No Night Flights
Campaigning against the introduction of
scheduled night flights at Manston.
Manston Airport closed in May 2014, and throughout it’s years of commercial operation, the S106 agreement with Thanet District Council banned “Regular Night Flying Operations”.
There were a few exceptions – for example, “humanitarian mercy or emergency flights by relief organisations” were excluded, but even then the Council limited them to “not more than 12 occasions in any calendar year”. Manston was also occasionally used for military flights, usually linked to relief efforts in war zones.
We have always excluded the so-called AHEM flights (Aid, Humanitarian, Emergency, Military) from our campaign. Our concern has always been scheduled night flights, so let’s start with the simple stuff: what counts as night?
Night time runs from 2300 to 0700
or in old money:
Night time runs from 11pm to 7am
This is the standard definition of night time, as used throughout the aviation industry globally, nationally, and locally. Shun anyone who tries to tell you differently – they are trying to move the goalposts, and they are trying to steal your sleep.
Apart from the AHEM flights mentioned above, who else could we expect to turn up in the small hours? There were occasional diversions, when planes were diverted from their original destination for any one of a number of good reasons. Diversions only happen through urgency or emergency, at day or night, and just have to be accepted. (Significantly, despite being under some of the busiest skies in Europe, Manston was hardly ever used for diversions – usually in single figures and accounting for less than 0.5% of the national total in any year.)
By far the commonest unscheduled night flight is simply a delayed day flight. Delays are unavoidable, and unsurprisingly the S106 that banned scheduled night flights but made allowance for AHEM flights also had provisions to cover delayed flights – the airport would face a scale of increasing fines.
Finally, we have the question of what counts as a scheduled flight. If there’s a timetable with night flights on, that’s clear enough. But what happens if a flight expected at 10pm is always 3 hours late? In practice, to date, it has been the airport operator that has decided whether a flight is “scheduled” or not.
The No Night Flights group has campaigned successfully since 2009 to prevent the introduction of scheduled night flights at Manston, and with the airport’s closure in 2014, we had thought the threat had passed. If only!
The latest threat comes from RiverOak, who say they will run a successful cargo hub airport at Manston. Having previously insisted that they neither wanted nor needed night flights, RiverOak have now published a “Scoping Report” that would allow an extraordinarily high level of night flights.
They recently held a round of informal public presentations as part of their preparation for submitting a formal application to the Planning Inspectorate for permission to nab the land. Here’s our report on the shambles that resulted when RiverOak met The Public.