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Flight paths for a new Gatwick runway

A note by GACC

The attached maps are only illustrative, and should not be taken as showing
the exact position of the future flight paths. It is up to Gatwick Airport Ltd in
conjunction with National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to publish more accurate
maps so that the public can be aware of the probable consequences of a new

Airports which build new runways, however, usually decline to publish flight
paths until after the new runway opens, thus helping to defuse opposition. The
excuse is that the air traffic control authorities have not yet decided on the
routes. This can cause huge resentment. For example, at Frankfurt after a
new runway was opened in 2011 there were massive demonstrations with up to
8,000 people protesting that they had been misled. 1

Gatwick Airport Ltd have stated that they are looking for a location for a new
runway between the airport and Crawley.

In 2003 when a similar proposal was last discussed, BAA, the then owners of
Gatwick, stated that any new runway south of the existing runway would need
to be operated in mixed mode, that is, being used both for landing and for
taking-off as is the case with the existing runway. The existing runway would
also need to continue in mixed mode.

At Heathrow, which has two runways, one is used for landings and one for take-
offs, which is called segregated mode. That is practicable because four out of
the five terminals lie between the runways.

At Gatwick, however, the two existing terminals lie to the north of the existing
runway. It would not be possible to operate a two-runway Gatwick in
segregated mode because aircraft using the new southern runway would need
to cross the existing runway to reach the existing terminals. The only
practicable way to operate a two-runway Gatwick would be in mixed mode, so
that aircraft using the existing runway would use the existing terminals, and
aircraft using the southern runway would use a new terminal between, or to
the south of, the runways.

Gatwick Airport Ltd have stated that they are considering a close parallel
runway or a wide spaced runway. In the case of a close parallel runway,
arrivals and departures would need to be synchronised in order to avoid
dangerous wake turbulence. That would severely limit the capacity of the
airport, and is unlikely to appeal to the Airports Commission.

The maps are therefore based on a so-called ‘wide-spaced’ runway as shown in

the 2003 Air Transport White Paper, and in the 2012 Gatwick Master Plan,
1,035 m to the south of the existing runway – the closest together that is
permitted under international regulations for independent operation.

Take-off routes

With independent mixed mode operation it would frequently occur that two
aircraft were taking-off simultaneously, in the same direction one from each
runway. Initially they would be on two parallel tracks 1,035 m apart. Flight
paths would need to be designed to avoid mid-air collisions.

When taking-off towards the west, the safest route would be for aircraft from
the new southern runway to peel off left, close to Horsham. Alternatively they
might be directed to take a wide swing round to the north and then to the
east, taking them over the Surrey Hills AONB, and the southern side of Dorking,
Reigate and Redhill.

Aircraft taking-off towards the east would need new flight paths, with the
existing flight path to the south-east (Seaford Easterly) having to be moved
further east, possibly over East Grinstead (shown on the map as a dashed blue

Approach paths

Most aircraft approach Gatwick from the east, keeping to a straight ‘glide-
path’ for the final 10-15 miles.

With two runways operating independently, for the final 10-15 miles there
would need to be two parallel approach paths, one kilometre apart. So the
approach path for the new southern runway from the east would pass directly
over Dormansland.

At present aircraft fly on a wide variety of routes over Sussex (all passing over
the Ashdown Forest AONB) before joining the final approach path. If that
dispersed system continues, the effect of a new runway would be merely to
double the number of aircraft in the sky. In a few years time however, as a
result of improved navigational equipment, the flight paths are likely to be
concentrated onto a few routes in the same area. With two runways and twice
the number of aircraft, the number of such concentrated routes would be likely
to double. It is not known where these routes might be – the maps are purely

A similar situation would apply for aircraft approaching from the west. There
would be two parallel approach paths 1 km apart for the final 10-15 miles. And
double the number of concentrated flight paths approaching from the south.