be mixed mode working and I find this totally unacceptable. There are no plans to consult local communities about this, beyond its statutory consultation with the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee, it’s just another example of BAA doing whatever it wants with complete disregard for the people who have to put up with the awful and relentless noise levels around Heathrow."

Margaret continued: "Residents of Cranford, Heston, north and central Hanwell and north and central Ealing, who have not suffered noise from take-offs up to now, will suddenly find that they are suffering the appalling noise that people under the flight paths in current use have to put up with. There are already 700,000 local residents who suffer from Heathrow operation: now there will be even more. Research has shown that aircraft noise can affect the health of people who regularly suffer it, and that there is a detriment to schoolchildren’s learning in schools under the flightpaths. BAA needs to use the reduction in the number of flights caused by the recession to make the reduction permanent and start to reduce the imposition the airport places on local communities."

BAA reported plans to change operational working at Heathrow at a meeting of the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee earlier this year, which could result in mixed mode landing and take-offs starting between February and May 2010.

Notes to Editors

  • Murad Qureshi AM is the Labour Group environment spokesperson on the London Assembly and Chair of the Assembly Environment Committee.
  • He is the London Assembly’s representative on the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee.
  • Margaret Majumdar is Secretary of the Ealing Aircraft Noise Action Group (EANAG).
  • BAA’s presentation can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/lcygnm
  • The minutes from HACC’s meeting of 29th July 2009 can be found at: http://www.lhr-acc.org/documents/29Min29July.pdf