Gatwick Obviously

e-newsletter No.34

Our Mission Statement

Full dispersal • • • Maximum altitude • • • Continuous Descent

Significant success - thanks to the power of 3


Those whining A320s

We are pleased to advise you that easyJet have agreed to:

This success is down to 3 people:

"The origin of all of our understanding about the A320 'whine', what could be done about it and, most importantly the motivation to do it, all started with Michael Knowles and his work with Penshurst Parish Council, with the High Weald Council Group and with Gatwick Obviously Not.
Michael's effort cannot be underestimated in the success we will all enjoy when the A320s become the quiet aircraft they were designed to be.
Richard Streafeild MBE, Chair, High Weald Councils Aviation Action Group.

See the full easyJet story below.

Our film

Here's a very short film we made you recently outlining how we made need you help in funding soon. It was in the last newsletter but some of you missed it.


You can click on the image above or go to to see the film.

If you'd like to send us funds now, anyway, (all very gratefully received) here are our on-line details:

Bank: Lloyds
Name: GON
Sort code: 30-98-77
Account No: 54435360

The easyJet story

If, for just a moment, you can try and imagine easyJet HQ (Hangar 89, Luton Airport) as Jericho, I would put it like this:
Michael Knowles showed us the way and what had to be done; you collectively caused so much noise over the last year that the walls were well and truly rocking on their foundations; Greg Clark helped finally push them over completely

Greg Clark's role
Secretary of State Clark has played a very significant role in securing what he has. Let no-one underestimate that and I thank him on behalf of the thousands we know follow us.

Your role
… was mammoth. I've been copied in to hundreds if not thousands of your messages to easyJet over the last 12 months and I have no doubt at all that without your concerted, focussed and very deliberate efforts this moment simply would not have happened.

I even used the power of your collective voice without you knowing it. In my relatively private message to Carolyn McCall in June (also below) I made it clear that I could unleash a thousand messages of protest straight into her inbox, if need be, as I had just done over the Air Quality Consultation. (You copied me in to over 1000 responses in less than 5 days via our 1-click button)

We (the 12-strong GON Strategic Team) decided the threat of such an onslaught was enough, and it was more sensible to now let Greg Clark pursue easyJet.

Your voice was truly heard. Thank you.

Some weeks ago, Secretary of State Greg Clark MP advised that he had secured a retrofit agreement from easyJet to fix their debilitating whine for their entire fleet by 2018. He also said he was meeting Carolyn McCall, CEO easyJet, and would press for an earlier fix.
It was a successful meeting and the fix for most aircraft into Gatwick will be completed 2 years early.

He also pushed for easyJet to take on board the issues over flight path changes into Gatwick, and their potential backing for this cause is extremely significant. They are Gatwick's biggest customer (although have said quite openly they'd much rather be at Heathrow in the future!).

Michael's role:
Way back in November 2013, once Michael Knowles had discovered the root cause of the problem (actually known since 2005 by the CAA, but only dragged out of them 8 years later), he wrote to easyJet, copying in Greg Clark. His letter is below this article.

He had started the process we now see potentially resolved.

About this time last year, I like thousands of others, was blissfully ignorant of the plans to turn a wide swathe of arrivals into one 500m wide. Michael got in touch - and the rest is history.

Like Richard Streafeild, I want to place on record that we all owe Michael the most tremendous vote of thanks for his magnificent work to originally uncover the cause of the Airbus whine, force the CAA to admit they had known about since 2005 and then ensure enough of us knew about it to help him achieve real change.

I am honoured to now count him as a wonderful friend and important member of Gatwick Obviously Not's Strategic Team.

If you would like to send Michael or Greg a message, we've created this special 1-click email for you. I will be sure to pass them on:

We look forward to seeing how easyJet can now back our collective campaigning to secure even greater tranquillity in our skies.

Martin Barraud

NOTE: Some of these letters have been edited

Michael Knowles OBE to Carolyn McCall, November 2013:

Ms Carolyn McCall OBE BA Kent
Chief Executive Officer
TN11 8DF
London Luton Airport

14 November 2013

Dear Ms McCall,

In the towns and villages across West Kent and East Sussex concern is being expressed over the debilitating high pitched whine emanating from the Airbus A318/319/320 etc., series of aircraft. For some time it was thought that this was a fault of the high bypass turbofan engines but this was denied by the manufacturers and in any event Boeings equipped with the same engines do not emit this awful and far reaching noise. It is noticeable on the long low flight path to touchdown apparent at least 20 miles from the airport and across a variable corridor 2 to 3 miles wide.

As your fleet has expanded over the past few years many people's daily lives have become intolerable because of this noise nuisance. You can imagine then how they are affected when your wailing sirens fly overhead at night. The World Health Organisation has for many years considered that sleep disturbance can lead to fatigue, hypertension, greater risk of heart and respiratory problems, poor performance at work or in school, greater difficulty in concentrating and thinking clearly, an increased likelihood of accidents, depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol abuse. This is particularly the case if people become annoyed about the impact night flights are having on their health and quality of life. These symptoms can also be found in those people suffering excessive noise disturbance during the day.

Much of the nuisance created by your aircraft from Gatwick Airport is over the High Weald registered as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is on these hills and in the tranquil river valleys and upper reaches of the rivers Rother, Arun, Medway, Eden and Ouse that are used for holidays and weekend recreations of hiking, boating, bird watching, horse riding, golfing and other quiet and peaceful pursuits. All are now disturbed by this deep and penetrating noise, mostly from your airline. Many of those troubled, apart from local people in towns and villages, are day trippers from London and other built-up areas all seeking their own refuge from the intrusive noise of daily urban life. In the green parks of inner cities there is also no respite where you and other low cost carriers operate these aircraft.

This annoyance, we are now told by the CAA, has been recorded on the Airbus series since 2005 yet it was only announced on the 13 October 2013 that the ERCD had discovered that the fault was an airframe noise caused by Fuel Over Pressure Protector (FOPP) cavities in the wings. They also confirmed that the "Tone is emitted around 500–600Hz, close to peak sensitivity of the human ear, hence it is very perceptible and very noticeable."

Purely from a humanity point of view 'Do you care'? If you do please tell me what you propose doing about rectifying this unfair and intolerable burden across much of our country and abroad. Your decision will make all the difference to so many people’s lives.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Knowles OBE

The Rt Hon Sir Michael Fallon MP
The Rt Hon Greg Clark MP

Martin Barraud to Carolyn McCall, June 2015

Dear Ms McCall

We have much to thank Michael Knowles OBE for. Not only did his single-handed persistence eventually prove the cause of the Airbus whine, but it was also he who awoke us all last summer to the existence of a 'Consultation' about radically changing the flight paths. (Just 14 people from his area had responded to the previous Consultation, demonstrating the failure of effective dissemination)

As a consequence we formed Gatwick and the rest is history. (Over 6 weeks last summer some 1,500 people - rather than just 14 - were encouraged by us to respond to the then current Consultation, it subsequently being 'deferred' by Gatwick, having been summarily dismissed as 'unfit for purpose' by MP Greg Clark).

Last week we asked our database of 2,000 to respond to the Air Quality Consultation, and over 1,000 people did so within 7 days.

Remarkable don't you think?

Yesterday we played our part in delivering a united message to senior Government from 15 campaign groups surrounding Gatwick, Heathrow and City Airports, seeking a proportionate and fair dispersal of aircraft noise, versus the recently narrowed flight paths inflicted on thousands without consultation.

To unite behind one message in under a month was equally remarkable.

Point 7 in the proposals within that message was for all airlines flying the faulty A320's to arrange the retrofitting of the vortex-generator that cures the Airbus whine.

Like everything we do at GON, our focus on this (and hence of our database) will be absolute and we will not rest until an acceptable timetable is agreed for the retrofitting. Should you have any doubt of our resolve, we set about raising £100,000 to launch our Judicial Review in February - and secured pledges in excess of this (now paid) within 5 days.

Lufthansa have already committed to fixing their entire fleet, and swiftly.

As with the flight path issue, for the Airbus whine we are seeking change for the benefit of all.

Thanks to the courage and doggedness of one man we hope to bring an easy peace to all those affected, wherever easyJet choose to land in Europe.

It is, after all, a relatively easy fix.


Martin Barraud

Carolyn McCall to Secretary of State Greg Clark MP, July 15th 2015:

15 July 2015

Rt Hon Greg Clark MP
House of Commons
London. SW1A 0AA

Dear Greg,

It was good to meet you yesterday to discuss our programme to retrofit the easyJet fleet of A320 family aircraft with vortex generators. I am writing to reiterate the commitments I made to you then.

As you know, we have committed to retrofit all aircraft in the easyJet fleet which do not already have vortex generators. This is 197 aircraft in total and this will be completed by March 2018.

We have now planned the detail of this retrofit programme. It will start on 15 November this year and we now plan to frontload the programme to focus on the aircraft we use for Gatwick so the benefit of this programme will be felt where we have our largest base. Accordingly, we expect to have retrofitted 100 aircraft by June 2016. This will be in addition to the 41 new aircraft, pre-fitted with vortex generators which will also be in the fleet by that date.

As I said, we will focus our retrofit programme at Gatwick where we currently base 58 aircraft. Therefore, we expect that in less than a year the large majority of our aircraft operating in and out of Gatwick will have vortex generators.

We would be pleased for you to visit Gatwick in November to see the start of our vortex generators retrofit programme.

We also understand the concerns of your constituents affected by the flight approach paths to Gatwick. We will take this up with NATS at Gatwick and through our representative on the organisation's board.

easyJet does not control these approach paths and has to comply with air traffic control instructions. Our pilots also seek to fly as efficiently and quietly as possible, which is reflected in that easyJet is a leader at Gatwick in the use of quieter continuous descent approaches. However as the largest airline at Gatwick we want to help address the wider concerns.

Thank you for your time yesterday and I do hope you will be able to join us to see the start of the retrofit programme.

Kind regards,

Carolyn McCall

Secretary of State Greg Clark MP to constituents, July 16th 2015: 

Dear all

I am delighted to be able to share even more good news with you - easyJet has just agreed to bring forward - by two years - the timing of its modification programme of its older A320 aircraft based at Gatwick (please see attached letter from its Chief Executive, Carolyn McCall).

As you are aware, they had, after some months of pressing them on this issue, agreed to modify all of their older A320 planes by March 2018. I thought that this wasn't quick enough, so I asked to meet Carolyn McCall to see if they could carry out the work any faster. I am pleased to say that after I relayed concerns of constituents living under the Gatwick flightpath, she committed to doing everything that she can to help ease the situation, including modifying the Gatwick fleet by June 2016.

I also took the opportunity to tell Carolyn McCall about the impact that the movement of the Gatwick flightpath has had on our local area. Whilst this is not within the gift of EasyJet to change, she did agree to raise this matter with the National Air Traffic Service (NATS).

I have also requested a meeting with the Chief Executive of NATS specifically on this issue as I think more can be done to disperse flights over a wider area.

With best wishes


July 18th 2015

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