The Belgian Federal Ombudsman for Air Transport decides to carry out himself the Brussels Airport noise register mandated by the Government 20 years ago

50 years of flying and going around in circles in the case of nuisances around Brussels-National, the Mediator himself carries out the famous noise register expected for almost 20 years!

On 1 August 1972, after contested tests of new take-off procedures overflying the then less densely populated area north of Brussels, the Régie des Voies Aériennes/Regie der Luchtwegen (RVA/RLW, which has since become Skeyes) put into service the 25R take-off procedures called “right turn” and “left turn”, which are practically unchanged since.

The aim of the RVA/RLW was honourable: following the entry into commercial service of wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 747, Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed Tristar L-1011 at Brussels-National, the RVA/RLW wanted to adapt the take-off procedures dating from 1945 and 1958 avoiding flying over Brussels, which is increasingly densely populated.

Since these adaptations of 1972 and 1974, nothing has fundamentally changed in the skies of Brussels: “right turn”, “left turn” and “straight on” at weekends for jumbo jets.

50 years of going around in circles between dispersal and concentration, 50 years of looking for solutions with uphill and downhill bends, and an altitude to reach that goes to 500, 700, 1700 or 2000 feet;

50 years of playing with the wind standard which has varied between 8, 10, 5 and then 7 knots, with the choice of whether or not to take gusts into account;

50 years of fighting over procedures but taking no restrictive measures on the types of aircraft allowed to operate day or night;

50 years that everyone claims they live in a densely populated area, but still no noise mapping has been established;

50 years that the issue of overflights has been in the news according to electoral deadlines.

50 years that no correct, environmentally acceptable, sustainable and respectful solution has ever been proposed;

50 years that no one dares to take the slightest restrictive measure on air and airport activity for fear of slowing down the Air Transport economy.

As the “famous” noise register imposed on 3 December 2003 by the Council of Ministers when accepting Bert Anciaux’s Dispersal Plan was never implemented, the Federal Mediator for Air Transport, Philippe Touwaide, and his motivated team, have decided to take the lead and carry out this long-awaited register themselves.

In compliance with its exclusively Federal competencies, i.e. excluding noise standards and noise measurements at immission which remain a regional matter, the Mediation Service of the Federal Government for Brussels Airport presents this 1 August 2022 a complete mapping of overflights around Brussels:

  • Maps of the areas overflown track by track with radar plots
  • Maps of the number of overflights by area
  • Maps of the number of overflights per runway
  • Distribution of 25R take-off overflights
  • Overall runway usage since 1996
  • Annual evolution of runway use since 1995
  • Annual traffic figures since 1947
  • Annual number of passengers since 1947
  • Annual cargo volume figures since 1947
  • Annual night flight figures since 1982
  • Number of inhabitants and population density of the municipalities flown over
  • Individual aircraft noise level
  • Maximum individual aircraft take-off weight

As Philippe TOUWAIDE, Federal Mediator and Master in Aviation Law, explains: “sustainable solutions exist to bring serenity and calm to each resident, but also taking into account the impact of flights on health, heart rate and sleep disorders. Every citizen has the right to be able to sleep a full night in peace. It is time to take action on the types of planes admitted in the morning, evening and night, and to establish an “LEZ” for Brussels-National. Old, noisy and polluting planes must be banned from Brussels. The airport operator must respect those around it and take strong environmental initiatives to reduce noise and pollution from its airport activity. The neighbourhood of Brussels-National has changed significantly over the past 50 years, yet the operation of the airport has unfortunately remained the same, without any adaptation of procedures or traffic to climate change and to urban planning changes and changes in population density around this airport site“.

The Federal Ombudsman wants, with this map, to demonstrate who is flown over, when, how, by what type of traffic, and at what period.

The Federal Mediator also requires, in a State governed by Law, strict compliance with all aeronautical regulations, laws, orders and court decisions; and he can no longer tolerate the very high number of breaches of the law that he observes at Brussels-National, especially at night.

The Airport must respect its environment, and the balance between Economy, Environment and Health must be sought in the general interest,” concluded Philippe TOUWAIDE, Federal Ombudsman, Director of the Mediation Service.

Historical reminder of the evolution of take-off procedures from the most used runway, 25R

Until 1972 the planes (30,000/year) took off straight on the axis of runway 25R and turned much further than today:

  • 2000 feet for propeller planes (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse, Brussels-City, turn above the Grand-Place)
  • 3000 feet for jet planes (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse, Brussels-City, Koekelberg, Molenbeek, Anderlecht, turns from Anderlecht-Scheut)

The technical working group set up between the RVA/RLW and the Belgian airlines was completely independent and objective, and had opted on 16 May 1972 for a new air corridor for the concentration of procedures for all take-offs, from the North of Brussels, flying over what was to become the Brussels Ring in order to avoid flying over Brussels and inhabited areas, and this without any political or community ulterior motive:

  • 16.05.1972 to 31.07.1972: 500 feet to the left for aeroplanes with 1,2,3 propellers
  • 16.05.1972 to 31.07.1972: 700 feet to the RIGHT then 1700 to the left by the Ring, for jet and 4-engine propeller planes

These new procedures are arousing strong protest, especially in Meise, where a local member of parliament named Jos Chabert demands to immediately review the new procedures which concentrate all air traffic in his municipality.

And therefore, on 1 August 1972, the very recent take-off procedures were already modified, and adapted according to the scheme which is still used in 2022:

  • the planes turn to the right at 700 feet (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Neder Over Heembeek towards the Noordrand area) and at 1700 feet to the left (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Schaerbeek, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, Woluwe-Saint- Pierre to the “Oostrand” area in the direction of GATTA (former beacon of Sint-Agatha-Rode, which later became HUL in Huldenberg)
  • large aircraft with 4 engines only (Boeing 707 and 747 and DC-8) turn at 4000 feet only to the left in the axis of the runway towards HUL (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse, Brussels-City, Koekelberg, Molenbeek, Anderlecht, turn from Anderlecht-Moortebeek regional territory limits at Neerpede)

In 1974, Jos CHABERT became Minister of Transport, and wanted to spare his town of Meise even more on weekends, and decided to divert all flights to SILLY (future Chièvres beacon) which now depart via the centre of Brussels, and not via the Ring, from Friday evening to Monday morning (Diegem, Haren, Evere, Schaerbeek, Saint-Josse, Brussels-City, Anderlecht, Uccle limits towards Ruisbroeck) on the reason that “Brussels is emptied of its commuters at the weekend and that a good number of Brussels residents go to their country-houses“.

From 22 July 1974, the historic centre of the City of Brussels, and mainly the pedestrian zones located around the Grand Place, are therefore flown over every weekend by all planes bound for West and South-Western Europe, thus following the “Chabert Route” or “CIV WEEK-END”, itinerary adapted since to become the “Canal Route” since June 12, 2003.

Indeed, the Minister of Communications at the time, Mr Jos CHABERT, had diverted weekend traffic from the suburbs of Meise by giving the following instruction by telephone, an order which would be quite unthinkable today:

“Brussels National NOTAM A/176 22/07/1974, by order of Minister of Communications, the following new Silly departure is mandatory for aircraft taking off from the runway 25 on weekends i.e form Fridays 2100 GMT to Mondays 0500 GMT, after Take-Off proceed to Silly direct”.

From 1974 to 2022, despite various other attempts to improve these procedures, nothing has fundamentally changed, and the right turn is always made at 700 feet while the left turn is made from 1700 feet.

Monday, August 1, 2022


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