Explained: Changes to flightpaths over Wanstead

A large public meeting at Wanstead Library on Monday gave residents the chance to quiz the bosses of London City Airport over planned alterations to their flightpaths. This is Wansteadium’s attempt to explain what the changes are and how much they will affect E11.


What’s being proposed?
A consultation of people living under flight paths from London City Airport is taking place because it plans to change the air traffic control system it uses. The new higher-tech method, known as RNAV, will mean planes flying in “more reliable, repeatable and predictable flight paths”, ie they will deviate from the ‘proper’ route much less.  This will give the planes “increased track conformity” – which is great if you’re an air traffic controller but maybe not so great if you live along that track. In the airport’s own words, the proposal will mean “a reduction in the overall area regularly overflown but an increase in the concentration of overflights in some areas”. And guess what? Parts of Wanstead fall into both categories.

Why the change?
RNAV uses higher standard technology, involving satellite and ground radio beacons. It means planes can fly to within a tenth of a nautical mile from where they should be. But it’s not really new technology that’s forcing the change now: European rules say that all air traffic control must be upgraded by 2020, and in the airport’s view the change is “mandatory and inevitable”. Protesters say the airport should instead consider introducing multiple flightpaths, and believe their campaign “is winnable”.

So there would be winners and losers?
There would. The map below shows two sets of flightpaths out of London City Airport. One runway is called Runway 27. The other is called Runway 9. (Runways 1-8 and 10-26 do not, and never have, existed.) The thick black and blue lines show pretty much where, following the changes, nearly all flights would go. The much wider shaded areas show where, using a less sophisticated air traffic system, planes currently go. After the changes, people living in the shaded areas may well see and hear far fewer planes than they do now. But those who live directly under the thick lines may well see and hear far more planes. NB. Our map is not 100% accurate. If you want to get a better idea of where the lines go, check the official consultation documents where there are higher resolution maps. It gets interesting from page 22 – though to be honest the resolution is not high enough to pinpoint streets.

How many planes are we talking about?
It’s a bit variable, depending on the weather. For roughly two-thirds of the year, planes take off from Runway one 27. From it there would be somewhere between 97 and 114 planes a day heading on the black line and between 30 and 37 on the blue line. From Runway two 9, which is used on average for a third of the year, there would be between 30 and 37 flights a day on the blue line.  In short, some days there might be no planes overhead from City Airport. On others there might be more than a hundred. Sorry not to be able to make it simpler. And in any case these figures do not take account of a planned expansion at the airport.

How high are the planes?
It’s only planes taking off from London City Airport – not those landing – that should be coming over Wanstead. But by they time they reach us they should be higher than 3,000 ft. Clearly if you live closer to the airport, they will be lower. Even 3,000 ft is close enough to hear, though. Excuse us a couple of hand-drawn diagrams. (If you’re a graphic designer with a passion for infographics, forgive us and please do get in touch.)


How noisy are they?
Planes are definitely audible in Wanstead, and campaigners have in the past found relatively high noise pollution from planes in other parts of east London. There are several factors which will vary how the noise affects people… how good their hearing is, how loud their TV/children/Spotify are, how good their double glazing is, which way the wind is blowing etc etc.  And actually, of course, what kind of plane is flying. More airlines at London City are now using jets, which are noisier than the twin props flown by some airlines. And don’t forget that a big factor is simply how much the noise bothers people… if the noise of a plane doesn’t bother them they probably won’t notice it at all. If it does bothers them, they’ll notice every flight and will not be happy if there are a greater concentration of planes above their house.

When is this all going to happen?
If it goes ahead, it would start by the end of next year. Campaigners however say that the airport has not done enough to consult people and that the whole process should be re-run. Failing that, the consultation will end at the end of November.

Will this be an end to the matter?
No, it’s not. The airport has plans for a 50% increase in its capacity to 120,000 planes a year, though that is not covered by the current consultation. And it’s not only planes from London City that go over Wanstead. Planes landing at Heathrow also come overhead – in fact campaigners say that parts of east London are as badly affected as areas much closer to Heathrow. Waltham Forest, for instance, is said to be the third worst affected borough in London. And further off, a commission set up by the government is still considering what is the best future for London’s airports more generally; it has, though, decided against endorsing Boris Johnson’s favoured option of an island in the Thames Estuary.

More information?

  • The official consultation documents are here, with details on how to register views on the proposal. The consultation runs until 27 November.
  • Hacan East, which campaigns against aircraft noise from London City Airport, has its website here.

Did Wansteadium get anything wrong here? If we did, drop us a line at info@wansteadium.com

39 thoughts on “Explained: Changes to flightpaths over Wanstead”

  1. From what I can see all the published SIDs already bring many runway 27 LCY departures over Wanstead; and anyone who lives here will know we are regularly overflown by (mostly departing) City and arriving Heathrow flights, and have been for a long time.

    RNAV or not, there are established routes over here, so planes, and quite a few of them, are nothing new. (I’ve enjoyed looking out of many plane windows trying to spot Wanstead and my house 🙂 )

    Is this a major change, not sure it is; and amusingly I’ve had a steady stream of City departures overhead as I have written this, none bothersome, a few slightly quieter Heathrow bound big jets, but by far the noisiest thing has been a motorbike going down my street, oh and the fridge has just started making a right racket.

    City Airport is a great amenity and I suspect used by a good many Wansteadites.

  2. City Airport is excellent and the occasional plane doesn’t bother me at all. Why do so many people protest about change?

  3. One thing to make clear though is that this DOESN’T mean 100+ additional flights per day over parts of Wanstead.

    The most negatively affected areas already experience the bulk of the daily flights flying overhead but R-NAV just means MORE of them will fly overhead (eg 100 flights rather than 80). Equally, less affected areas will now get fewer (eg none, rather than 20.)

    Plus, at 4,000ft they don’t make that much noise anyway. Certainly not compared to other general “London” noise.

  4. I could not possibly disagree more with Robespierre. I find LCY planes incredibly intrusive and affect my quality of life enormously. I moved here to get away from plane noise, and I was both furious and devastated when the flightpaths were changed and stuck over us 4 years ago. I would suggest people take a less ambivalent attitude than Mr R. LCY has achieved its growth by stealth. It gets everything it wants from LB Newham, as they are joined at the hip. I attended the planning meeting when permission for increase from 80,000 to 120,000 flights were granted (an utter absurdity that a sole London borough should have such a remit in the first place). Several members of the committee were not allowed to attend, as they had interests in the airport. Of the handful that did, one fell asleep, and another interrupted the member of “Fight The Flights” (superseded by “HACAN East”) who was speaking against the application to ask “is this Heathrow we are talking about?”. Needless to say, the permission went through on the nod.

    This is one Wansteadite who does not think LCY is a “great amenity”. It is the most inappropriate location for an airport I can think of. I will not use it under any circumstances. I encourage as many people as possible to object to this proposal and demand the pathetically inadequate “consultation” by LCY is extended and that they actually take notice of what people think. If would be a first time for them, but we can live in hope.

  5. It would be great if London City airport gave a nice charitable donation to the Christchurch playground fundraiser that we’ll be launching in January. Maybe easier for residents to accept the increase in noise. At least we get something out of it. Even better they pay for a complete new playground from their increase in profits.

  6. 640trev; sounds like you need a holiday. Can I suggest BA3280 at 16.10 today, London City to Florence. Check in at a cheeky 15.40 after a short Rail/Tube and DLR ride. Perfect. I’ll wave as you go overhead.

    I think people could be forgiven for thinking the lastest Hacaneast campaign is really about 10% to do with narrowing an already very narrow flight corridor, and about 90% just recycling older City Airport gripes.

    Nothing overhead for some time……

  7. Isn’t it correct that operations are restricted between the hours of 06:30 and 22:00 Mon / Fri and even less hours at the weekend? While 6:30 in the morning is early it could be a lot worse!!

  8. Looks like they are trying to fly more closely along the route of the A12, which seems sensible. Kudos to 640Trev for his LCY boycott but if aircraft trouble him that much them possibly London was a bad choice of somewhat to live. Living on Spratt Hall Road pretty much all the noise I notice outside the house is a low rumbling from the main roads. Can’t say I notice the aircraft.

  9. There is no way the flights from LCY are anything like those that fly over west London…. I know I lived in West London for 20 years and my folks still do. What I get over my garden in Aldersbrook is bearable in comparison. To be honest up until 9 11 we got far more planes overhead didn’t we????

  10. They A12 is really noisy for those living near to it. I suggest banning fast cars and lorries between 10pm at 6am. Those living near the high st should not hear noise from the businesses and therefore the hight street should only get deliveries during the day.

    Airports should direct all planes only over rivers and parklands, unless at the weekends when people use the parks so planes should not land in London at all.

    Finally all roads should be closed Wednesday evenings so I don’t have any cars disturbing my right to listen to Lord Sugar on BBC1.

    I think it’s high time politicians and councillors realise the folly of modern life and put Wanstead back to how it used to be before all this noise pollution and let us live the Amish life as so many of us apparently crave.

    1. Mark – I presume that was a tongue in cheek comment. I think this is now becoming a bit silly especially while I am sitting at my kitchen table working with Central Line trains at the bottom of the garden and the children at Snaresbrook Primary enjoying themselves in the playground. A world without some element of noise would be a very sterile place.

  11. Nice to see all the sanctimonious comments from the pro aviation mob. What did Oscar Wilde say about sarcasm again?

    I don’t live on a main road, because I don’t want the noise. I don’t live next to a school because it would drive me potty. If aircraft noise didn’t bother me, I could live in West London. It does, and I don’t. I’m very please Robbespierre is quite happy for our area to be polluted by wealthy cityboys who can’t be asked to go to Heathrow – maybe he is one of them. I guess the children who are schooled near the airport, and can’t be taught games outside are of no concern to him either. What a hideously selfish attitude.

    There are, happily, many people not so complacent. Who know darn well that if LCY is not seriously challenged, it will grow and grow until we DO suffer like Richmond. If he had been at the meeting on Monday, he would have encountered them and they were angry.

    What a contrast with Tempellhof. That too was a very conveniently located city airport, but closed because it was in such an inappropriate location. I guess it’s the difference between a country that cares about quality of life and one that happily rolls over to the aviation industry at every turn.

    1. ‘The Berlin government insisted on the closure of the Tempellhof airport for legal, long-term economic, and environmental reasons, in particular to ensure the expansion of Schönefeld International’ – nothing about it’s inappropriate location…..

      Living near any noise is not much fun, but i can bear peak hour flights more than the idiots on motorbikes or supped up cars who tear around the roads near Wanstead at all hours of the night making as much noise at possible, it most drive the people living on these roads mad……

      1. “The Berlin government insisted on the closure of the Tempellhof airport for legal, long-term economic, and environmental reasons”.

        Quite. Environmental reasons. If it had been an appropriate location, then no doubt it would have been allowed to expand in the way LCY gets away with.

        1. No they didn’t need it….. I am sure even in Germany if they had needed it they would have found some way round an inappropriate location

    2. I am not pro aviation. I live in London and accept that a world leading city has infrastructure that can be noisy and jostling. London has been this way for a long time. It is a ludicrous to get upset about it as a city-boy moving to the country and getting upset because the 3g is patchy. It should not have come as a surprise to you.

      My guess is that you are getting annoyed because not everyone agrees with you and I think it’s entirely possible not everyone agrees with you because your complaint of wanting peace in London is fanciful.

      We all would like a quieter life but I think most people who move to London would recognise that noise would be an issue one would have to come to terms with and is worth putting up with to get the service and life only London can give.

      I wish you success but I fear your cause is a little King Canute.

      1. Paris is also a world leading city, as is New York. Neither have anything like the amount of air traffic over them

        I’m surprised that you’re not “pro aviation” considering how snidely rude you are.

        1. I’ve been to both cities many times and found NYC much noisier than London. Not necessarily from aviation but in general.

          Do you think people are not siding with you for the fun of it? Maybe they don’t agree with you.

          If the majority don’t agree with you why should anyone alter their plans based on a minority? What would in in-depth consultation find? That the bulk of the people are not that bothered by the change?

          1. NYC is indeed a very noisy place, which is why additional aircraft noise would only make matters worse. You would have to go a long way out from Manhattan to find anywhere as (previously) quiet as Wanstead.

            I don’t consider half a dozen people ridiculing what is for many, a gross intrusion, as representing any sort of majority. Anyone can be a keyboard warrior. Wanstead Library was packed on Monday with many more people than post on here. In any case, who know how many people object when LCY do their utmost to hide from the people they affect?

  12. i knew nothing of this until i read this article and was unaware of any planes, but now you have told me its all i can hear, a gentle background noise to go with the traffic, sirens and school kids
    May i respectfully suggest that anyone who doesn’t like it goes and lives somewhere else, we are in the greatest city in the world and its noisy

  13. Love living in our home in Leytonstone, have done for 42 years!!
    Being near Wanstead & Epping Forest is “simple the best”.
    Plus Whipps Cross has being handy for the birth of 3 children & were first in line to save my life when highest level 4 coma happened
    Post coma my senses are extra strong, noises from jets or planes will sadly have an adverse affect on my already damaged brain!
    City Aitport is built over my first School in North Woolwich!
    Whilst I would do what I am able to, being disabled means I am sadly stuck
    “Between a rock & a hard place”?

    1. Very sorry to hear that Susan. You will get much sympathy from the others on here. They’ll tell you to move somewhere else. No wonder the aviation gets away with what they do over London with such complacency – wouldn’t happen in any other European capital.

      Please visit the HACAN site and send your objection to LCY (which they are obliged to forward to the CAA).

  14. Thanks for your comments so far. Please do remember our golden house rule: keep comments friendly, constructive and polite.

  15. Sorry, can I just clarify from the original story:
    “After the changes, people living in the shaded areas may well see and hear far fewer planes than they do now. But those who live directly under the thick lines may well see and hear far more planes”
    It appears the shaded areas will gain and those under the thicker will lose? Meaning that after the change more people will gain than will lose and fewer people will have to put up with the noise?

    1. You are correct – that is exactly what the affect will be. Heathrow is conducting exactly the same consultation, and are proposing varying the routes so that people directly under the new narrow flight paths get some respite. It is seen as fair. LCY will not even consider this, as was made plain by the obfuscating pair who tried, but failed, to keep a low profile at the HACAN meeting. No doubt LCY feel it is easier to impact more severely on a smaller number of people so the objections will be lower in number.

      1. I understand the map is an approximation but it appears to me under the change that for every 1 person who loses, 3 will gain (based on a 3:1 ratio of dark to light).

        That looks like it’s a great proposal for the majority of Wanstead – where do I sign my agreement with it?

        1. The majority of Wanstead is directly underneath the new narrow flightpath.
          So I take it you think it’s fairer that a minority of people suffer even more noise than they currently do, if the majority suffer none whatsoever. That some alternating of the flightpaths. which might be more equitable, is unworthy of consideration so long as you are not affected, or don’t care?

    1. I’m saying it could be alternated to spread the burden, just as is being proposed by Heathrow. It would be more equitable.

      Sorry if it’s hard to understand.

    1. There is no “linky” as so far as I am aware, they haven’t gone public on the consultation as they are giving it the urgency that LCY seem to think necessary. The information came from HACAN chairman, John Stewart, and was witnessed by the crammed meeting on Monday (including the W&W Guardian). I’m sure he would confirm it, if you are truly interested. As a matter of fact, there was a public meeting at Toynbee Hall in E1 about that very subject a couple of years ago – to gauge public reaction to a proposed system of alternating flightpaths for Heathrow arrivals. I know not what came of it, as it doesn’t affect us here to the degree LCY does.

  16. trying living underneath city airport on sunday pm’s around 4…. you can wave at the passengers the planes are so low… they have right to complain.

    should we actually be getting LCY to fund and plant 50 000 trees locally to mitigate the pollution produced… i’d be more worried about the air quality itself… what happened to carbon footprint or airprint I suppose

    a lot of hot air around here…

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