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A look at the SMART Approach Trial

This is a guest post from Tony Cooper

There’s going to be a new jet thrill ride in Queenstown – flying through tight mountainous terrain at night to the airport. Using new award-winning technology introduced by Airways New Zealand pilots will be able to dodge and weave among the mountains in the dark and even in cloud.

The technology is called Required Navigation Performance Authorisation Required (RNP AR) and allows computers to use satellite GPS technology to steer jets along very precise paths in a range of weather conditions without a human hand. When implemented in 2016 it will allow the airport to operate jets at night – current jet flights are limited to daylight hours.

Airways New Zealand, who provides air traffic control for our airports, won an international award for the Queenstown project in February 2013 – taking out the prestigious Jane’s ATC Award for Operational Efficiency ahead of 70 entries from aviation companies around the world.

Now the same technology is being rolled out nationwide. Even without mountains the precision of the flight paths brings many advantages. In particular, for Auckland it is expected that RNP AR will reduce distances flown over the city, fuel consumption, carbon emissions and noise for people living close to the airport.

This has worked well in other countries. For example, Brisbane Airport has implemented RNP AR – the precision of the flight paths has allowed jets to follow the curve of the river to minimise the noise footprint. In their first trial in 2008 they reported that over 1612 flights a total of 200,000kg of fuel was saved, 4200 minutes flight time saved, noise was reduced, and flight delays for non RNP AR flights reduced.

Hoping for similar success Auckland Airport trialled the technology during 2012 and 2013 calling the new approach the “SMART approach.” We are awaiting the results of that trial – the report will be released this week.

The purpose of this article is to provide background understanding for the trial and to show the issues involved. We will compare the new SMART approach with the standard approach. We will look at fuel savings and noise differences. We will only look at relative differences between the two approaches and not absolute noise levels over the city.

Also we hope to clear up some misconceptions that have appeared in the media. For example, the Herald reported on May 6 that a new regime was keeping aircraft in holding patterns above residential areas. This isn’t true because Auckland airport does not use holding patterns.

Aircraft Approaches

In fact, Auckland approaches are pretty efficient and that’s one of the problems with the SMART trial – it’s difficult to improve on the existing standard approach.

The quietest possible approach would involve a jet switching off its engines over the Tasman Sea and gliding in to the airport. Perhaps surprisingly, jets make good gliders and can easily glide the last 150km of the flight. Naturally, flying with the engines off isn’t safe so pilots do the next best thing – they descend with the engines at idle. This is as quiet as it is possible to get but is still noisy because the engines still make some noise and also the airframe makes as much noise as the engines.

When the plane gets down to about 2000ft both noises increase as wheels and flaps are lowered which creates more airframe noise and the pilot puts on more power to compensate for extra drag. This occurs in Auckland for Tasman flights around about Ormiston so it is Manukau City residents who bear this noise.

The gliding descent (also called continuous descent) or something close to it has been used since 2007 for most approaches into Auckland. And much of the portion of the flight between 5000ft and 2000ft is over the sea or farmland. So we are lucky compared to other cities where descents have powered level flight stages or holding patterns and are fully over residential areas. That’s what we mean when we say that Auckland approaches are pretty efficient.

Most busy airports around the world still use stepped approaches. This is the blue line in the chart below. The continuous approach is the red line. Since the blue line spends more time at lower altitudes where jet engines don’t work efficiently the blue approach uses more fuel and exposes the ground to more noise. In particular, during the level portions of the flight the aircraft produces considerable noise compared to idle gliding.

SMART Trial - Approach Graph

Continuous descents are tricky to instigate. The engines have to be idled at the right time. Too soon and extra power will have to be applied to reach the airport. Too late and the aircraft will overshoot the airport. Overshooting is a serious problem because it is difficult to slow down a plane that is already running on idle engines. Speed-brakes don’t work very well at approach speeds and when deployed add extra noise. An overshooting aircraft has to fly extra distance so messes up the careful spacing required by Air Traffic Control.

All these problems are exacerbated by the wind. To time the descent the wind speed has to be predicted at all levels of the descent and all locations on the flight path. This is impossible. So to compensate for the variability pilots like to fly the flight path a little low. Then closer to the airport they apply extra power to get back to the right height. Both flying low and extra power add to the noise effects on residents.

This is where the precision of the RNP AR approach can help. The computer controlling the flight can react to wind changes faster than a human and keep the aircraft at a precise height. This precision also allows Air Traffic Control to better space out arriving flights to further reduce noise and fuel.

SMART Approach

Although we are lucky that current approaches are mostly on idle power we could be luckier if flights didn’t overfly the city at all. With two harbours why can’t jets fly over one of them? But Auckland airspace is busy – there are Whenuapai and Dairy Flat airfields to the north and Ardmore airport to the south to be avoided. Auckland airport itself occupies Manukau Harbour so the only reliable gap for Tasman arrivals is over the city.

The idea of the SMART approaches which were trialled from November 2012 to the end of October 2013 is to move the flight path west so that aircraft from the Tasman don’t have to fly out to Beachlands. This is shown in the chart below. The red line shows the standard approach and the gold line shows the SMART approach.

SMART Trial - Traditional vs SMART

The distance saved by the shorter approach is 27km. An Airbus A380 would save about 400 litres of fuel with the shorter flight path. Smaller jets would save upwards of 100 litres so the savings can add up over thousands of flights. The savings could be higher because we didn’t take into account the extra time spent flying at lower altitudes and efficiency changes to air traffic control procedures.

The SMART approach has been described in the media as a “shortcut” and it looks like that in the chart but this is misleading. At the point in the upper left where the two paths diverge there is a height difference of about 2000ft – the SMART approach is the lower one. This is an important point to bear in mind when comparing the two flight paths.

The above chart is an idealised plot. The actual flight paths taken by jets over Auckland for a week during the trial are shown in the next chart. Red lines are arrivals and green departures. The precision of the SMART approach compared to the standard is evident. What also is evident is that almost the whole of the city has flights over it with the only exception being, ironically, the Mangere area adjacent and to the north of the airport.

SMART Trial - Paths

What these charts don’t show is the altitudes of the flights over the city. Because the SMART approach is shorter than the standard approach and because the glide slope angle into the airport is the same for both then the height of the SMART approach is lower over the city.

The trade-off with the SMART approach is that the flight path is shorter so less fuel (and so less noise) is burnt over the city but the average height is lower (so more noise). We need to examine this trade-off very carefully to see the effect on residents.

The next chart shows for each approach the portions below 2000ft (cyan), the portion between 2000ft and 4000ft (yellow), and part of the portion above 4000ft (purple).

SMART Trial - Traditional vs SMART Heights

These heights of 2000 and 4000 feet are somewhat arbitrary and we chose round numbers. We chose 2000ft because this is about the height at which wheels and flaps are lowered and power increased. It also gives the boundary at which Manukau City houses need to have a note added to their LIM records that show they are affected by airport noise. However, it is above the height where houses qualify for free sound insulation which occurs closer to the airport.

The two flight paths converge at about the SH1 motorway. So to compare them we only had to look at houses to the east of the motorway.

Above 2000ft the next important height is 3000ft. This number (sometimes extended to 4000ft at night) seems to be used frequently worldwide as the height above which noise abatement procedures no longer apply. Presumably noise is not an issue for departures once the jet is above 3000ft. We also included 4000ft to include more of the flight path.

For this study we counted houses below each flight path within a 1 km ground distance of the path. We then used population density estimates provided by Critchlow Ltd to estimate the number of people resident in each house and this gave us the number of people living under each flight path. The 1km distance from the path is fairly arbitrary but if you think the distance should be doubled you can roughly double the people counts that we found.

This methodology of counting people for each altitude level is quite crude – presumably the SMART report will use decibel sound readings and report the number of people affected at each decibel level. Also different people have different sensitivities to sound (this can be measured on the Weinstein Noise Sensitivity Scale) so different suburbs will have different sensitivity to noise. The precision of the RNP AR approach allows precise noise contours to be calculated which we cannot do. But we believe that this crude approach will still give an idea of the differences between the approaches.

We only counted residential houses – the precision of the SMART flight path allows it to be placed over industrial areas where possible. The industrial areas show up as grey in the charts above. Farmland is green.

Residential Counts

Our counts are:

SMART Trial - Residential Counts

Because the two flight paths are so close together below 2000ft the people counts are the same for both. Because the standard approach is over farmland when between 2000ft and 4000ft the counts are zero (apart from 3,400 people living in Beachlands at the 4000ft mark).

We didn’t count houses for parts of the flight paths above 4000ft but measured the lengths of the paths and used density estimates to get rough numbers.

We note the following points

  1. the shift of the flight path to the west has shifted the noise to the west
  2. under 2000ft equal numbers of people are affected
  3. from 2000 to 4000 feet about 20,000 more people are affected by the SMART approach
  4. above 4000ft about 60,000 more people are exposed to noise on the standard flight path than the SMART (due to the extra distance flown over the eastern suburbs)
  5. west of Royal Oak above 4000ft and all the way to west Auckland the SMART flight path averages about 2000ft lower than the standard flight path (this isn’t shown on any of the maps)
  6. although we mark the power settings for both approaches as “close to idle” the noise of the descent may be less in the SMART descent because of the precision of the computer control

Points (1), (4) and (5) illustrate the process called “noise sharing.” The total amount of noise hasn’t changed (assuming efficient gliding is used), it has just moved west. Not all flights in the future will be SMART flights so not all noise has shifted. People in eastern suburbs have less noise (SMART doesn’t go there) and people in the west have more noise (lower SMART flights) so it is said that the noise is being shared between suburbs. This is what is meant by the phrase “SMART allows us to equitably distribute flight paths across Auckland.”

Another example of this is that at Beachlands the standard flight path is at 4000ft which is the same height as the SMART path at Royal Oak. So when standard flights switch to SMART flights Beachlands will “share” some of its noise with Royal Oak.

People at 2000ft to 4000ft on the SMART path will be sharing their noise with cows at Whitford. So the cows win on that one.

Some noise has gone west out of the city boundaries and into the Waitakeres but the benefits to residents of that move is small because it is mainly high altitude flying out there.

Summary
  1. The SMART flight path does not produce any more noise but moves it west
  2. No extra people will experience noise below 2000ft
  3. Some extra people will experience noise in the 3000ft to 4000ft range
  4. The precision of the SMART approaches may actually reduce some noise but standard approaches are pretty quiet already
  5. Fuel savings will range from 100 to 400 litres, possibly more
  6. Our analysis ignores many factors such as the improved efficiency of Air Traffic Control
Misconceptions in the Media

There have been a number of disingenuous or misleading statements made in the media and the Internet in the context of the SMART trials and we elucidate them here. We are concerned that SMART noise is being confused with the standard noise.

  • “Airways creates more noise by keeping aircraft in holding patterns above residential areas” – not true. Holding patterns generally aren’t used at Auckland
  • “During the trials … so low … you could read Emirates on the side of the planes” – may be true but misleading because Emirates weren’t part of the SMART trial.
  • “With this new flight path we are now woken every night” – may be true but misleading because the trials were not conducted after 10 pm.
  • “Every airline is now using this shortcut route” – not true, only Air NZ, Qantas, and Jetstar were part of the trial.
  • “Emirates EK435, aircraft type A380, recorded a horrendous 83.2 decibels during the Smart approaches trial” – loud but, again, not part of the trial.
  • “continuous ascents and descents. This means they are travelling at slower speeds in near-level flight” – incorrect – continuous means that it is not level or even near-level. Continuous is the opposite of level. Continuous descents are the quietest descents possible – they are good. This comment misleadingly makes them look bad. Ascents were not part of the SMART trial.
  • “terrible continuous ascents” – ascents were not part of the SMART trial. Complaining about non-SMART noise and including it in the same breath as complaints about SMART noise seems a little disingenuous to the SMART trial.
  • “a low curved shortcut to the airport” – this is misleading. It’s not a shortcut and SMART approaches are no lower than standard approaches and may be higher.
  • “mandatory 3000ft above Royal Oak” – The operating procedures for the RNP AR approach mandate 4000ft over Royal Oak. So this statement is not true.

This report was completed with the help of people from Airways New Zealand, Air New Zealand, Critchlow Ltd, and The Plane Truth and we thank those people. We solicited data from Auckland Airport but it was not forthcoming. All calculations, errors, and over-simplifications are ours.

117 comments to A look at the SMART Approach Trial

  • Brendan

    Why is the starting point of the SMART approach over populated area – given most of the flights are coming from Australia, why don’t they aim for Manuka harbour / Karaka, instead of central Auckland, and then loop in from the south? Your measurement of people under approach would surely be much less.

    http://imgur.com/kpGLAob

    • nonsense

      because it would be a longer path? Also, this is the approach for 23L, when 5R is active planes from OZ would fly straight in I think.

    • ErrolC

      Two main reasons.
      1. The international flights in question are coming from north of AKL, so approaching from the south would require flying further (and using more fuel).
      2. There are many domestic flights approaching from the south, and managing the Air Traffic Control is much easier this way.

      • Brendan

        Have a look at http://aucklandflightpathtrial.co.nz/ – You’ll see that Green X23 actually comes from west-southwest, not from the north.

        A few hundred km out it would be easy to fly slightly more south and connect in with Red Y23. Compared to other airports, their are not many flights coming from the south, so it should be that hard for Air Traffic Control to manage.

        • Dan

          You’re forgetting one important part of the cycle, the departing aircraft. Should the aircraft be made to track via the RNAV Y approach, there is less airspace to feed the southbound departures through, and you could expect them to have to either loop to the north (pretty much via LOSGA) and set heading overhead, stay lower and pass underneath the arrivals (very inefficient and loud!), or extra track miles to the southwest then make a left turn southbound (again, very inefficient). Auckland is relatively busy for a single-runway airport, and you’ll be surprised at the number of aircraft that actually do arrive from the south, especially at peak times.

  • Mike F

    http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/aviation/environmental/insulation/index.aspx

    The cost to the Australian tax payer for sound insulation of buildings near Sydney and Adelaide airports was $AUS 470 million.

    Whats the bet New Zealand would allocate $0 for the same

  • The total amount of noise hasn’t changed [assuming efficient gliding is used],
    it has JUST moved west. Just?.

  • mfwic

    Any time someone puts SMART in the name of their idea or product you just know they are trying to sell something that probably isnt.

    • Steve D

      I don’t know, S.M.A.R.T. is all right.

      But I’d go further and say most things where you come up with the cute acronym first then go back to pick out the right words – is probably rubbish.

      • George D

        The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit sounds pretty good too.

      • mfwic

        Had they wanted an unbiased trial they might have called it the “short approach” or even “cheap approach” but they signalled their true intent with SMART approaches that this was something they already know they want and they would prefer the rest of us not to think about it.

        • Glen

          Dare I suggest the airport access study currently underway (which morphed from a simple study into rail to the airport to a multi-modal effort called SMART) has the same intent, i.e. the Government wants it not to be rail but simply moar roads…

        • mfwic

          Smart phone= a phone not made by Apple that they are trying to kid you will work as well as an iPhone, Smart car= a car they are trying to fool you into thinking wont make you look ridiculous, Smart growth=restricting growth to lift property prices so poor people can’t live there while intensifying the problems they claim to be solving, Smart set= fashionable but shallow (any often stupid) people, smart bomb= a guided bomb that allows states to justify more extra judicial killings. However you cut it smart is usually used on bad shit!

  • Tony Cooper

    Daytime flights into Queenstown currently use RNP AR. You can see a spectacular video of a flight through the mountains and cloud into Queenstown at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mxmFCw-Dig

  • ErrolC

    It seems that the heights given are all relative to the runway (essentially sea level) – this is what is important when considering what actions the aircraft are taking (lowering undercarriage etc). However, surely height above ground level is what is important for noise purposes? I’m guessing the biggest absolute impact of this is around One Tree Hill, with houses at around 100m (330-odd ft)?

    • Yes, living on both sides of the hill is no longer pleasant. We are on the southern side so can vouch for that. The once deadly quiet streets on the northern aspect are now also experiencing unprecedented levels of noise.

      • ErrolC

        I’m still finding it pleasant. The Great Barrier turboprops are more noticeable than the jets in my experience. Other sources of noise are more annoying to me.

  • John Herold

    Tony your enthusiasm is boundless for what is presumably a new client. So what are you going to spend your massive ‘fees’ for er, ‘professional services’. We’ve seen a good deal of Air NZ people and the airport suppliers trying to polish their marbles with slavering letters to the Airport Gazette, aka the NZ Herald, RIP, so where do you fit? Employee or er, consultant…..propagandist?
    Impressive ‘research’ you have there, especially since NO ONE ELSE HAS HAD ACCESS TO THE SECRET FILES. So you must be a er, ‘trusted source’, at least to those paying your bills.
    I notice you aren’t over fond of the British Medical Journal, or the appropriate research from Otago and Auckland’s esteemed universities. But that’s understandable in your case, I guess. Follow your paymasters: no dissenting truths needed.
    Suggest you get your masters to provide you with the equivalent patterns from Canadian, Japanese, Scandinavian etc airports.
    + Why don’t you talk CURFEWS from 10 PM to 6.30 AM?
    + Address the option for the majority of planes, which come from NW of us only crossing inhabited land in the existing corridor
    + Look at bringing forward the second runaway — now that’s a good idea, but it kills the shareprice and that hammers the GREEDY ONES at the top
    and
    their over-blown executive packages. Rock star/ pro footballer/ Kardashian stuff
    + Monopoly GREED, in the case of your airport paymasters; selling off Airways NZ to recover the $100-mil they blew on this junk; the airlines, which
    have never been more profitable than they are right now
    + GREENWASH. Surely you with your environmental er, concerns!!!!! would be looking out for that BIG CON? i.e. since you are so proud to the fuel
    you and your airline mistresses — how about telling us what these GREEDY PSEUDS blast into the atmosphere between Dubai and here in their 380s
    and with your mega carbon saving against what they are doing over Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I’ll bet we are er, ‘winning’!
    + Being a good Greenie you’ll be concerned about what underpins this GREED, I’m sure. Like has this wonderful system, linked to the over-bloated
    profits of the MONOPOLY airport , been a job creator? Or is it a JOB DESTROYER? Mmmmm, still the money at month-end must be great for you as you try to shut your conscience up.
    + Of course, this dodgy GPS system, which the inventor is horrified at its being used for this purpose, when it isn’t fit for that, also REPLACES air traffic
    still that means they have more money for propagandists
    + You would hate a motorway being secretly planned and then built on the same flight paths, wouldn’t you? Oh, you’d be out there with your placards,
    DEMANDING MITIGATION. Why so silent here? Does that decrease the amount of loot for you?
    + Talking of which; being as liberal and PROGRESSIVE as you are styling yourself to be, you must be appalled at the way your lords and masters have secretly gone about this. Lying to their back teeth. Denying. Dodging and getting stooges, like you involved in doing their dirty business
    + As concerned as you would claim to be over the “world”, “carbon”, the environment(reluctantly, because that involves getting down and dirty and
    cleaning up crap), don’t you worry about unburnt particulates, auditory pollution (same as over illumination, if you are unaware)
    + Listen to your conscience and wrap up your contract. Or are you just Captain Morgan in drag?

    • Stevenz

      At the risk of dignifying this incoherent rant (not even a *coherent* rant!), (and being a couple days late to the party) I will clear up one point about GPS (who exactly was that inventor, John?) not intended to be used for this purpose. The GPS system was developed and deployed by the United States Air Force at a cost of umpteen billion dollars. This was paid for by the American taxpayer, but its services are available to anyone in the world for *free*. (Altogether now, “Thank you, American Taxpayer!”). As a point of fact, it was developed to provide guidance for cruise missiles, an application requiring far more precision than airport approaches with traffic control, radar, and piloted airplanes. End of dignifying with actual information. My apologies to all other readers.)

      (I thought these cranks were only in America. What gives?)

  • George D

    A couple of comments:

    From where I am, Airways NZ is doing a decent job of advancing efficiency and improving flight paths. However, there’s a large variation in aircraft types, and some are much quieter than others. If we are to consider noise as an important performance requirement (and we should), then we should allow quieter aircraft less restrictive approaches, and noisier ones more restrictive. 747s get the old approach, 787s get the “SMART” approach, and everything else is allocated one or the other.

    I would like to know who Tony Cooper is, and if he has affiliations to any other groups or businesses.

    • Glen

      To build on George D’s comment, Heathrow airport (the approaches to which are over built-up areas) has what is essentially a points system for night-time noise abatement, under which newer, quieter aircraft (such as the A380 and B787) receive fewer points towards the fixed cap than older, noisier aircraft such as the B747.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quota_Count_system

      Possible application of this system to the SMART approaches is an idea worth looking into.

      • George D

        It sounds like a possibility. It may be that such a system is enforced on the airport, if it does not adopt it voluntarily.

        The upside here is that a380 and a320 landings make a large percentage of movements, and that because of its distance from the world, Auckland is well suited for B787 and a350 operations. There will still be a lot of B737NGs, a330s and B777s in the mix however, for at least the next decade. You could allow them quota slots, or put them on non-“SMART” approach.

        It is possible to operate a harbour-side landing pattern, but this adds delays and complexity to scheduling (you can’t just turn a runway round without affecting many flights). It may be that louder aircraft could fly RNP from the west, with restricted landing slots. Alternately, you could allow louder aircraft “SMART” approaches within certain hours (8am-5pm) but not outside it.

        There are many ways to deal with this problem. All of them involve compromise. The only question is who is asked to compromise, and by how much.

        • Martin

          Hi George, I’m a British Airways Engineer at Heathrow. I work on the 787, its a pig of a plane and I’d say wont be around long. BA has every type you’ve mentioned above and has just ordered plenty more 777-300ERs so I think you’ll find they will be around a fair while yet. The A350 should be a good aircraft when it finally arrives on scene.

          At other people, the A380 is quieter then the Boeing 767s, 777s and other older freight only aircraft that fly in to Auckland (is the DHL 727 still there? They are banned in the EU due to noise).

  • George D

    The other question is – if they built the second runway, how much of this could be avoided?

  • Tony Cooper

    I am a quantitative analyst with a degree in statistics and I am a private pilot. I received no remuneration and I asked the airport for their “secret files” but did not receive them. My articles takes no sides – I simply counted numbers and reported them. The numbers are rough. As you can read, I found that some areas will receive more noise, some less. I have not formed any conclusions as to whether SMART approaches are good or bad. I have just provided background information. My enthusiasm for flying is, however, high. And I hate noise.

    • What do you make of the NAV map I sent you Tony with the mandatory at Royal Oak shown as 3000ft?. Maybe I was misinformed when I was told that ELNAK was ‘In the vicinity’ of Royal Oak?.

    • TheBigWheel

      Tony, thank you for such an excellent, clear and objective report and effective de-bunking of media myths. Outstanding. I hope the SMART approach trials lead to a successful adoption of the technology in AKL.

  • Glen

    I have been following this matter as someone with an interest in aviation and aircraft operations in general, and local noise in particular (disclosure: I live in Ellerslie and noticed some increased aircraft noise during the SMART trial, however not nearly at the same level as others).

    My concerns with the SMART trial process mainly concern transparency (there has been little of it) and deliberate obfuscation. I believe that this has amplified people’s concerns, perhaps as much as the noise itself.

    – The trial was not widely publicised when it began, it was only after an article in the Central Leader that people knew where to contact about it and where to complain.

    – Airways and co. have been reluctant to release raw data (on noise monitoring etc.) throughout the process, and at the public meeting I attended (at the Royal Oak Baptist Church), would give no assurance that they would release the raw data with the trial report so that the data could be independently analysed. This is despite them only agreeing to noise monitoring after repeated public complaints.

    (After some delays, the SMART trial report is due out about now. Is this the report Tony Cooper has written? It could be, but it might not be if Auckland Airport did not contribute data as he notes. Confusing)

    – Lack of transparency is also unfortunately a feature of this article – while we can glean that Tony Cooper is an author of it, and that he was assisted by Airways, Air NZ etc., we are not told his current affiliation. This would help to make his position clearer.

    – The deliberate obfuscation strategy pursued by the airport/Airways/airlines was nakedly visible at the public meeting, in the way the spokeswoman used the word ‘community’ in terms of community consultation to justify her assertion that consultation has been taking place for years. She repeatedly used the word ‘community’ to mean the entire Auckland region, including the concerned residents present – however, community consultation structures are only in place for the residents of the former Manukau City under the final approach flight path (into a westerly). The level of tension in the audience at the meeting rose markedly once this obfuscation was exposed. It is far to say this the airport/Airways/airlines did not help their own case in this way.

    Additionally, and although this is not a SMART matter, I think that there are more refinements possible that would help the public case for airport/Airways/airlines etc. For example, I have noticed aircraft flying to the US, Canada and the Pacific Islands (when departing into a westerly) immediately turning to the north-east to fly straight to their destination, and thus overflying the isthmus. Although these flights are relatively few and are usually at about 8,000 ft when they cross the isthmus area, as they are climbing (i.e. the engines are running hard) they make more noise for the same altitude than descending flights and are thus quite noticeable. Why are these flights not routed to fly a short distance to the north over the Waitakere Ranges (where there is little population) and then turn north-east? This would seem to be a quick-win for the airport/Airways/airlines etc. in terms of public perception at minimal fuel cost. If the authorities were open (again, transparency) to broader public consultation they might find that there are new ideas out there to adopt.

    To summarise, while I currently have no strong position either way on this issue, I think it could have been handled a lot better right from the start. I hope the reports due out will allow for more consultation on the future direction taken, and more transparency at the very least.

  • Tony Cooper

    My article is not the SMART report. It is just a backgrounder. I have no affiliation with any of the organisations I interviewed. By “assist” I mean that they answered my questions. I did find it difficult getting “assistance” from the Airport because they wanted to talk to me through media representatives.

    I think the issue of transparency at the beginning is a tricky one – they wanted to test a flight path and see if anyone noticed. That seems reasonable to me provided that they keep good records and analyse the data statistically. If the report does not report this data then I will be disappointed. As a quantitative analyst I will challenge any statements that they make that do not use valid statistical evidence.

    As for “deliberate obfuscation” I can’t comment as I did not experience it. But I can promise that if they use statistical obfuscation in the report I will challenge them on that. That is the only thing I have a strong opinion on.

    • Glen

      Hi Tony, thanks for clearing your position up.

      I certainly hope that the report releases the source data (preferably in digital form!) so that people like yourself can analyse the data and test the report’s validity. With the obfuscation that has taken place so far, I imagine that further attempts to fudge and hide may well happen.

      Your point about the airport wanting you to talk through media representatives is also illustrative – the parties involved did not go out of their way to make themselves accessible. People with concerns were shuttled around from pillar to post, and it’s sad to hear the airport is still doing that. That plus the condescending attitude taken by the airport/Airways etc. people at the meeting (as well as their supposedly independent noise experts) makes me think they really do not want to talk to residents, and that they may well have something to hide.

      As mediabusted noted, it seems like it is not only the airlines directly involved in the SMART trial that have been flying different paths. It really would be good if all the data for all aircraft from before the trial, during the trial (SMART/non-SMART), and after the trial were made available for independent analysis.

  • jonno1

    What an interesting report! Thank you Tony (and the blog owners). Where I live I hear very little aircraft noise (apart from Police and Westpac helicopters) and looking at the flight paths I can now see why. That’s a disappointment as I love the sound of aircraft, also the Sunday steam trains which I can hear. Tragic I know. I suppose that for an individual noise is subjective, but anything that improves operational efficiency without undue side effects has to be good, doesn’t it?

    • conan

      Interesting you bring up the police helicopter. Does anyone have any idea why they patrol parks with it? I live next to Grey Lynn park and it seems to be a regular fixture, often very late at night.

  • “Some extra people will experience noise in the 3000ft to 4000ft range”. “West of Royal Oak above 4000ft and all the way to west Auckland the SMART flight path averages about 2000ft lower than the standard flight path (this isn’t shown on any of the maps)”.

    Yes, we have noticed. We live in One Tree Hill. You can simply visit my house for a week and then do some experimental sience.

    You say that there are misquotes in media. No, they are not. Even the so called SMART trial has ended, the planes are flying constantly above residential areas, and especially One Tree Hill. All you need to do is to gather evidence in any given day on Flightradar, and you can see that the most of the planes including LAN and Emirates fly the same path. There is not question about it. They also fly at night above residential areas, SMART trial or not. I have been personally recording them flying above our house on odd hours, and we have been woken at 3.00 and 4.00 am at many nights. You can deny it as long as you wish, but the facts are facts.

    You also ignore the fact that the new automatic system directs flights now in one single flight path. Just sit with the Flightradar one day and see which path the flights take when departing and landing. Most of them make sure they fly above One Tree Hill. It is a fact and easy to prove.

    This blog continues to ignore the legimate concerns of residents in Epsom and surronding areas. We are the once the noise is impacting on. The arrogance of the corporates invovled in this trial is mind-blowing, and the treatment of law abiding citizens in a democratic society is appalling.

    • Glen

      mediabusted, have you considered contacting your elected representatives?

      If you are in One Tree Hill then I presume you are in the Epsom electorate. AFAIK John Banks was silent on the issues, and I haven’t heard anything from the new ACT candidate David Seymour. Paul Goldsmith may have been at the meeting I attended, but even if so he didn’t voice an opinion. As the Greens’ transport spokesperson, maybe Julie-Anne Genter might be sympathetic to your concerns?

      If you are in the Maungakiekie electrorate, you could try talking to your MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga. However at the meeting I attended he took the MC role, carefully avoiding voicing an opinion in any direction. While he did a great job in this role in what was at times a passionate meeting, he didn’t do a lot to represent his constituents in that sense.

      • George D

        The local boards have shown concern, and are doing a lot. But I’m not so sure about national level representatives. Genter, Twyford, Goff, and Beaumont are all likely to hear your concerns, and may make some noise about this (so to speak).

    • ErrolC

      Nothing you are saying contradicts the statements in this report (other than you using the word ‘misquotes’ when the report doesn’t):
      “Also we hope to clear up some misconceptions that have appeared in the media. For example, the Herald reported on May 6 that a new regime was keeping aircraft in holding patterns above residential areas. ”

      “There have been a number of disingenuous or misleading statements made in the media and the Internet in the context of the SMART trials and we elucidate them here. We are concerned that SMART noise is being confused with the standard noise.”

  • obi

    This might be the most informative blog post in a while. Partly because the airport doesn’t feature here very often, despite it being one of the city’s busiest transport hubs. Thanks Tony!

    I’m interested in knowing how this all appears to the pilot of a large jet. They’re flying (or gliding) a complex path in three dimensions. I’ve spent some time in a simulator and understand how pilots fly the path displayed by the flight director. But how does the FD know what path to display? GPS? Instruments on the ground? Also, I presume that ground based ATC guides the aircraft to the right place, altitude, and time to begin the descent. How precise does the pilot need to be at this stage? For instance, if they’re 100m low at the start then do they just increase the power to meet the correct approach slope, or does that speed up the aircraft and throw everything out of whack?

  • David B

    mediabusted I agree with you 100% – policies should be around minimising noise to residents on the ground and not about money in the pockets of airlines. I think stronger policy on out-of-hours flights is also required. There is no way on Earth that it is acceptable to fly over residential areas at 4am in the morning, and we need this to be made crystal clear to AK airport if they are to be permitted to plan for an increased number of flights.

    • Glen

      David, as an aside one of the things people tend to overlook on this issue is that of the key players, while they are all set up to make profits, three are either wholly or partly publicly-owned.

      Airways Corp (air traffic control SOE) is 100% government-owned.
      Air NZ (while also an SOE) is majority government-owned.
      Auckland Airport (while a publicly-listed company) is 22 or so% owned by the Auckland Council.

      What this says to me is that if there was the will, the central and local government could exert significant pressure on the key players here.

      However, there certainly does not seem to be the will in the current Government. Nothing I have heard them say indicates that they care about resident, and therefore voter, concerns.

  • Pip

    Tony, when you say ” they [the Airport] wanted to test a flight path and see if anyone noticed” what do you mean? Are you saying that if we don’t complain about every noisy flight that goes overhead the Airport consider that it isn’t a problem and that we are deluded?. I am too busy to ring and complain about every noisy flight. I should not have to do this to be heard in this modern democracy. Rather than genuinely engaging in consultation with the community the Airport are obsessed with proving that we are making it all up, and you have unwittingly become complicit in their deception.

  • David B

    Good point, so pressure should go onto councillors, the Mayor and local MPs.

    I can tell you that if these organisations aren’t reined in soon, One Tree Hill, Onehunga and Mangere could become blighted by 20 hours per day of noise. I have seen this before with Heathrow Airport, where much of South London has to put up with noise and air pollution starting at 4am and continuing constantly until after 11pm, like living next to a busy motorway. From personal experience it is deeply unpleasant.

    It’s good to see Tony and others alerting the public to this risk.

  • Just for the record, I just recorder 3 Emirates jets flying above One Tree Hill all using exactly same flight path, and landing 25 minutes apart from each other. I can provide Flightradar fireshots if anyone in doubt.

    Glen, yes, I have contacted all the possible authorities.

    I used to live in central London for 15 years, so believe me, I am used to the urban noise. This is completely different. The jets are flying low and when they are breaking, the noise is loud.

    If nothing else, we have to have a BAN on the night time flights.

    It is compeletely irrelevant to talk about Auckland as a most liveable city in the world with this kind of plans, and yet the Auckland mayor and his puppets use this phrase all the time. Bombarding residential areas with massive jets doesn’t equal to most liveable city in the world. It is a pity that the Auckland councillors, politicians and greedy corporates don’t get a simple message.

    NZ is not 100% pure and Auckland is not the most liveable city in the planet, but it COULD be.

    • TheBigWheel

      Hopefully they are not “breaking” ;-)

    • Josh

      Yes because stopping night time flights will make Auckland a truly international city, also the most liveable city in the world. (hint of sarcasm)

      I would hate to imagine timing international flights without allowing any to land or take off at night, also would make scheduling them all in a nightmare! But hey, maybe we should take our air transportation policies back to the 90’s like our current ground transportation policies.

      • Glen

        Timing international flights without allowing any to land or take off at night (i.e. imposing a strict curfew) would be a bad idea. It is enough of a problem for medium- to large-sized cities which airlines will make the necessary compromises to work around, such as Sydney (which even there is ultimately costing the city and fueling the push to build a second Sydney airport) and Tokyo Narita (where the public transport that everyone relies on doesn’t run overnight so there is an effective curfew). For a globally small city such as Auckland, airlines will not make the necessary compromises and it simply means we will miss out on certain routes, and hence our tourism/trade/freedom to travel etc. will suffer.

        However, if the SMART (or non-SMART) approaches are causing that many problems, then we need to think about what noise abatement measures are possible. Maybe preferential paths for quieter aircraft. All I am sure of is that the processes followed so far by those in authority have been opaque and have not inspired confidence. How do we get something good out of this mess?

  • usaatp

    I imagine john and lorraine are the proprieters of the ridiculous facebook page about this topic.you claim to want to have a public discussion about this issue then block anyone like myself and alot of my friends from opening dialogue against you.by the way lorraine….i am still waiting for a response to my email from last week.tony cooper…well done for this blog and keep it up. Lorraine and john….it seems like you dont really appreciate the miracle of air travel so if anybody see’s you flying on an aircraft….after the comments i have read here…we all shall call you hypocrites.

  • Fed up

    SMART or not smart since July 2013 there has been sudden and unacceptable noise from planes above my house in Onehunga at all hours of the day and night on all days of the week. Ironically often most noticeable on sunday mornings. It has often been bad enough to wake me from my sleep (something which rarely if ever occurs ordinarily). In the 3 years I had lived there prior to July I never heard a SINGLE plane. EVER. The trial was supposed to end in October but the noise continued unabated. Complaints to the airport and mps were brushed aside or I was told the “trial” was over and the noise I was hearing was due to an “increased perception after all the media coverage”. Yes I’m sure I was woken at 6am to the house shaking as the result of a “perception”. Like all the other hundreds of affected residents. The airport does however concede that the noise has shifted west (where I am) so they have basically tacitly agreed that the noise is worse where I am. The council is not interested because they are getting nice fat profits from increased flights and savings by the airline industry. As with most things, profit is king. No one is interested in the misery it is causing to newly affected residents other than fellow affected residents. The airport have snuck this in without public knowledge and consultation as they knew people would not allow it to happen otherwise. Interestingly since the recent coverage in the suburban papers (thank god for unbiased Pat Booth) the noise has all but vanished, proving the planes can fly over far more quietly, albeit probably less profitably. We the residents of Auckland city (most liveable city in the world? – yeah right!) should not be suffering while the airport maximises it’s profits under the guise of “saving fuel”. If they genuinely were concerned with saving fuel they would be decreasing flight numbers, not doubling them in the next 20 years. They are only interested in making money. Those people not affected by the changes feel free to support the airports position. It’s easy to do so when you are not being disturbed by up to 50 noisy flights at all times of the day and night. I’m sure you would feel very differently if you were being affected to the degree I and others are. And where is the report which is nearly 3 months late now?? Why would the airport not cooperate with data for Tonys report? It’s all very very murky and questionable…

  • Michael

    It is very important to understand that the complaints raised are about noise. That increase in noise was not just generated by the smart approach trial. However the forthcoming report is likely to only discuss noise generated by the smart trial. It will ignore noise from other sources, yet residents have reported that overall the level of noise from non-smart flights (departures as well as arrivals) increased significantly during the trial.

    When discussing the fuel savings please represent in the figures in relative terms as well. For example BARNZ told me that the smart approach could save 86 liters of fuel for a single Airbus A320 flight into Auckland international airport from the west in a westerly wind. (less than the 100 liter minimum that your report contains). Given that all northern smart approaches are from international flights, what percentage saving is the 400 liters for an A380 coming from, say, Dubai?

    The absolute figures for carbon emission savings are much higher than the corresponding fuel savings – for transparency it would be helpful to have both. For example, you mention savings of ‘200,000kg of fuel’ in Brisbane – are you sure that you aren’t talking about carbon emissions? If so, what were the corresponding fuel savings in liters of fuel?

    • George D

      Well, there is also the time. With 15m passengers, of which 8m are international, the amount of person-time saved is substantial. It should be tens of millions of minutes (or hundreds of thousands of hours). This is important and should not simply be discounted. But neither should it trump quality of life in Auckland.

      • However, on a 15 hour trip this saving is negligible to individual passengers. More time is wasted at the airport and is more of an inconvenience to passengers than a couple of minutes saved in the air.

        • George D

          Seeing the Hauraki Gulf is nice the first time. After that you would much rather be on the ground, rather than airborne for another 8 minutes. Auckland Airport is also working to reduce ground and passenger delays. All of this is important to people, millions of them.

          There are plenty of competing needs here, and households should be respected. But other needs should not be simply dismissed.

    • Glen

      Michael, without wishing to nitpick, the fuel savings on an Emirates A380 flight into AKL would be small, as they all stop in Australia (MEL/SYD/BNE) on the way here. FWIW AFAIK the longest non-stop route into AKL is NZ83 from YVR (Vancouver), followed by the NZ flights from SFO and LAX, all of which are either one or a couple/few (LAX) a day.

      I do however agree that for more transparency (there’s that word again) more details about fuel and carbon savings would be useful.

      I also agree that the report will probably only discuss the SMART trial, not noise from all flights. It may be a classic case of limiting the terms of reference to get the desired result and then using the report to show there is ‘no problem’, a favoured trick of governments and bureaucrats the world over. Again, if this is the case then (regardless of your view on this issue) we need to demand more transparency and breadth of coverage in the interests of good governance.

  • Tony Cooper

    That chart shows the minimum at ELNAK as 4000ft. The mandatory 3000ft below it is for a missed approach.

  • David

    The anti-SMART approach lobby have in my opinion inadvertently advocated for SMART approaches. Post trial (and during the trial with airlines not participating), the group seemed unable to differentiate noise from those aircraft on the SMART approaches and those aircraft carrying out traditional arrivals. The SMART approaches therefore clearly pose no added inconvenience to the community. Since the trial has be completed, all airlines have been flying the ‘traditional’ arrivals that Auckland has had for years (even if certain parties refuse to accept this). To their benefit, they do provide much amusement for my colleagues and friends as we fly around and aim for one tree hill in an effort to make as much noise over Epsom as possible.

    • Daivd

      I can’t believe I actually have to clarify for some my closing line was tongue and cheek. Have so many people out there really lost that much perspective?

  • Stu Donovan

    is not the key question whether the benefits of the change outweigh the costs?

    On the benefits side of the ledger you have: 1) time savings (people) 2) operational savings (airways) and 3) noise reductions for *some* residents.
    On the costs side of the ledger you have: 1) Noise increase for *some* residents.

    Seems the benefits are likely to outweigh the costs, given what I’ve read above.

    This is not to say nobody will be disaffected and, perhaps, these people have a legitimate claim to compensation (to cover moving/renovating their houses etc). But I don’t feel much sympathy for people who try and argue the trial should be stopped simply because they are disaffected.

    All change is likely to negatively impact on someone … the more important question is whether the negative impacts are worthwhile given the benefits? In this case it would seem so … but I’m open to evidence to the contrary.

    • SteveN

      Stu, I am sure it is easy to say the benefits outweigh the costs – when you’re not the one paying.

      When I lived in the UK, I lived at Windsor directly off the end of the runway at Heathrow, in the days Concorde was still flying. I believe a plane lands at Heathrow every 40 seconds. I am not unused to living with aircraft noise, although I would never knowingly purchase a house subjected to it.

      I’ve been living in the same street in the Three Kings for 26 years, albeit in 2 different houses. It’s in the area west of Royal Oak that real estate agents call “Epsom South”. The Epsom complaints publicised in the media came from “Epsom proper” up the road at Coronation Road. They are slightly further off the flight path. I can’t see the plane tails to identify the airline, as they are almost directly overhead.

      I acknowledge planes have always gone overhead in all the time I lived here, but the noise level was at such a low level that would just register it was a plane and go back about your business.

      Something definitely changed in recent times. The volume of noise is dramatically more than it was prior, plus a plane can be heard much longer than previously e.g. if I previously heard it for 5 seconds, now it might be 20-30 seconds. There also seem to be a great deal more of them: I previously registered maybe 2 or 3 a week. Early Sunday afternoons during the SMART trial were a nightmare: there were planes 5 mins apart or less at times.

      It is not just cantankerous types complaining for the sake of complaining. It is really distressing when you have to live with it. I’ve just spent an enormous amount of money renovating a bungalow, finished by planting a new garden and building a nice deck to enjoy it. I would never have invested the money if I had known it would be too noisy to sit outside in summer.

      I’ve often had it said to me that people who have moved to Western Springs should not complain about the speedway/concert noise as it was there before they moved there. Surely they inverse of that is if I have lived in an area for 26 years, it is a reasonable to expect an arbitrary decision is not made that impacts on my quality of life or finances.

      The PT evangelists on here would be up in arms if a new motorway was proposed cutting a swathe across existing suburbs – in fact they did just that for the one proposed across Mangere recently. Yet we seem quite happy to sign off on destroying people lives for motorways in the sky.

      • Exactly, that is why it is irrelevant to measure one noise affected area against another. All that is truly relevant is one group volunteered, the other had it forced upon them. Therefore the numbers are simply window dressing.

  • Dick

    Glen’s description of the problem involved with this so-called “trial” of new approach paths is spot on target. I also attended the meeting to which he refers. The obfuscation was absolutely appalling!

    How can one carry out a “trial” without measuring (amongst many other relevant factors) the noise impacts both before and after a specified change has been made to the status quo?

    I do hope that the report we all await contains details of their study design (if there was one) and some statistical analysis of the results obtained.

    If it transpires there was no design or monitoring undertaken that enables a base line to be established against which the new flight paths can be properly evaluated, I suggest that they cease their obfuscation, design a proper study and start all over again.

    Universities run courses in study design and I am sure that they would welcome enrolments by those involved in this “study”.

    • Glen

      Thanks Dick, that’s what I was trying to say!

      I’m interested in this saga less from the noise angle and more from the governance aspects. Nothing I heard at the meeting indicated that a trial had been solidly designed for before/after comparison as Dick describes. It all reeked of the three parties involved thinking they could do whatever they wanted, and not expecting to be questioned.

      We await the report with interest…

  • Josh

    From what I can gather without much background information, it seems some residents are trying to use this as a opportunity to redirect air traffic that is actually quite normal for the area away from them. It also might be a case of increased awareness of the pre-exisitnig-existing problem since it was identified in the media, which can actually be very common when talking about environmental effects such as noise. It appears however that the benefits of any such changes are far greater than any perceived negative effects.

    However from the other side of the debate, I wonder if any of those against the changes have carried out their own noise monitoring with GPS co-ordinates of their location and specific times to provide evidence of the noise. Providing location and time results along with the decibel readings would be able to pinpoint the flights responsible for this noise, it would then be evident if this was caused by an SMART approach aircraft. Without this evidence and with outrageous unworkable solution requests such as banning night time flights, those fighting against these changes are not appearing to be credible sources.

  • ananab

    AIAL are hard to influence, and flight paths are one of the very few bargaining chips on the table. If media myth-making brings them to the negotiating table to agree a better rail route than the deliberately inconvenient one they proposed, then please keep dumping those myths by the skipload.

  • Fed up

    Interesting the mention of noise evidence. As I understand there are only something like a pitiful 4 noise monitors in the whole of the Auckland region provided by the airport. The closest one to me in onehunga is coronation road in Epsom. At least 5 or 6 km away. Surely if the airport was so sure of it’s ground it would provide more comprehensive monitoring to back up it’s assertions?! It is ridiculous to say people are only noticing the noise because of an Increased media coverage. People are not woken from their sleep at 1 or 2 or 6am through a “perception” of increased noise. Anyone doubting the validity of affected residents claims should try living in the affected area and see how you like it. As I keep stating, since all the recent media coverage of the past few weeks the noise has DRAMATICALLY REDUCED which proves to me the planes can fly over much more quietly and I am still very much aware of the issue, but the noise is not currently anywhere near as bad as it was previous to then. How do you account for that then? If the airport is so sure of it’s assertions why does it not put a noise monitor in my street to prove it’s point??? Of course it hasn’t. Perhaps I should look into where I can obtain one to make my own recordings!

  • Fed up

    Josh, what is so outrageous about banning night flights? Would you be happy if I lived next door to you and played loud music at night at all hours and all nights if the week? I think not. You would be within your rights to call the noise abatement officers. Unfortunately we don’t have that option with planes… Personally I don’t think the planes need a curfew they just need to fly more quietly as they have been the past few weeks. I don’t know how they are doing so but they are. Perhaps they are using less thrust or braking or flying at higher altitudes but whatever it is it is much quieter. It may not be as profitable for them but that is their problem to deal with, it shouldn’t be ours.

  • Fed up

    Why do people keep saying “media-myths”? These are not myths, these are the comments and experiences of real people. Residents and ratepayers of Auckland. What have we got to gain from making up stories about imaginary plane noise? The airport on the other hand has a lot to gain by trying to fob us off as some annoying lunatic fringe. Pat Booth who has written for local suburban newspapers for something like 20 years wrote recently that when he asked for submissions about this issue recently he received over 7 pages worth of letters. The biggest response to any issue in all his years of writing and the vast majority of letters were from affected residents who have noticed considerable increases in noise. Are they all delusional or is it only the airport which is bending the truth? The answer is pretty obvious…

  • Gary Young

    I might feel more sympathy for the good citizens of One Tree Hill, Royal Oak or Epsom if I had ever, in the last ten or twenty years, heard them express even one iota of concern for the aircraft noise burden placed upon the people of Papatoetoe, Otara, Flat Bush or East Tamaki.

    They have been living with this for decades.

    Though they may not live in the ‘better class’ of residential district they are, nevertheless, still a part of the Greater Auckland metropolitan area and they are just as entitled as anyone else to live with the peace and quiet that many of us take for granted in our suburbs.

    I am deeply unimpressed by the righteous indignation that only now generates strongly worded complaints, only now after a recent, experimental adjustment to flight paths, though the airport has been operating for many years.

    I would venture to suggest that it is the better off inhabitants of Epsom and Royal Oak who are far more likely to be passengers in the aircraft they are now so enraged about than the average state house tenant in Otara.

    I wonder if, when returning from their last holiday in Fiji or the Gold Coast, they gave even a moments thought to those actually living in the homes only a thousand feet below the final approach to runway 23L.

    Well, did you?

    • George D

      Well said Gary. We in the South are due just as consideration as people in Epsom, even if we can’t afford million dollar houses and don’t vote National.

    • Mr Wisdom

      Define better off Gary. Does a 71 year old warehouse worker, whose choices are limited to working until he drops or moving to Paeroa, and who is also forced to cash in Kiwisaver to stay afloat due to unexpected household expenses, qualify as better off in your estimation? Your argument is both political and naive. A holiday away in Fiji or the Gold Coast? You must be joking.

      The Smart path affects some of Auckland’s poorest suburbs and yet people clutch at the airport’s convenient PR spin of wealthy Epsom whingers.

      George D, this may come as a surprise, but two Labour MPs Phil Goff and Carol Beaumont are our only advocates in Wellington. Who do you think instigated and is supporting this? Could it possibly be our Ministers of Tourism and Transport the Rt. Hon. John Key and Gerry Brownlee?.

  • Good point Gary. As you mention, the people in Papatoetoe etc have been living under established flight paths for DECADES and everyone knows that is a flight path. Property prices would reflect that also. People closer to the airport are also entitled to forms of compensation I believe. People wishing to avoid living under a flight path would not buy a house there. Now the airport is changing the rules and imposing the noise on other parts of Auckland without consultation or compensation. Whether it is Epsom, Remuera, Takapuna or Herne Bay or Sandringham, Titirangi, Otahuhu or Glen Eden that is being affected currently, the point is the noise is being arbitrarily shifted without consultation and to make matters worse the airport is denying that there have even been changes. It appears to be all in the name of profit which is again being denied. At least if the flight paths were being kept consistent, any residents under the current paths would have the option to move to unaffected areas if they chose. With the recent changes no-one even knows which areas are going to be affected next. And FYI I live in a modest unit in Onehunga and haven’t been out of the country for about 5-6 years. I very rarely fly even domestically so your argument on class-based generalisations falls rather flat I’m afraid.

  • Gary Young

    As you say. “the people in Papatoetoe etc have been living under established flight paths for DECADES” and yet, have you ever been concerned for them? Do you even care? If they have been enduring noise for decades why shouldn’t someone else take a turn for a while? Why not you? Fair goes for all, eh?

    “It appears to be all in the name of profit” Only appears to be. So you cannot demonstrate this as a fact then. It appears to me to be in the pursuit of fuel efficiency and that is something that in the long term benefits us all. I would also make the point that, statistically, landing is the highest risk part of any flight. Personally I would rather have the pilots do whatever it takes to get the aircraft down safely regardless of the cost and regardless of the discomfiture of those on the ground.

    “so your argument on class-based generalisations falls rather flat I’m afraid.” Only for you personally. I am not persuaded that my assertions are unfounded.

    • David Wong

      Hi Gary, We can only deal with the issues we are facing now. No doubt there were objections when the original flight paths were decided on. Let’s hope this time we have enough objections to stop this new flight path.

  • David Wong

    Thanks Tony and transport blog for this post, great to some objective reporting.

    I live on Panama Road (Mt Wellington) on the Tamaki estuary near to the Auckland rowing club on the Tamaki Estuary. This is one of the most beautiful and serene waterways in Auckland……until the planes make their turn at around the 2000-3000ft altitude mark.

    Even before the smart trial became known I definitely noticed the noise and was trying to Google for information I could’nt find anything. But then again I probably wasn’t searching for the word smart.

    • It was the same here for me David under the Smart approach in the Onehunga/Royal Oak area. From late March I tried many avenues of enquiry, including Council, and when I found what I thought was a suitable avenue, the page had been taken down.

      It is true that others have lived under the flightpath for years, however this is irrelevant and should not be introduced into the argument as presumably they weren’t forced to. Others however, have been forced to accept the impositions of a commercial enterprise which, if our critics were being honest with themselves, will not include an appraisal of the effects as the critical baseline was purposefully omitted.

      There were many years of community consultations into the old flightpath when the airport was mooted. It did not just pop up overnight. Areas were developed post Auckland airport including Otara, Mangere, Manuwera and others further afield. This may not have been the best course of action, however successive Manukau City councils continued to rubber stamp these developments.

      What Mr Cooper could have done, is to ascertain how many people had lived under the old flight path since the late fifties when consultations began. There would not be very many, so it could reasonably be presumed that others were aware of the aircraft activity.

      It isn’t a matter of not caring about others Gary, it is about an overriding fear of what the future, both emotional and financial, holds for those who made a choice based on information available at the time, and have now had this certainty annulled.

      I was woken by a loud jet overhead at 5.12am, a regular occurrence at this time. Makes for a long day.

      • “It is true that others have lived under the flightpath for years, however this is irrelevant and should not be introduced into the argument as presumably they weren’t forced to.”

        To look at that from another viewpoint; no one is forcing you to stay living in an area where you don’t like the noise.

        • Scott where do you live? Do you own your own house? Do you have a mortgage? Do you have a family? Are you a transient worker?

          It is not so easy to just pack up and move else where.

        • When you are struggling to keep your head above water the costs of a move, especially to the elderly are out of the question. Others would be hard pushed to find a replacement they can afford given the costs of selling and the limitations of the current housing market.

        • My comment wasn’t intended to belittle the situation that these folks find themselves in, but rather to highlight that some of them seem to be demanding compassion whilst not offering it in return.

      • Gary Young

        “It is true that others have lived under the flightpath for years, however this is irrelevant”

        And there, in a nutshell, is the breathtaking selfishness, self-importance and entitlement lying behind this whole brouhaha.

        You don’t care who is affected as long as it isn’t you and your property values.

        • Mr Wisdom

          Gary, you presume too much. The political argument is irrelevant as is the presumption of wealth. This weekend take a trip to Mt Roskill or Oranga which are both under the Smart approach. No need to be afraid, the locals are largely friendly.

        • ‘It isn’t a matter of not caring about others Gary, it is about an overriding fear of what the future, both emotional and financial, holds for those who made a choice based on information available at the time, and have now had this certainty annulled’

          Where on earth would you get the idea that people are wealthy or entitled because they don’t happen to live under the old flightpath nor wish to be under a new one, the likes of which have not been previously experienced here?. It doesn’t pay to pick out bits to support a personal political view. You know absolutely nothing of peoples’ personal circumstances, you merely presume.

          I have spent a large portion of my life caring for others, the poor, the sick and elderly, I am now all three, faced with a frightening and uncertain future.

          Don’t kid yourself about any altruistic motives the airport may purport to have, what is relevant however is this is commerce, pure and simple.

  • William Stewart

    As much as I hate nimbyism I feel that these are valid complaints. It’s one thing to buy a house for cheap because you.know that it’s subject to aircraft noise. it’s another thing entirely.to completely out of the blue have to cope with massive disruption to your life without that choice.

  • Not Rich

    “This issue is not about the rich suburbs crying foul, it is about a corporate business doing what it pleases with little respect for residents of the community of which it is also part”. From letters to todays Herald.

  • James

    I don’t want aircraft doing this lower u-turn near my home in Mt Wellington thank you. Moving the flight path lower and the noise “West” into denser residential areas is extremely uncool.

  • Joshua

    My views are simple, preach what you speak. I agree that if there is increased noise that the residents have a valid complaint, as long as there was no information within the Lim report or council documents suggesting there could be in the future. In saying that, there is always risks when undertaking investments such as property, one of those is always the changing environment including the unknown. In the property market risks are high, which is why monetary gain is usually quite high, e.g. Capital Gain. In the end, if the benefits outweigh the costs, in which case is the increased noise for a few residents, they still should be changed.

    To assess the costs accurately evidence is important, which apparently you have?

    Coming back to my opening line, if you are asking for openness to information from the airport then you should be open with your information. No point asking them to be open if you are not prepared to be yourself. Plus if you start arguing the point they are not sharing information in court, it would look bad when you were also found of withholding. No point playing the but he/she did it first game as both parties would be guilty.

    Again with the limited information I know, it appears no actual increase in noise has occurred until evidence is provided to suggest otherwise.

    Also if going ahead with an argument I would suggest not suggesting solutions like banning all night flights, restricting the rights of thousands of residents and tourists everyday to benefit a few won’t go down well with the people of Auckland or the council.

  • Tony Cooper

    The report has been released and can be downloaded in the form of four documents from http://aucklandflightpathtrial.co.nz/news/

    In a nutshell: the trial has been successful (e.g. fuel savings of $NZ 600,000 annually) at a cost of a “just perceptible” few decibels of extra noise (7 dB at the most extreme). The SMART approach needs a bit of tweaking to reduce both noise and fuel consumption primarily through lesser use of the speed brakes to slow the planes down. Looks like this tweaking will be done in 2015. Speed brakes can add considerably to airframe noise (especially the Airbus 320 in an idle descent) and waste fuel (it’s like driving with your brakes on) so this, along with a slight height increase over Mt Roskill will be a win-win for residents and airlines. The downside is that residents will have to wait till 2015 to see what affect the tweaks have.

    As expected, the report does not address non-SMART noise but it does include a map of where the noise complaints were made and mentions non-SMART visual flight paths that resemble the SMART ones. These paths are going to be reviewed.

    The report is now open for public feedback. Public meetings will be held in July for the purpose of accepting feedback.

    • Glen

      Thanks for posting that Tony, the report is going to make interesting reading despite the limitations you mentioned.

      I see that they have booked larger venues for the meetings… but they don’t look like open floor type meetings, rather days split into slots where residents have 15 minutes of face time with someone (presumably someone in authority). I wonder if there will be any open public meetings in future…

    • 7dbs on a logarithmic scale is not insignificant Tony.

      • Tony Cooper

        That 7dba was at Reinheimer Place which is at the point where the flight path is at 2000ft. That’s where flights get noisy with wheels and flaps and is probably the noisiest residential spot under the new flight path – that would be why they chose it.

        The figure 7dba is the “LAmax” which is the “highest noise level which occurs during a single noise event.” The report says that this difference will be perceptible. It says that 3dba is “barely perceptible.”

        The figure 7dba refers to the difference between SMART and non-SMART flights. I would have liked the report to include the frequency of non-SMART flights over Reinheimer Place. They do say that the percentage of SMART flights is low over “all these locations” but from the chart above (the arrow “SMART Approach” points approximately to Reinheimer ) it looks to me as if the percentage of SMART flights is nearly 100%. This is where I asked them for data and it was not forthcoming. (I believe that there were technical reasons for not providing data rather than that they had something to hide).

        I’m still digesting the reports. Things may become clearer later.

    • David B

      “Just perceptible” is completely wrong if you are talking about a 7dB increase in noise pollution. That level of noise increase is always noticeable – be aware that a 10dB increase is the same as doubling the level of noise pollution.

      What is worse is that it is proposed to subject residents to this all day long and even in the middle of the night. That is a health and life quality cost that those tiny fuel savings come nowhere close to matching.

      • Josh

        It’s important to note this 7db was in one location only, Reinheimer place, located at the 2000ft. mark. Wonder what the average and means were?

  • Stevenz

    Having read through most of the posts (it’s Friday) and concluding that there is great concern about altitudes and noise impact, I would like to offer a clear solution to this problem: build an airport 10,000 feet above the ground. That way aircraft would never have to fly close to the ground, which is otherwise unavoidable with old-fashioned, ground-based airports. It would be easy to get to, too, being less than 3 km away.

  • Nick Iversen

    That’s a really dumb idea. Sticking an airport up that high means that airport taxis have to drive an extra 10,000 feet which will add astronomically to the cost of getting to the airport.

    A much better idea is to put the airport underground. A tunnel could be dug with the entrance which planes fly into at Pt Chev. The other end of the tunnel is at Britomart. People at Britomart can choose to go left to the airport or right to the trains.

    This will dramatically reduce the cost of flying because it avoids the taxi ride which is the most expensive part of a flight. And saves ratepayers the cost of putting in a train line to the airport. The existing airport can be turned into apartments to pay for the cost of the tunnel.

    • conan

      Good idea but your suggested portals would just create new noise issues over the North Shore. One in the Waitaks away from the little towns out there, and one at Glover Park in the east are the answer. As well as the apartments to help defray costs, all the Kauri you log around the portal opening could be sold as well. Additionally the tunnel could be a double decker, you could underground the Western and Eastern rail line and sell the land on top.

      • Steve D

        We could also reduce the impact of noise pollution by just reducing the time the noise goes on for. If, instead of planes, we had ballistic capsules, we could accelerate them up to hypersonic speeds using a railgun, and they’d be out of earshot in under a minute. That’d also really improve travel times for passengers. It’d be louder, but it wouldn’t go on and on.

  • MrV

    This whole trial only validated one thing “There ain’t no NIMBY like a whinging and complaining Auckland NIMBY”.

    The complaints started happening once the trial was announced in the media, and complaints relate to flights and paths that were unchanged. What does this tell you?

    NIMBY ALERT.

  • MrV

    Actually I know how this problem can be fixed. We need to implement what I will call it the SOCIALIST approach.
    All inbound aircraft are to approach the city and do multiple low passes (strafing runs if you will) over the entire city, ensuring everyone is subjected to an equal level of noise.

    Actually this is such a good idea in the name of fairness why just restrict it to inbound flights, passengers on outbound flights might like the photo ops that multiple passes would bring.

  • […] 28/05/2014 – A look at the SMART Approach Trial – Transport Blog […]

  • […] reported by the Transport Blog article the number of people affected and noise is the same as the existing flight path, there is […]

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