Battersea Heliport and helicopter noise
Environmental impact and controls
The heliport's operations are known to adversely impact on the local environment in respect of noise. There is also a potential adverse effect in respect of air quality. The Government has to date not seen fit to introduce a legal instrument fixing maximum operational noise limits for helicopters. Wandsworth Council is only able to control noise to a limited extent through its town planning powers.
On any one day the maximum number of movements allowed is 80. In addition there are five days when the limit is raised to 160. The heliport can accept up to 130 movements on other days provided the total for all these 'busy days' does not exceed 1,000. Helicopter activity is at its most intense during major sporting events.
A number of exemptions to the above are however permitted. For example all emergency services flights and those undertaken by Government VIPs are allowed on top of the 12,000 annual movements. In addition up to 1,000 armed forces flights may also take place outside the quota. A further exemption to the quota is given in respect of all flights made in connection with the Farnborough Air Show during the dates of the show.
The section 106 agreement also provides some theoretical limit on the numbers of the noisiest types of helicopters permitted to use Battersea. All civilian helicopters are required to pass international noise certification (ICAO) tests. The certification process for helicopters is similar to that adopted for fixed wing aircraft.
At Battersea Heliport, helicopters that are not able to meet a local noise standard of 81dB(A) at a distance of 150 metres from the take off position are restricted to a maximum of 1,500 movements within the annual 12,000 quota. Most commercial helicopters using Battersea however fall within an automatic approved "A" list which was drawn up by the former Greater London Council. In practice this control now does little to encourage the introduction of newer and less noisy types of helicopter.
The heliport operates a published "fly neighbourly" policy which requires pilots - so far as is possible - to:
- Always fly as high as possible subject to Air Traffic Control clearance
- Maintain circuit height (1000ft) until final approach and on departure climb to circuit height as soon as possible
- Make all approaches and departures over the river
- Not to manoeuvre (other than approaches) below 500ft
- Limit ground running of engines to a maximum of five minutes
Helicopter movements are permitted to occur seven days a week between the hours of 7am and 10.59pm. There is, however, an exemption for emergencies which permits movements outside these times. Such flights are limited strictly to those necessary for the purposes of national or medical emergency.