Yes we can: the story so far… To be commercially viable (let alone successful), Manston will have to be very busy; and night flights are undesirable on a number of counts. Top marks to those of you who have leapt to the conclusion that there will be a lot of daytime flights.
During the day there’s the advantage that fewer people will be woken from their sleep. For those already awake, the planes will be just as loud as at night, but the higher level of background noise means that the overall effect is less startling and disruptive.
It’s worth remembering that the human body is designed to work best with a ‘normal’ background level of entirely natural noises – think in terms of the plains of Africa, Garden of Eden, Sherwood Forest, walking in wide open countryside, that sort of thing. Anything above and beyond that rapidly becomes stressful – just how stressful depends on the volume, pitch, repetition and so on. Even relatively small changes in the noise levels can have a significant effect. A brief digression for a quiet chat about decibels:
Sounds are measured in decibels. Zero (0) decibels is the softest sound a person with normal hearing can hear at least 50% of the time.The important thing to know about decibels is this: if a sound increases by 10 decibels, it doubles in loudness as we perceive it – it sounds twice as loud. Here are decibel levels of everyday sounds:
- 0 Decibels Threshold of hearing
- 10 Rustle of leaves
- 20 Water dripping
- 30 Whisper
- 40 Quiet radio in room
- 50 Moderate rainfall
- 60 Conversation, dishwasher
- 70 Busy traffic, vacuum cleaner
- 80 Alarm clock
- 90 Lawnmower
- 100 Snowmobile, chainsaw
- 110 Rock music
- 120 Jet plane takeoff
Now you know.
The point of telling you these things is to let you grasp the significance of this: a 5 decibel increase of noise during the day has been linked to primary school children being up to two months per year behind in their reading age. Five decibels is a relatively small increase in noise levels. Currently in Ramsgate there are primary schools operating what has been called “jet-pause teaching”, where everything just comes to a halt until everyone can hear themselves think again. This is unacceptable. Nobody should have to put up with that, least of all our kids.
The obvious solution is to regulate and manage the flow of air traffic. This will inevitably involve trade-offs: for good practical reasons the planes like to have a long straight run-up to the runway when landing. An absolutely straight line may take them right over a town. We need to work together to see how much leeway there is, and how far the flight path can be curved away from town. It may be worth exploring trying to keep the planes higher for longer – we all know that some come in too low, too soon. We could look at the timings of flights – aircraft noise during the rush hour would seem less intrusive. We need imaginative solutions.
This should be one of the cornerstones of the S106 re-negotiations: avoid flying over built-up areas wherever and whenever possible – use the sea, or unpopulated/sparsely populated land instead. As I said before, it’s not rocket science, just sense. Add your comments below, or email me.