HL Deb 18 September 2003 vol 652 cc194-5WA
Lord Dubs

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have to modify the night military low flying systems. [HL4551]

Lord Bach

The existing night low flying system (NLFS) will remain unchanged in principle, but some adjustments are being made to its structure and management to improve the efficiency of the system and reflect an increasing requirement for helicopters to be able to train at night.

The NFLS is divided into two by a line from Swansea in the west to Colchester in the east. The southern area is allocated to rotary-wing aircraft and the northern area to fixed-wing aircraft, with small exceptions to account for locations where rotary-wing aircraft are based in the fixed-wing region and vice-versa. This basis remains unchanged, but the area available to rotary-wing aircraft will be increased and the system made more flexible by the introduction of sectors that may now be allocated to either fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft. In addition, we are introducing some management changes to make the procedures that units use to book in to the system more efficient.

The Government understand that military low flying training is disturbing, and can reassure the House that there is not expected to be a significant impact for those on the ground as a result of these changes. The existing basis of the NFLS will remain, and for most of the country there will be no change to the structure of the system. Where change is being introduced, the impact is generally expected to be limited to the possibility that those on the ground may witness different aircraft types than may currently be the case, and will be small in scale. We have considered the requirement for a sustainability review and recognise that some parts of the changes may lead to such a requirement, although, as stated, the overall impact is likely to be small. Where necessary we can confirm that more detailed work may be carried out. Detailed environmental impact and sustainability studies are being carried out in respect of AH 64, which is likely to be one of the major users of the revised NLFS.

Finally, night flying is essential if our aircrews are going to meet the demands that are placed upon them. These changes will assist with these demands.

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