Helicopter Noise

f9529dd360a1a48a691b5343c77b6ae4As we leave our doors and windows open in the hot weather, Wapping residents have become more aware of the noise from helicopters flying over our ward – low-flying Chinooks, police helicopters and other aircraft have all been spotted in recent weeks.

Military aircraft (which, I believe, is what are flying so frequently over Wapping at the moment) do not come under the same noise laws and flight restrictions as civil aircraft. However there is a contact to whom one can complain at the Ministry of Defence about low-flying aircraft and I have made representations on residents’ behalf to alert them to the noise nuisance being caused in Wapping (their reply is below).

Meanwhile, when it comes to civil aircraft, unfortunately this is not an issue over which our local authority, Tower Hamlets, has a great deal of influence since the issue falls within the remit of the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority – the council has no legal authority to apply standard noise nuisance regulations to helicopter-related disturbance since aircraft noise is exempt from provisions.

There are designated helicopter routes in London which civil helicopters are asked to stick to in order to avoid their flying over built-up areas. However Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has recognised that in spite of these routes, helicopter noise is becoming a problem in the capital. As such, he has asked for a reassessment of the current regime regulating aircraft over the capital since he believes a proper monitoring regime and complaints system needs to be established. He has also advised that he wants there to more widespread use of incentives to encourage the development and use of quieter helicopters. If you have concerns about helicopter noise, therefore, I suggest you drop a line to our local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, to ask that he enquires with the Department for Transport on what became of the draft aviation strategy that was meant to be looking at these sorts of issues.

Here is the reply I received from the Ministry of Defence to my complaint about military aircraft noise over Wapping:

Low Flying Complaints & Enquiries Unit Manager | Royal Air Force Wittering | PETERBOROUGH | PE8 6HB

Dear Councillor Dockerill,

Thank you for your e mail dated 10th July 2014, regarding military helicopter activity the previous evening and what you describe as increased activity in recent evenings and weekends.

I have checked our databases to assess the regularity of military helicopters flying in the area in recent weeks. The majority appear to be from either RAF Benson in Oxfordshire or RAF Odiham in Hampshire. The activity at the weekends may not be attributable to military aircraft as our scheduled operations are significantly less at weekends.   

Rotary and fixed wing military aircraft are permitted to enter the London area, but do not generally fly below 500 feet Above Ground Level, unless prior permission is gained from the senior officer in charge of low flying.

Military aircrew find the use of the area beneficial; it enhances their aircraft crossing training and they also deal with controlled airspace communication systems.

Whilst operating in the London area military rotary wing aircraft utilise specific helicopter routes. These are long established routes within controlled airspace, to ensure the safe integration of helicopter transits with aircraft inbound to Heathrow airport. Further information about the use of helicopter routes over London can be found on the Civil Aviation Authority website.   

Please accept my sincere apologies for any disturbance caused to you and other residents of the area. I can confirm that the details of your complaint and a copy of this letter have been registered on a Departmental file.   

Yours sincerely,

S L Hodgkinson

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