Brussels Airport’s ombudsman assesses the runway renovation works completed this summer

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© Brussels Airport

The renovation work on the main Brussels Airport runway 25R has just been completed: air traffic can resume normally through the usual corridors. The good news is that the Mediation Service has informed and communicated a lot, the bad news remains that the number of complaints has increased sharply during the 7 weeks of closure of runway 25R.

The Government’s Mediation Service (and not Brussels Airport) informed 7 days a week for 7 weeks from 06:00 to 24:00, every day, including Saturdays and Sundays; with over 300,000 views of its posts on Twitter and even more on Facebook. It is clear from the comments of residents and associations that the one and only communication from Brussels Airport on this work made in September 2019 was much too early and that many people were unaware of this 7-week project during the summer.

In terms of criticism, the mayors, associations and residents have formulated the following grievances:

  • Regrets that the traffic was mainly concentrated in a single area, namely the regions in the axis of runway 01/19 (Sterrebeek, Wezembeek, Kraainem, Woluwe, Tervuren, Perk, Wambeek);
  • Evolution at very low altitude (under 1,000 feet) of military planes, mainly C-130s on axes outside of any published procedure, which had the effect of creating panic attitudes among people overflown;
  • Brussels Airport information was communicated too early in September 2019, was not repeated in June 2020 before the start of the works and was not broadcast under the newly flown 01/19 corridors;
  • Problem of heavy and wide-body planes which have flown over densely populated areas at too low altitudes, including around the Saint-Luc clinic;
  • The mayors and associations are also asking for compensation for these 7 weeks of intensive use of runway 01/19;
  • In general, most complaints point to the lack of environmental standards in the Flemish Region, the lack of understanding regarding the continuation of night flights and the non-closure of the airport at night and the unfair distribution of flight paths, which are unbalanced according to the ratio 30% to the North and 70% to the East during take-offs from runways 01, 07 and 19,  whereas this ratio is 50/50 for take-offs from runway 25R.

The Federal Mediation Service, on reading and analysing all these numerous complaints, finds that:

  • Jumbo jets generate more than half of the complaints and that their evolution should be restricted in the evening, in the morning and at night;
  • Many large aircraft over 136 tonnes have asked to be able to take off from a runway other than assigned runway 19, which shows that runway 19, which is shorter and less well equipped, is not suitable for receiving heavy aircraft traffic of over 136 tonnes at high speed as long as it is not longer and better secured by additional safety equipment (RESA and EMAS as indicated in the report of the investigation unit on the Kalitta crash of May 2008);
  • No consultation has been established, despite numerous and repeated requests, with Brussels Airport which has tended to neglect the considerable impact of the change of the acoustic discomfort of these works, with a significant impact on the south-east of Brussels, Tervuren, Overijse, La Hulpe and even Waterloo;
  • No follow-up has been carried out by the authorities or any adaptation or correction of the ministerial instruction; while the Federal Mediation Service sent them a neutral and objective analysis of the situation every week, week after week;
  • The weather conditions were particular (high temperature, persistent fog or heavy thunderstorms), which complicated the situation leading to unusual take-off procedures;
  • At certain times none of the still available runways was in optimal safety conditions, and it was necessary to use runway 01/19 with a tailwind; this proves that most of the time the south-westerly wind is in the 250° axis of runways 25, which are the longest and best equipped, and thus must remain the priority preferential runways.

The Federal Mediation Service will shortly provide the authorities with a complete and detailed assessment, quantified and illustrated by graphs, of the flight modes consecutive to the 7-week closure of runway 25R, and will include all the cases observed and reported in the numerous complaints received as a result of this work.

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© Philippe Touwaide

SUNDAY 23 AUGUST 2020

1 COMMENT

  1. well well, what these people suffered during 7 weeks , we have this in de Noordrand every day and night-always…..not just 7 weeks…..

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