Gatwick Obviously

e-newsletter No.68

Our Mission Statement

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

Re-widening the swathe. Or not.

I have never been interested in just 'having a go'. There has to be a cause and a desired effect.
Stop a woeful Consultation?
Change Kent's official policy on the 2nd runway?
Raise a six-figure sum in a week to pursue a legal case against the CAA?


We definitely have a cause, and the effect we want right now is for the aviation industry to actually fully use the re-widened arrivals swathe on both sides of Gatwick airport that so many of you fought so hard for so long to achieve.

Over the last week or so, many of you from the West and East of Gatwick have also written to GON to express your fury and deep frustration at the apparent failure to do this.

The message below is very similar to the script of a letter I wrote to the Arrivals Review Team earlier this week.

It's not short. So let me say right now what we'd like you to do.

Simply email Tom Tugendhat MP (a strong supporter of all that we are trying to achieve with the flight paths) telling him of your experience since the swathe was supposed to be re-widened (15th August).
Ask him to help you and us secure full use of the swathe by the industry. Please keep it brief. He's going to get a lot of emails.

(If you know Tom is not your MP and you know who is, do address it to them. Note that Greg Clark and Nus Ghani are included on the CC list).

CC all those we list here. They include the Chair of Gatwick's owners, GIP, Gatwick's CEO and its Chairman, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Arrivals Review team, the CEOs of the CAA and the NTS and the Chair of easyJet, Gatwick's major customer.
That's how serious we are about this. This is the first time in well over 2 years of campaigning that I have felt the need to ask you to write to this set of influential people.

All the information you may need is below.

We expect promises to be kept and this is the industry's first real test of their word.
(See Sir Roy's words below)

Next week - night flights and why Gatwick do not deserve to expand. We'll really need your help with that.

Thank you


Martin Barraud
Gatwick Obviously Not

Email addresses to use:,,,,,,,,,,,

The following is based on a letter we wrote to the Arrivals Review Team this week


The Chairman of Gatwick wrote on 17th May:

"1. The Arrivals Review report made it clear that the proposed widening of the arrivals swathe was intended to go a long way towards restoring the arrivals situation to a level of dispersal seen prior to the changes in 2013, and the report included charts showing the approach tracks before and after the changes.

2. GAL's proposed Action Plan also made it clear that the proposed widening of the swathe was intended to reverse much of the aircraft concentration and noise consequences which had resulted from the approach stabilisation initiative taken by GAL and NATS in 2013, by restoring as far as possible the distribution of arriving aircraft that occurred prior to 2013. Again, charts were included to illustrate the locations of the swathe before and after."

Quoted with permission, here is just a taste of what we have received from some of those affected since 15th August:

"I just had to write this evening as the last 6 hours have been the worst I have ever experienced for planes flying over!!
This change has not happened - they seem to be concentrating flights worse than ever!!"
PB, Groombridge (East of Gatwick)

"Here at Northchapel Towers in the West we had the honour of the first day of the promised swathe change last Monday. My experience was that it was torture as normal…All in all the misery continues."
SB, Northchapel (West of Gatwick)

"The continuing onslaught today is unrelenting, as I write this we are being hit from take-offs and multiple approaches…
It is very apparent that the changes, if there have been any, are taking no effect…The Gatwick response to the arrivals review is beginning to feel like a fob off!
Today has been horrendous, I do not see any commitment from Gatwick, CAA and NATS to comply with the arrivals commission report."
TD, Penshurst (East)

"If this is fair and equitable dispersal, I am totally confused…it appears to me that nothing has changed…Day and night we are blighted by this endless noise, when are we going to have some respite?"
Chiddingstone Resident (East)

"…we seem to be back to square one with a real vengeance…Have we made no progress since the last [GON] newsletter when Gatwick advised that the new regime would begin in the second week of August?
I will be interested to hear what feeble excuses Gatwick come up with, but top of the list in my opinion would be disingenuousness, arrogance and incompetence…and you may quote me on this too!"
MP, Langton Green (East)

I recently coined the phrase 'institutionalised laziness' to describe my perception of the central fault of the aviation industry when it comes to their regard or otherwise for those on the ground.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and there's a lot of it out here now.

We seek immediate and effective redress to the failings now happening in the airspace around Gatwick. Nip the fury in the bud, or the industry will have to face the backlash that I've seen through my inbox over the last few days.
The swathe was re-widened, 2 weeks late, last Monday week.
As far as we can tell from our tracking since then, the nearer join point has been used extremely sparingly - on the morning of Sunday 21st August.

This chart, created by Ed Crutchley from our close colleagues at TWAANG, ( could not be more clear and demonstrates the only attempt that's been tracked to use the nearer join-point (yellow area) since August 15th.

Source: Ed Crutchley/TWAANG

Here are the actual flights from that morning:

Source: James Lee

This proves it can be done, and at busy periods.
Why on earth is it not being used for at least a quarter of all flights through the daytime schedule (which includes approx 3/4 of any given 24 hour period of course)?
Why is NATS not supplying a daily update, with charts, showing the attempt to use the full swathe (even if not yet more fairly and equitably)?
Why stoke the fury of so many people, now extremely well-educated in the ways of our airspace?

Do not tell me it is capacity issues
(as a very senior aviation industry person stated recently)

In 2015 there were just 5 more arrivals per day on average than in 2008 when the summer bell curve looked like this (blue columns): 

Chart: James Lee

55.7% joined at 10nm or nearer and 22.3% joined at 8nm closer in the summer schedule of 2008. That full year there were 263,716 movements v 267,777 in 2015. Dividing the difference (arrivals/departures) gives an increase of just 2,030 arrivals.

Source: Flight Performance Team, Gatwick
Source here

Do not tell me it is the summer schedule.

The blue bar chart above is taken from the summer schedule of 2008 - here is the source data:

Source: GACC

Do not tell me it is the fleet mix.

Yes, there are larger aircraft in 2015 v 2008 but not a substantial enough number to restrict the use of the nearer join point to 4 hours out of 12 days. And anyway, they've done it for 4 hours so they can do it for far more.
For instance, there were just 666 A380 arrivals in 2015. Averaged out, less than 2 a day.
Even more significantly, despite the very similar amount of annual movements for 2008/2015, in 2015 there was significant growth in the smaller aircraft

2009 A319 + A320 = 103,554 movements (2008 figures n/a)
2015 A319 + A320 = 171,382 movements

Source: Flight Performance Team, Gatwick
Source here

Source: Flight Performance Team, Gatwick
Source here

Do not tell me it is 'perception'
(see all above).

Do not tell me that we were all warned the re-widening may make little difference in reality.
Despite what Sir Roy says, we sensibly accepted that and I myself promulgated that at every occasion.
But it can make absolutely zero difference if it is not used!

Do not tell me that it's because 'we've had easterlies for a few days'
To my own surprise, I've discovered in the last 12 days we seem to have a very strong support base to the West of Gatwick and they are not backward in coming forward. We can also check the data of course.

Do not tell me 'it takes time to bed down'
It took them absolutely no time at all to narrow the swathe use by 60% in 2013.

Do not tell me that it's due to trying to keep Go-Arounds to a minimum
That old chestnut is well and truly cracked. Look what happened in 2014 under the narrowed, more distant swathe; with substantially fewer arrivals they managed to have a greater proportion of Go-Arounds. (Yes, I appreciate there are different causal factors, but do you really want me to rehearse all our research into the truly woeful data-keeping of that era we exposed?)

Source: Flight Performance Team, Gatwick
Source here

Do not tell me it's because the industry is waiting for FED to be defined.

(The aviators love an acronym; I've decided to join them as I've written "Fair and Equitable Dispersal" so often since we came up with it as a term I'm beginning to think of little else)
8 non-industry professionals sitting as NMB Community Groups are indeed working on a definition for Fair and Equitable Dispersal.
The industry itself attempting to use the airspace fairly and equitably should not be delayed because they are waiting for 8 amateurs to define it for them. Imagine how that would look in the Court of Public Opinion, to borrow an uncomfortable phrase.

The Arrivals Review Team was rightly lauded for all that they have tried to do. However they were tarred by many with the same brush of cynicism that the industry at large is responsible for in terms of its potential to deliver.

I have personally defended the ART at every turn given my faith in its leadership. But a bit like that moment when Lance Armstrong had to ask his young son to stop defending him, I cannot hold back the dam if the industry won't help itself.

It doesn't need much;
please ask the powers-that-be to use the full swathe (there are no excuses) and be seen to use the full swathe.

Thank you

Martin Barraud
Gatwick Obviously Not

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August 28th 2016

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