Heathrow Innovative Noise Trials

At NATS we’re supporting our airport and airline customers to deliver innovative solutions to better manage the impact of aircraft noise on local communities at the most sensitive times of the day.

AT NATS we’re very aware of the impact aircraft noise has on those who live under flight paths. That’s why we work with airports and airlines to help shape and inform options to better manage the effect of noise on communities and minimise the impacts wherever possible. Part of the support we give to airports and airlines focuses on ensuring that the trials are completely safe, whilst trying new, innovative ideas to explore potential solutions based on community feedback and operational requirements. A significant and important part of any new noise trial is ensuring that communities are involved wherever possible.

Last year we started a trial at Heathrow designed to provide defined periods of noise respite to people living directly under the flight path. The concept was formed in partnership with the noise community group HACAN, British Airways and the airport itself. The trial was focused on the early morning arrival period when people living under the flight path are most affected by aircraft noise.

Following a six month arrivals trial, we’re now supporting a trial focused on applying new ‘offset’ departure trial at Heathrow Airport. The trial keeps aircraft within existing departure routes called Noise Preferential Routes (NPRs – Agreed by the UK government and key London Airports) whilst flying ‘offsets’ from the existing centreline of the route. The Offset Standard Instrument Departure (SID) trial utilises modern aircraft precision navigation (RNAV) techniques to fly a precise track 1km from the centreline of the current SID which alternates from ‘left’ to ‘right’ on a weekly basis. This lateral ‘side step’ can potentially reduce concentrations of noise beneath existing departure routes, providing a form of predictive noise respite.


Feedback on the Heathrow predictive noise respite arrival trial was mixed, with some community groups perceiving benefits, whilst others felt the trial did not work for them. The trials serve the very important purpose of improving the industry understanding of what communities want from a noise mitigation perspective, based on the trial of ideas turned into reality. The trial was the first of its kind in the world, demonstrating real innovative action by the industry to tackle noise disturbance to communities and will contribute to improving our understanding of the issues around concentrated versus dispersed noise at and around airports.

Building on the learning and experience of the Heathrow Airport arrivals trial, we’ve also supported innovative trials at London’s Gatwick Airport and Stansted Airport during the night period. We continue to work with other airports to identify the feasibility of further options and help to gain agreement of common ground for future trials.


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