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Flight Path to Destruction?

Its 3am. The city of Leeds is in a deep sleep. The dull metallic roar of the road network lays silent. Suddenly a distant rumble begins. First at Holbeck. Through the city centre. Then Hyde Park. Headingley. Men, women and children sleep away. Oblivious to the 500 tons of steel floating just a few hundred feet over their very homes. Luckily, it was Jet2 flight LS384 inbound from Salzburg that landed safely at 3:15am into Leeds Bradford Airport. But with over 25 movements per hour, how safe are we in our homes or are we on a flight path to destruction? Leeds Bradford Airport is the 16th busiest airport in the UK, serving as an international travel hub for Yorkshire. It is also the highest in the UK at 670ft making it highly susceptible to heavy cross winds and inclement weather. Most worryingly however, the positioning of the main runway at LBA has resulted in a flight path that stretches across the breadth of Leeds.
The primary flight path into Leeds Bradford Airport

To gain a better understanding of LBA and the troubles they face, Jennifer Allen, a University of Leeds Aviation Technology graduate, tries to shed some light on the matter.
Google Maps

Leeds Bradford Airport is susceptible to considerable cross win ds, so much so that on a clear day you can see the aircraft crabbing in. Although this may look like the aircraft is under considerable stress, it is in fact completely normal and all pilots are trained in these conditions to ensure that they are up to scratch. Cross wind landings are not unusual around the world, airports with a high elevation or coastal airports all suffer this problem causing aircrafts and pilots to put their training into practice. But Jennifer seems to think that its more than the cross winds that are troubling Leeds Bradford Airport.

The aircraft we see at Leeds Bradford airport tend to be airbus A319s and Boeing 737s. These aircraft are lighter and approach the runway at a much slower speed; as a result of this their susceptibility to the wind is much greater. It seems then that the heavy cross winds and aircraft that Leeds Bradford Airport attracts all add to its problems, but they dont finish there. The airlines we see flying out of Leeds Bradford such as Jet2, Ryan Ai r and Easyjet are all known as starter airlines. When pilots graduate from flying school, they dont hold the necessary qualifications required to be a fully-fledged airline pilot. Instead they need to complete another 2000 hours of flying which is usually conducted on these smaller budget airlines to earn their Airline Transport Pilots License. This lack of experience could potentially be dangerous. In September last year, a Ryan Air aircraft flying into Leeds Bradford Airport had to abort its landing due to heavy crosswinds. Later on it was reported in the media that passengers screamed as the Airbus A319 had to conduct a full go around procedure. It seems therefore that heavy cross winds, more susceptible aircraft and lesserexperienced pilots formulate a concoction for disaster. So what are the relevant authorities doing to combat a major incident? Jonathon Diggins is an employee at NATS, the National Air Traffic Control Services. When questioned on these points he had this to say: Although a large proportion of pilots flying with these low cost airlines do not hold a full ATP license, they are all observed and fly with captains who on average have over ten years experience. These captains are able to take over control if necessary and train these novice pilots on the job. This is a proven form of pilot training which is incorporated worldwide. It seems then that although this on the job style training may seem disconcerting to some passenger, it should be reassuring to know that there is a highly experienced captain ready to step in. This doesnt however answer the problem with issues such as a double engine failure when flying over such densely populated areas of Leeds. We spoke to Ruth Corlett, a student living in Headingley and directly under the flight path to LBA. At first I found it a novelty, watching the brightly lit planes flying over as I lay in bed. After a while they begin to be a nuisance, causing a lot of noise and keeping you awake. Eventually my mind began to wonder about the safety side of things, I now find it quite unnerving when I see the larger planes flying so slowly over the house. [The conversation pauses as an aircraft roars overhead] It would be nice if the news or student papers did an article on the matter as Im sure Im not the only person to think about it, particularly when procrastinating during exam periods.

Jon Diggins, a former employee for NATS would like to reassure residents of Leeds insisting that no flight path is built without the safety of those living under it placed first. When we set up a flight path, corridor or glideslope into an airport, the first thing we do assess the safety of those around it. Leeds is unique in the sense that its flight path travels directly over the city at lower than normal altitudes. That said, various precautions would have been put in place to ensure that in the event of a double engine failure, aircraft are still able to glide safely into pre arranged emergency landing fields and aerodromes within the local area. Before being cleared to conduct these approaches, pilots must have read and be familiar with charts and emergency procedures to ensure the safety of everyone on board and around them. It should therefore be reassuring to know that various precautions and measures have been put in place to ensure that a potentially dangerous environment has been made as safe as possible. Leeds Bradford Airport definitely has an unusual set up, but it is this coupled with just so many other things that make Leeds such a unique and exciting place to work, study and live in.