Reopening Gatwick's South Terminal is 'equivalent of opening a Luton Airport overnight' according to airport's Head of Noise and Airspace Strategy

Gatwick Airport reopens it's South Terminal on Sunday March 27 - and the increase of air traffic 'equivalent of opening a Luton Airport overnight' according to Head of Noise and Airspace Strategy Andy Sinclair.

The airport will see daily flights increase from 300 to 400 a day to 600 plus overnight and this will increase noise and carbon pollution.

But Mr Sinclair says Gatwick are doing all they can to prepare people for the changes and to mitigate against and reduce the noise produced by the increase in air traffic.

The South Terminal has been closed for almost two years due to the global pandemic and as a result as seen it lose nearly 50 per cent of it's work force and a detrimental effect on the local economy.

Gatwick's Head of Noise and Airspace Strategy Andy Sinclair.

And now Mr Sinclair says Gatwick is trying to strike the balance of the benefits of returning to normal and boosting the local economy, but also addressing the increase in noise.

He told SussexWorld.co.uk: "So from the week before Mothering Sunday, our daily flights will be between 300 and 400 aircraft per day. As soon as you step into that following week it hops up really quickly to 600+ aircraft per day.

"That’s based on the forecast our airlines are telling us, we don't have direct control of that ourselves. That’s doubling those flights in an incredibly short amount of time, way below the levels we saw in 2019, but it’s the equivalent of opening a Luton Airport overnight.

"It is quite a big deal in terms of traffic, that’s in the short term.

"As we move into the summer though, the number of flights we saw in 2019, some of the peak days saw just over 900 aircrafts a day.

"We might see that on some peak days this summer but more broadly by the end of the year we reckon our traffic will be about two thirds of what it was in 2019.

"The issue for people when it comes to noise is, our traffic dropped off so significantly in 2020 and even more in 2021, and people have just become used to the quieter skies because of that."

Gatwick has been having a big recruitment drive - around 5,000 jobs - across the whole airport in preparation for the reopening and Mr Sinclair says they have to carefully mange the disadvantages along with those beneifts.

He said: "There are a number of things like the noise, carbon impact, weighed against the big benefits like economic prosperity and we saw the massive impact on the local area in the last couple of years.

"Gatwick Airport Ltd lost nearly 50 per cent of its staff. We have now got 400 jobs on the board, we have 5,000 jobs across the campus - that’s all the organizations connected with the airport from bag handlers to shop workers. You can see that it is a massive economic driver.

"And then there’s all the other activity in the local area like restaurants, hotels and the fact there will be incoming tourists.

"There are all those benefits for people but we have to carefully manage the disadvantages and noise is one of those."

So what are Gatwick doing to mitigate and reduce noise levels.

Mr Sinclair said: "We've got a system of around 20 noise monitors around the countryside around Gatwick.

"They monitor actual aircraft noise and we use that in a whole bunch of ways. We actuall;y through our website and as a local resident you can access it. You can look at those noise monitors, you can see the impact on your local area.

"That’s how we monitor the noise and share the information, it’s important to have that degree of transparency. During Covid, we carried on with our noise management work. Monitoring work continued, we have got noise management organisation in the company, that’s the Airspace office and they work for me.

"And then we have the Noise Management Board and the constituent membership of that includes industry, it includes Gatwick, a couple of airlines but it also includes community and locally-elected representatives. That group had a small break for about six months but apart from that, it continued to operate. There are some initiatives which have come through that which help to tackle noise.

"An initiative which came from that a couple of years ago ended up with Gatwick changing it’s scheme of charges requiring operators of the A320 aircraft to modify a design feature of part of the wing to reduce a noise which was similar to blowing across the top of a Coke bottle.

"We put in some quote punitive charges to the airline and said ‘if you don't have these modifications done by a particular date, you are going to be charged a lot of extra money’ and that worked incredibly well because within a year 90% of aircraft had modified and it made a big difference to noise and how noise was perceived."

Gatwick Airport believe air traffic will not get back to 2019 levels until at least 2024, probably 2025, but Mr Sinclair believes it will not have the same noise levels when it does return.

He said: "Our expectation is when you go back to those traffic levels, it will be quieter. Having said that, because it has been so quiet and tranquil for so long, people won't remember 21019, as much as they tell you they do, they are used to what they have been hearing recently and the increase now, even though it’s way below 20-19 levels will seem huge to people.

"So probably back to normal in 2025 but the noise levels at the same traffic level as 2109 will be less."

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