Life under the Heathrow flightpath from being woken up at 4.30am to being able hearing the birds sing in lockdown

Flights have started to pick up and a return to pre-pandemic levels is in sight. In some cases, there are many who are anxious.

The reason for this anxiousness is not getting on the flight. It is what happens when the flights take off and arrive.

According to Heathrow’s 2018 statistics, there were 1,300 flights daily.

With talks of a third runway and expansion at Heathrow, this could lead to more than 700 extra flights a day.

For the airport itself, that’s great. How about the people on the ground?

MyLondon spoke to residents about what it is like for them living under a flight path.

Life under the Heathrow flightpath from being woken up at 4.30am to being able hearing the birds sing in lockdown
© Handout Julie Wheelwright says she stays inside most of the time. The noise from the planes has made life ‘unpleasant’

Julie Wheelwright, 61, lives in Camberwell, some 18 miles from the airport.

She said: “Suddenly when I moved to Camberwell, I realised we were living under this flight path.

“We don’t just get the planes from Heathrow going over. We get them from City Airport as well.

“Heathrow arrivals start from 4.30 in the morning. Often other people in my neighbourhood are woken up by the low, loud flights.

“Sometimes they are so low you can even see particular airlines name.”

It is surprising to see that even Julie is impacted by these flights but she says it could be down to a change in strategy.

Heathrow introduced the biggest change to its flight paths by introducing PBN.

PBN stands for Performance-based Navigation and this means that planes fly in a narrower, concentrated flight path.

Life under the Heathrow flightpath from being woken up at 4.30am to being able hearing the birds sing in lockdown
© Handout Julie Wheelwright looked up one day and saw the trails of multiple planes in the sky. This has become an everyday occurrence now

It is an ongoing introduction and the move to PBN with all flights would ensure planes are guided more precisely. Following in one path can also economise the use of fuel.

However, this is where the problem for residents may lie.

“Now that planes all follow the same path to get to the airport this has meant just constant nose,” she said. “It’s a traffic of noise. It’s deeply unpleasant.

Life under the Heathrow flightpath from being woken up at 4.30am to being able hearing the birds sing in lockdown
© Getty Images Europe Many people in the local village of Harmondsworth are strongly opposed to the third Heathrow runway as it would likely mean the demolition of the village

“It feels like the airlines aren’t concerned about the people living underneath. It’s not just the people near an airport who are affected.

“The constant noise and pollution just make you want to stay inside.”

Harmondsworth resident Justine Bayley, 71, has lived in the area for 30 years and has become well accustomed to the noise the airport brings.

“The noise is there all the time. You do sort of get used to it,” she explained.

“There are flights in the middle of the night which are a big disturbance. They usually wake me up once planes go over.”

Along with the noise it brings, Justine is also concerned about pollution.

“With noise, you can hear the problem. With pollution, you can’t see it or hear it,” she said.

Even with all the problems it brings living close to the airport, Justine still sees it as a “nice, beautiful village”.

However, if the third runway does go through she is worried about how that will impact things.

She said: “If it is expanded and a third runway is built, the boundary of the airport will be 50-yards from my door.

“Large numbers of people are already affected by current flight paths. The extra 700 flights a day would only make it worse.

“I’d have to wear my ear defenders every time I open the door.”

Life under the Heathrow flightpath from being woken up at 4.30am to being able hearing the birds sing in lockdown
© Handout Giovanna Iozzi everyday life changed n 2017. Now, planes over her house are a constant

Giovanna Iozzie, 48 has been living in Haringey for 10 years. She noticed a change in 2017 that has made living there difficult.

She said: “I was in my garden one day and I noticed a lot of planes coming quite low over my house.

“They seemed more frequent. I did some research and looked into it and found that due to PBN, my area is a high-overflown one.

“I’m really concerned about the increase in flights.”

This change resulted in more frequent flights over Giovanna’s house.

This has led to more sleepless nights due to planes flying to Heathrow at 5 am and ultimately, impacting her peace of mind.

Along with the noise and restless nights, an increase in flights means more emissions, something Giovanna can’t believe is right.

Giovanna said: “We’re in the midst of a climate crisis and yet, there’s talk of more flights? It’s insane.

“We are a really overflown area. There is no respite for us, it’s constant throughout the day. If you haven’t been overflown in the past, then suddenly are. It’s a big change

“I used to love living here. Now, I just want to move. “It’s like a road above my head and I can’t control it.

“Flights shouldn’t be coming over communities. Let alone communities 30 miles away.”

The pandemic provided all three with a break from worrying about flights. As flights significantly dropped, they said that they could actually hear birds in the area as well as mentioning the air “felt cleaner”.

Do you have a story you think we should be covering? If so, email

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