NORWICH AIRPORT AIRSPACE CHANGE PROPOSAL (ACP)

Norwich is proposing to establish a large area of Class D airspace around the airport even though it has little fixed wing public transport traffic – their website lists an average of only 5 take-offs and 5 landings by scheduled and charter aircraft  each day, about 20% down year on year.  Passengers are also down 24%.  The ACP notes that the expansion of the busy London airspace is pushing GA and military aircraft north and as they have been unable to agree a coordination arrangement with the MOD, they believe that Class D airspace will prevent military aircraft flying in that part of Norfolk without their permission.

This is a really important issue for recreational flying as the Norwich proposal would close down one of the few remaining open areas in south-east England.  Norwich clearly does not have the commercial traffic to warrant new controlled airspace the same size of that at Gatwick – 10,745 fixed wing movements at Norwich in 2008 compared with 256,352 at Gatwick and only some 1850 fixed wing passenger flights on the Norwich timetable for 2009.  The LAA believes that we should challenge this proposal and if our views are to have any effect we must have a substantial number of responses from individuals.  You do not need to write a long tome but say you oppose the proposal (if indeed you do) and list a few key points. 

You can see the Norwich proposal here  (a 4Mb download) and the LAA draft response here.

The following paragraphs list the key issues to help you understand the proposal and frame your own opinion.  Please send your response to Norwich at cas.consultation@norwichinternational.com

Norwich Area Map

 

The deadline is 28 August.

 The Key Issues

Early in the consultation Norwich says “The demise of RAF Coltishall has left Norwich to operate as a “stand-alone” ATC Unit in an area of intense, unknown, predominantly military activity”.  Here then is the foundation of their case:

Norwich thinks it is in an area of intense unknown traffic.

It thinks this unknown traffic is predominately military. 

Those of you who fly into the London airports in rush hour or operate around any of the great conurbations will know what intense is and will suspect it is not to be found in North Norfolk.  And those of us who flew from East Anglia in the heyday of military aviation know that there is now but a shadow of the force that once filled the skies with the sound of freedom.  But by saying the problem is predominately military Norwich acknowledges that all other aviation does not represent an unknown traffic problem for them.  So what does Norwich argue?

Norwich says that the consultation is “about improving flight safety” but it is one of only 10 UK airfields not waive charges for GA aircraft making emergency landings.  Moreover nowhere in its consultation does it consider the effect of this change on non-commercial aircraft or indeed on its own rotary wing traffic serving the offshore industry. 

When RAF Coltishall was open there was an ATC agreement with Norwich which they claim “effectively provided a substantial volume of airspace within which almost all aircraft were known”.  In fact that is a gross misrepresentation of an agreement which only ensured that departures and arrivals were coordinated.  It is true that aircraft receiving LARS from Coltishall were known to Norwich but equally an aircraft receiving LARS from Norwich is now known to them.  No change there then.

The pillar of the Norwich Airport case is that they are now ignorant of a large amount of traffic, mainly military, that was previously known to them. In reality, the only significant additional traffic in this category is the small number of military and GA aircraft that take advantage of the free airspace vacated by the absence of Coltishall MATZ.  In general, aircraft that used to call Coltishall for LARS now call Norwich for the same service.  

Military aircraft flying tactically do not routinely call military or civil ATC units unless a MATZ or ATZ penetration is required.  But all military aircraft have transponders (they have Mode S but Norwich does not) and can be identified by their squawk which is how Norwich controllers have always identified them.  The requirement to react to such contacts in conflict with any traffic receiving a service is thus unchanged.

Nevertheless, the removal of the Coltishall MATZ has changed the traffic flows around Norfolk and Norwich Airport may now see some military fast jets in that area but are there more of them?  The consultation's claim that military flying has increased in the skies of East Anglia is simply and absolutely false.  The sole addition is the Apache helicopter force based at Wattisham which has negligible impact on Norwich.  Statistics show that as a result of the drastic decrease in military aircraft in the UK over recent years military low flying is much reduced in East Anglia - the Yanks have mostly left, the Jaguar and Phantom forces have gone and the rest of the RAF is mostly away at war.

Norwich says it has been unable to negotiate an agreement with the military.  That may well be because MOD does not believe Norwich has a problem or a case for total control of this airspace.

Small airfields have operated around Norwich for many years and are not a concern despite the alarmist statements in the consultation and Norwich Airport's issues with GA are really very minor, but they seem to want to know about every contact on their radar screens, and control everything.  This controlled airspace would channel the great majority of airspace users into smaller areas creating choke points and increasing risk.

For helicopters serving the North Sea which makes up the majority of Norwich traffic, the controlled airspace would be dangerous.  Once they are outside the proposed CTR they would have to pass through the area where all the other traffic has been funnelled increasing the risk of collision.

So looked at from the aspect of all airspace users, something Norwich does not do, this proposal will increase risk to aircraft, occupants and persons and property on the ground

In summary:

Norwich is not busy and the airspace around it is some of the quietest in England.

Public Transport fixed wing traffic and passenger numbers have decreased year on year.

Norwich thinks it has a problem with unknown military traffic but military traffic is now much less than in previous years.

Any perceived problem with military aircraft should be resolved between the airport and MOD.

Failure by Norwich to convince the MOD of its case does not justify the establishment of controlled airspace of any sort.

The airspace would channel the majority of airspace users into the area around it increasing risk to them and to the North Sea helicopters which would then have to pass through it.

If you oppose the Norwich proposal, please email them to say so at

cas.consultation@norwichinternational.com  before 28th August 2009.

 

Many Thanks

 

The LAA Airspace Team