Gatwick Route 4 set to return to historical position by end of 2019

In a new development, the CAA has agreed to take a decision which is expected to see Route 4 return to its 2012 (pre- PRNAV) position in December 2019.

This follows lengthy correspondence with the CAA concerning the need to bring matters to a conclusion following the judicial review (JR) brought by Plane Justice in 2018.  The JR had established amongst other things that the design of the current flight path approved by the CAA, which was intended to replicate the route flown in 2012, had in fact omitted to duly take into account the 2012 location of the route. 

The intention of the reversion in December, is to see the route return to its pre-PRNAV 2012 position (sometimes referred to as its ‘legacy’ location) which had kept the peace for many years in the communities north of Gatwick when there were next to no complaints about departing aircraft noise.  

This reversion of the route in December will be an interim measure, pending the conclusion in 2021 of the fresh airspace change process launched by Gatwick to redesign the current PRNAV version of the route which had been impugned by the judicial review.

Some of these developments are also reported in Gatwick’s 12 July 2019 blog which can be found at:

Acting Plane Justice Chairman said:
“The overwhelming feeling is one of relief, in seeing as we now expect a lawful and just end to a sad chapter that should never have seen the route moved in the first place.
Meanwhile we will be doing everything we can to see this anticipated December reversion of Route 4 to its ‘legacy’ location is brought about in a well informed and orderly fashion, and we will continue to engage constructively with the new Route 4 airspace change proposal that Gatwick launched at the end of last year.

There are no winners in this sorry saga, except that we’ve sensed, literally in the last year as we believe, a change in awareness by policy and decision makers of the impacts of aviation for all those who live beneath its flightpaths; We think this has come about at least in part through the plight of those who have found themselves newly overflown in the past five or six years as a result of less enlightened decision making back then.

As a result of the efforts of certain sympathetic politicians and industry decision makers, and of community groups, to push this matter up the agenda, we now believe there’s reason to be optimistic looking to the future of more effective initiatives that could begin to make a real difference,

 – be it more demanding aircraft noise reduction plans than previously existed, increasing retrenchment from the invidious policy of concentrating routes, or higher aircraft altitudes which are a key component of the Future Airspace Strategy Implementation (FASI) airspace modernisation programme. 
Along with more powerful voices for change we are pressing for these to be realised, along with fit and proper compensation for those who are overflown and for amelioration of airport expansion in line with greater public awareness of the environmental cost of air travel.”

Notes for those unfamiliar with Route 4:

  1. Route 4 is a departure route from Gatwick Airport.  The Route was moved in May 2016 and currently overflies new communities to the North of the airport.
  2. With the support of the affected communities Plane Justice brought a Judicial review (JR) against the CAA of its decision to approve the route in its altered location.  This concluded in February 2018 with the CAA conceding that in approving the current design of the route, it had been labouring under a misapprehension as to the historical disposition of the route and had not taken into account the value of leaving the route in its 2012 location.
  3. The conclusion of the judicial review led to Gatwick launching (in December 2018) a fresh airspace change proposal (2018 ACP) to redesign the current route which had been impugned by the outcome of the judicial review, and also to its reinstating the old conventional route (i.e. in effect the route as it had existed back to 2012). 
  4. The development now being reported in this news release, means that all aircraft using Route 4 will revert in December this year to flying coded overlays[1] of the reinstated old conventional route (i.e. in effect the route as it had existed back to 2012, sometimes referred to as the ‘legacy route’).  Reversion to the original status quo is a normal and proper consequence in an airspace change process when a new route design is determined unacceptable in satisfying its objective, and was always the consequence set down by the CAA in this case. 
    From December, it’s expected that this ‘legacy route’ will be flown by all aircraft using Route 4, until it is superseded by the route emerging from the 2018 ACP which is anticipated to conclude some time in 2021.

[1] Coded overlays enable old conventional navigation routes to be flown by means of sat-nav, and this was the technology being used at Gatwick for a number of years up to and including 2012, and which kept the peace in the communities, before the introduction of P-RNAV which sparked the changes on Route 4 leading eventually to the judicial review.