Tall crane was to blame for helicopter noise

In July many residents in Hammersmith complained about helicopter noise. As a result I persuaded the Council to hold a meeting about it. This took place last week and the report that was presented said:

“Occasionally, extra airspace restrictions are implemented in London that impact on helicopter activity over H&F. An example of this is when tall cranes are erected on large construction sites. These can be 300 feet (91.4m) or taller and present a potential obstacle to helicopters. These are notifiable to the CAA and the heliport. Pilots are made aware of these obstructions and the avoidance area around it (typically a radius of 1 nautical mile). In the summer, a tall crane in RBK&C was erected as shown in Figure 3 in the Appendix which impacted on helicopter movements from July to September, causing them to fly over areas not usually impacted. This can be very noticeable for residents and the causes are not immediately obvious. A temporary airspace restriction was also put in place at the time of the Grenfell Tower fire and remained in place for several weeks.”

While the problem has abated we still discussed various ways the situation could be improved.

Before 2005 the minimum altitude for aircraft from 1,500 feet but it was then reduced to 1,000 feet.  This is covered under the EU’s Standardised European Rules of the Air.  After Brexit we will be able to set our own laws. Perhaps that could include requiring a higher minimum altitude so that the aircraft don’t cause such a noise nuisance.

Transparency is another area.  Heathrow Airport provide real-time information on arrivals and departures and H&F residents can use the WebTrak facility to check on flights over the borough. Why not provide a similar facility for helicopters which could show arrivals/ departures at the Heliport and other helicopter activity in London airspace, so that residents could check activity in their area?

There is also more that the Mayor of London could do to seeking powers to limit the overall number of helicopter movements in London’s airspace in order to manage their environmental impacts, particularly in relation to noise.

Residents complain of helicopter noise

The Brackenbury Residents Association – as well as a number of individual residents – have complained about helicopter noise getting much worse recently.

I have raised this with the Council who have responded as follows:

As a local authority we do not have any powers over helicopter flight routes although there are certain rules and regulations (“Rules of the Air”) that helicopter pilots must adhere to when they are flying over London.

Single-engine helicopters are required to fly along designated routes, which includes along the River Thames for helicopters flying over H&F. These routes avoid flying over built up areas as much as possible. However, helicopters with more than one engine, typically twin-engines, are allowed to deviate from the designated routes if they have Air Traffic Control (ATC) clearance to do so. Most helicopters in London airspace these days are multi-engine, so they have greater freedom (subject to ATC permission) to fly where, in the past, most helicopters would not have been allowed to go.

In general, unless helicopters are landing or taking off, they should be 1000 feet (c.300m) above buildings etc. The Police Air Support Unit and Emergency Services Air Ambulance are subject to special requirements and may need to operate at lower altitudes or hover over specific locations.

If a resident thinks they have seen helicopter activity that breaches the Regulations, the CAA will investigate, although they need adequate information to do this. Reports can be submitted online here: https://apply.caa.co.uk/CAAPortal/terms-and-conditions.htm?formCode=ABL.  The council also has representatives on the London Heliport Consultative Committee who can raise local helicopter related issues for discussion and investigation, although the focus is mostly on heliport activities.  Further details can be found here: http://www.wandsworth.gov.uk/info/200439/get_involved/443/battersea_heliport_and_helicopter_noise/3

We do indeed have a local councillor London Heliport Consultative Committee – but he hasn’t turned up for over a year. So a fat lot of use that is. Yes I am looking at you Cllr Larry Culhane.

Anyway I have logged a further query with the Council. It may not have any legal powers itself but I don’t think it is reasonable for it to provide some leadership and assistance to local residents. My new query is as follows:

I note the minutes of the London Helicopter Consultative group says:

“Stephen Dance and Luis Gomez-Agustina from London South Bank University gave a presentation on the first stage of the noise monitoring study that had commenced at the beginning of May. Members were told of the results of measurements taken from balconies at Prices Court (150m from heliport on Wandsworth riverside) and also at Blantyre Tower (approx. 1250m from heliport on the flight path on Kensington and Chelsea riverside). It was noted that measuring equipment is powered by a car battery, meaning no requirement for residents to plug cables into their supply, and that the intention was to monitor for no longer than a month at each location. Stephen Dance said that measurements over the 19/5 to 23/5 period showed many incidences of high noise levels attributable to helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, sirens and also drilling in the River Thames, with particular ‘spikes’ during times of high heliport use. These findings required further analysis and collaboration. Residents had also been asked to keep a log of helicopter movements and Stephen Dance also confirmed that ‘spot measurements’ would be taken on expected high volume of movement days around Ascot, Formula 1 Grand Prix, etc. “

Please could the Council encourage (finance?) such monitoring in our borough with a view to reporting the findings to the CAA if the rules have been broken.

Best wishes,

I will let you know of any further news. There is also a survey that you can fill in – which I suppose can’t do any harm in ensuring that the extent of concern is recorded.