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Saturday, December 01, 2007

I create noise and I don't care - Kemble Airfields response to my previous letter

Dear David Drew MP,

Thank you for sending Kevin Lister's letter which I understand was originally sent to Ultimate High and posted on his blogspot 'Kev's Climate Column'. For reference I have copied the present first paragraph of 'Kev's Climate Column', and the entry to Ultimate High on that web site at the end of this letter - in case you were unaware of it.

In relation to the specific allegations against Ultimate High. Every pilot, prior to conducting any aerobatic manoeuvre, is taught to complete various checks which include 'clear of controlled airspace and built up areas'. I have spoken with the owner of Ultimate High and to some of the Ultimate High pilot Instructors. They confirm that they are aware that tail chasing does create additional noise but they also tell me that in their Extra aircraft last week they were operating between 8,000 and 10,000 ft altitude, and they will always go to this height when they can. In the Bulldog aircraft their agreed self imposed minimum altitude is 3,000 ft, but the pilots say they are mostly at four to five thousand feet. At this sort of altitude it could well appear from the ground that the aircraft look like they are overhead when in fact they are directly over open land nearby. I am assured that instructors do try and vary the locations they fly and do not fly in the same place on the same day. They do complete standard HASELL checks as mentioned above. We are all aware that noise carries and that on still days in particular noise carries far more but you cannot organise a commercial business around that. What Ultimate High have done, I feel very responsibly, is that unlike the rest of the recreational flying industry they have decided never to fly on Sundays.

It is inevitable that an aerodrome will get noise complaints and we have established a simple to use system that enables the public to get a complaint to us quickly via the internet ( With a specific time we can often tell whether the aircraft was from Kemble and we always investigate complaints and make statistical analysis which helps us to modify local procedures and minimise nuisance where possible. Noise abatement procedures and complaints are discussed every month at our Kemble Operators Group meetings. I enclose a comparative noise level table and quote the source. It is interesting that a propeller driven aircraft at 1,000ft registers 88db which is said to be the same noise as a dishwasher. A typical light aircraft will fly around about 120mph, and many much faster, so the noise is hardly around for long.

One problem at Kemble without doubt is that some visiting pilots seem to pay little attention to the noise abatement procedures. We are working to try and create better awareness of procedures here and at a national level to encourage greater environmental awareness in flying training and of the importance of checking local procedures before pilots fly to an aerodrome with which they are unfamiliar.

With respect to Mr. Lister being 'a bit of a killjoy', well, yes he is. And the Cotswolds is littered with airfields where brave men used to train to fly and dogfight above the Cotswold countryside before going off to fight for their country - so a bit of dogfighting in the Cotswold skies is nothing new. And, of course Mr. Lister should expect to hear aircraft in this area, Gloucestershire has a fine history of aviation. The jet engine was first tested at Brockworth, Gloucester Airport was opened in 1931 and Kemble in 1938. Nympsfield is just up the road, as are Aston Down, Leighterton and Chavenage. South Cerney, Oaksey Park and Badminton are a little further away but all of these aerodromes are within 15 miles of Nailsworth.

Mr. Lister's comments about executive egos and that they have little empathy for the environment is a bit rich! How does Mr. Lister know that the people from the city flying these aircraft do not cycle to work, go on holiday by train, recycle everything and generally concern themselves with the environment? The fact is we are all aware of environmental concerns and those of us in the aviation business are as concerned as any to reduce C02 emissions. The new generation of Light Small Aircraft that will gradually replace the existing training fleet over the coming years will cut fuel consumption of that group by around 40%. You might also be interested to know that my own Eurostar microlight aircraft will fly happily at 90mph burning just nine litres of fuel per hour which is more economical than my car! Unsurprisingly I fly to travel when I can to be more environmentally friendly.

Flying is no more a frivolous an activity than motor racing or riding horses or fishing. How much fuel is burned I wonder in those great big trucks taking little Judy and James to their pony club event? And, as fishing is so popular how much fuel is burned by a nation of anglers all driving to their favourite spots? You just cannot point fingers at individuals like this. The only sensible control measure on fuel consumption at the moment is by price. When the fateful day comes that we are really in trouble with fuel supply then rationing would be the only fair control.

To get back to the first point - Nailsworth. My home for the last eight years has been in Nailsworth and my friends and neighbours have never complained to me about noise from aircraft. My partner did complain recently about powered paramotors flying over the Town from a nearby field where a competition had been arranged. These pilots were breaking the law and the feedback to the owner of the field, together with a tragic fatality, has caused them to be banned from flying there ever again.

Powered aircraft that tow gliders into the air from nearby Nympsfield do fly regularly near the Town but that level of activity I do not believe has changed much in the twenty years I have been living in this area.

There may have been some increase in general aviation activity in the area in the last ten years but this no where near the level when Kemble was an active RAF base with phenomenally noisy jet aircraft operating.

There are more houses, more people, more shops, more cars and there are more foul mouthed youths walking past my home in Nailsworth - I find them offensive. Give me the sweet drone of an aircraft engine any day, someone up there having some fun.

David Young
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