Unrestricted daytime and night-time flying at LBA

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Permitted night-time flights at LBA

Aircraft are allowed to depart from LBA during the night, but in limited numbers (2,800 flights over the summer period, May-October). Daytime hours are currently defined as 7.00am – 11.00pm daily, but LBA have been pushing Leeds Council to permit an increase. It was revealed that LBA intends to request unrestricted flying from 6.00am – 11.30pm daily to facilitate an increase in flights.

However, LBA is predominantly in the business of holiday flights, and the economics of their business model (and that of the operators) is to get two flights off each day to (for example) Malaga, with an early departure by 7.00am, a flight time of 3 hours (arrival in Malaga will be one hour ahead of the UK), about an hour turnaround at Malaga, departing 12.30pm Malaga time, back at LBA by 2.30pm UK time, and off again for an evening arrival in Malaga and a return to the UK for the next day’s flights.

LBA is already using close to the permitted limit (2,783 night-time arrivals and departures against the 2,800 allowed in the period May-October 2019).

Runways explained

LBA’s runway is a single strip of concrete 2,250 metres long aligned South East to North West. The headings are 140º and 320º, or to simplify matters the figures appear as 14 and 32.

When an aircraft is landing from over Leeds or taking off towards Burley and Menston, it is using runway 32. Similarly an aircraft arriving from over the Burley bypass or taking off over Leeds is using runway 14.

Increase in night-time flights at LBA

In December 2019, we were informed that “Compared with the previous summer, the number of aircraft movements during the night-time hours increased by 4.7%. Given that the total air transport movements have decreased when compared to the previous summer season, the increase in night-time movements is due to the departure/arrival schedules.

Put another way, although there’s been fewer passengers and less flights, more of those flights have eaten into the night-time allowance, in order to facilitate the twice-a-day holiday turnaround priority. The notes from LBA also state Over this period, 77% of night-time arrivals and departures took place on Runway 32 .., that is to say, departing between and sometimes over Menston and Burley. So, residents of the two villages experienced 2,142 night-time flight arrivals during the summer period. In fairness, arrivals onto Runway 14 in theory don’t disturb anybody (in reality it does) in Menston or Burley, as the approach to Runway 14 is along the Burley Bypass (A660), whereas departures from Runway 32 are supposed to track along the abandoned railway but are frequently off-track and therefore potentially creating disturbance. There were, in the Minutes record, 784 jet night-time departures from Runway 32 in summer 2019, the remainder are arriving aircraft.

Runway layout at LBA

The logical consequence of that, of course, is that if LBA does manage to increase its passenger numbers to 7.1million by 2030, and that means they need up to 67,000 flights per annum (an average of 183 flights per day, more in the summer than the winter), they’ll need longer operating hours.

LBA’s revised MasterPlan 2005-2016 indicated that they would carry the proposed 7.1m pax on just 50,000 air traffic movements, which would mean they anticiipated carrying an average of 142 passengers per flight. That would represent a massive 36% increase in what has been achieved to date (currently the average occupancy is 104 pax/flight). That seems, at face value, difficult to contemplate. Even if LBA management was to take the view that the expansion would focus on the larger aircraft and the holiday flights and the summer period, there would still be much smaller numbers on the more local flights, and their claim to be looking to increase UK national connectivity infers that they will be looking for growth in that sector of the market too.

If LBA is to achieve anything like these sorts of passenger numbers annually, they will have to push for operating hours to be extended and for night-time flight quotas to be relaxed. They will try to justify this based on job creation and economic growth for the Yorkshire Region. Some of the consequences would be increased disturbance (monitored by LEQ16, thus averaged, and possibly over 18 hours rather than 16) and an increase in potential night-time noise.

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