HC Deb 05 November 1958 vol 594 cc933-7
25. Mr. Hunter

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will state the noise level tests that aircraft must pass before they are allowed to land at London Airport; and whether the Boeing 707 aircraft has now completely passed those tests.

36. Mr. Brockway

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will reconsider the permission given to Pan American World Airways to operate a Boeing 707 aircraft from London Airport, in view of its effect in noise and vibration on the residents of nearby areas.

41. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation under what conditions he has agreed to the operation of the Comet IV and the Boeing 707 aircraft from London Airport; what principle has guided him in granting this permission; and what standards of noise level he has adopted when making his decisions.

45. Mr. Skeffington

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether the Boeing 707 has yet completely passed noise level tests at London Airport.

58 and 59. Mr. R. Harris

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) what conditions he has laid down which must be complied with by the Boeing 707 aircraft before it is allowed to land;

(2) how noise from aircraft is measured when assessing the noise made by aircraft using London Airport; what yardstick is used in deciding whether or not an aircraft has passed noise tests; and what degree of noise is considered excessive.

Mr. Watkinson

I have given permission to Pan-American World Airways to operate the Boeing 707 and to British Overseas Airways Corporation to operate the Comet IV on scheduled services into London Airport under conditions which are designed to cause no more noise disturbance than the heavy piston-engined aircraft currently in use when passing over the main built-up areas in the neighbourhood.

The agreed procedures for these aircraft require that the aircraft should on take-off achieve a height of not less than 1,000 feet over the nearest built-up area along the flight path, and use reduced power; and that on landing they should maintain a glide path of not less than three degrees. These conditions are based on the results of tests carried out over many months under different auspices, first in Seattle, then in New York and finally in London.

Further tests will be carried out when the regular operations begin, and continuing approval of the present procedures will depend upon their results.

Mr. Hunter

Is the Minister aware that many residents around London Airport are complaining about the excessive noise from this aircraft? Can he make representations to Pan-American World Airways regarding the great volumes of smoke which come from this aircraft when it takes off? The smoke is causing concern to local residents.

Mr. Watkinson

I am well aware of local feeling, and we are trying to keep as closely in touch with it as we can. As to the question of smoke, that is covered by the last sentence in my original reply. I said that continuing approval of the present procedures will depend upon their results. But this air world does not stand still. At London Airport we want the best and most modern aircraft if we are to remain the centre of this world air carrying trade. Therefore, we have to strike a very difficult balance between what is right in the interests of aviation and what is right in the interests of those who live around the airport. I am saying only that at the moment I hope that we have struck the right balance. We must carefully check it when these aircraft begin their scheduled services.

Mr. R. Harris

Are the standards laid down by the Minister able to be used in almost every sort of weather, or only when the weather is fine? Are the local residents Ito be told that it is very much regretted that the Boeing, when taking off, must fly at less than 1,000 feet over the houses in question because of low cloud—a condition which may exist on many days in the year?

Mr. Watkinson

No, Sir. We have put up a fence over which the aircraft must fly, regardless of weather conditions, for the protection of the inhabitants.

Mr. Brockway

I appreciate the need for development in aircraft, but will the Minister look very carefully at this matter? Is he aware that I have many letters from my constituents in Colnbrook and Langley, complaining that children have been terrified by this noise, so that when any aeroplane comes over now they run to their mothers; that old people have been trembling for minutes after one of these aircraft has passed, and that the houses shake, and some old houses are in danger of crumbling? Will the Minister consider very seriously these complaints which are made by the residents around London Airport?

Mr. Watkinson

Yes, Sir. I am most seriously considering the matter, and I am sure that the House does not think that my Ministry is not taking it seriously; it is. But we must have a little more practical experience of these rules. I shall be only too glad to take careful note of anything which hon. Members concerned, or any other persons concerned, care to put to me once the aircraft is on scheduled service.

Mr. Beswick

I understand the difficulties facing the Minister and I, personally, appreciate the effort that he has put in to try to meet the problem, but is he aware that, despite all that he has done, the noise level in the area has increased? Is he also aware that the machine that he has tested—the Boeing 707—is only the domestic version, and that the inter-continental version which is coming along next year has J.75 engines, which are more powerful and more noisy? Does he think that we can get any satisfaction in this matter until we can got some internationally-agreed standard for the operation of these aircraft?

Mr. Watkinson

I am grateful to the hon. Member for enabling me to say that my present approval is purely for the aircraft that have been presented. It provides no blanket coverage for future aircraft. As for international agreement, at least we are in agreement with the New York Port Authority, and are applying somewhat similar rules. I hope that we shall continue to work closely with that authority. If we could get an international agreement on standards nobody would be more pleased than my Ministry, but it is going to be a very difficult thing to do.

Mr. Skeffington

Does the Minister realise that, while we all wish to promote the success of our civil aircraft industry, there is an obligation to the people who live near airports, many of whom, in this particular case, were there before the airport? Is he aware that his statement that the noise allowed is no greater than that of heavy piston-engined aircraft would certainly be challenged in regard both to the Boeing and the Comet?

Mr. Watkinson

That is, perhaps, something that we must wait and see when the services start. I think that it is fair also to say that the aircraft operating companies feel that both the New York Port Authority and ourselves, at London Airport, have imposed very swingeing restrictions on them which may limit their commercial operations. I do not want the House to feel that we have not gone a long way in imposing restrictions on aircraft.