CAA Sets Out How It Will Oversee Heathrow’s Operational Freedoms Trial

Date: 31 October 2011

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is today setting out details of its role in overseeing the trial of operational freedoms which begins at Heathrow Airport on 1 November.

The trial, with a second phase next summer, are recommendations of the Government’s South East Airports Taskforce (SEAT). The CAA was appointed by the Minister of State for Transport to independently oversee and scrutinise the industry’s implementation of the Taskforce’s recommendations on punctuality, delay and resilience, including the operational freedoms trial.

The CAA has oversight over two aspects of the trial. First of all, before any element of the trial could commence, safety approval from the CAA was necessary, and has been granted for the first phase. CAA safety oversight will continue throughout the trial period. Secondly, the CAA will act to ensure that the trial is run within the limits agreed by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The CAA has been involved in the trial’s design and we will submit an independent analysis of the outcome to Government following its completion. We have ensured that BAA, Heathrow’s operator, has put in place proper arrangements to monitor the trial's impact on noise, air quality, carbon emissions, punctuality, delay and resilience. This data will enable the Government to judge the effectiveness of the measures, consult local communities and take decisions on whether to allow some or all of the measures to operate at the airport in the future.

Effective engagement with local communities by BAA is key to ensuring that everyone understands that the purpose of the trial is to explore how the airport can better prepare for and withstand disruption, and what this means for passengers and for local residents. The CAA has already held a number of discussions with BAA and the DfT about the engagement programme, and will maintain a dialogue with relevant local authorities.

For further media information contact the CAA Press Office on: 020 7453 6030. You can also follow the CAA on Twitter at @UK_CAA

About the trial

BAA is currently permitted under certain circumstances to use both runways for arrivals at the same time to clear major backlogs of flights waiting to land. The operational freedoms trial will test the impact of allowing more flexibility for BAA to do this, and of allowing similar flexibility for flights departing the airport, as well as specific tests using the same measures to analyse the airport’s ability to anticipate, withstand and recover from disruption.

Mixed mode, where both runways are used for arrival and departures at the same time will not be tested as part of this trial, and the trial will not involve any more flights at Heathrow, as the current cap of 480,000 annual movements is not being changed.

The trial is designed to test the impact of allowing increased use of these measures only in defined and limited circumstances in order to reduce disruption and to allow better recovery from it. The measures will only be used in strictly controlled circumstances as agreed by the DfT and the CAA.

The trial is due to commence on Tuesday 01 November 2011 for a four-month period. There will be a second three-month trial starting on 01 July 2012.

Notes to Editors
1. Details of the DfT’s SEAT report can be found here: SEAT Report
2. More information on the work being undertaken by the CAA to implement the South East Airports Task Force’s recommendations can be found at
3. BAA have published more information about their plans during the trial on their website here: Heathrow Airport: Noise
4. BAA have also produced a video explaining the operational freedoms measures, which can be viewed here: Runway Operation Trial at Heathrow
5. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.