New assurance over Suffolk flightpaths

AIR chiefs today reassured people in Suffolk that passenger planes are unlikely to have to fly lower over the county as the number of jets increases.With air traffic set to double in the next 25 years, it has been a major worry that flight heights would have to be altered to cater for the extra routes - creating even more noise.

AIR chiefs today reassured people in Suffolk that passenger planes are unlikely to have to fly lower over the county as the number of jets increases.

With air traffic set to double in the next 25 years, it has been a major worry that flight heights would have to be altered to cater for the extra routes - creating even more noise.

At the moment planes can fly as low as 5,500ft over Felixstowe and some other parts of Suffolk, though most of the airliners rarely fly lower than 8,500ft.

If the new Stansted holds are agreed between Stowmarket and Hadleigh and near Newmarket, then planes will circle in the stacks as low as 7,000ft at busy times.

Answering a request for information made by The Evening Star under the Freedom of Information Act as part of our Air Fair campaign, the Civil Aviation Authority said it did not believe there would be a need for planes to fly lower in future.

“It is unlikely as aircraft aim to stay as high as possible to reduce fuel consumption,” said the CAA.

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“When commercial traffic departs from an airport, flights climb to the most economical cruising levels, which will vary with aircraft type and destination.

“These cruising levels could typically be anything from above 10,000ft to over 40,000ft above sea level.”

Generally, aircraft fly down to around 3,000ft when they are about ten miles from touchdown, and are around 1,000ft three miles from landing.

“Aircraft generally fly as high as they are able as this uses less fuel, descending at the last possible moment,” said the CAA.

“However, once inbound to an airport they are constrained by the need to achieve a safe and stable configuration for landing.”

Observers have seen as many as eight planes in the sky over the Felixstowe peninsula at one time - on different flightpaths in several directions, sometimes almost side by side - at least a mile apart - criss-crossing each other at various heights, 1,000ft apart.

Air traffic management company NATS is currently reviewing its proposals for major changes to airspace over Suffolk following public consultation.

Its revised proposals should be known in the next few months and it hopes to bring the changes into effect next year.

Are jet planes over Suffolk getting on your nerves? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk