Expatica news

Schiphol Airport ‘safety risks’ anger councils

21 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Municipal councils around Schiphol in Amsterdam are angered by plans to stretch noise pollution regulations and the lack of information about seven recent “safety risk” incidents involving planes using the airport’s new runway.

Political parties have demanded answers from Liberal VVD Transport State Secretary Melanie Schultz van Haegen, with VVD MP Paul de Krom claiming that it is not credible to adjust the noise pollution regulations again, newspaper De Volkskrant reported on Wednesday.

Air Traffic Control the Netherlands (LVNL) has also told the state secretary that it was wedged between a rock and a hard place with the existing noise pollution regulations.

And LVNL chairman Eric Kroese confirmed there had been seven “possible safety risk” incidents in recent months.

As a result, the flight routes of planes using the Zwanenburgbaan runway and the parallel Polderbaan, the airport’s newest runway, have been adjusted. But the changes have led to subsequent breaches of the legally permitted noise limit in nearby municipalities.

In the period from 7 November to 4 January, seven “incidents” occurred in airspace as a result of intensive use of the Zwanenburgbaan and Polderbaan. Departing planes flew too close to each other on take-off and it is hoped that the changes to flight routes will prevent further problems.

But despite the “safety risk”, LVNL said no near-accidents occurred. It said the safety risks were caused by hard winds, imprecise navigation equipment and flight errors made by individual pilots on approaching airplanes.

Despite the fact that the safety risk has been talked down, the Schiphol Regional Consultation Committee has received several complaints from people who observed noticeable flight deviations.

The municipal councils of Haarlemmermeer, Haarlem, Uitgeest and Haarlemmerliede en Spaarnwoude have also expressed concern about the alleged “laconic attitude of traffic control” and the manner in which it adjusted flight routes without consultation.

The councils have demanded answers about the matter and questioned how the public’s safety can still be guaranteed. The matter will soon come up for discussion in the consultation committee, which is made up surrounding councils, provinces and representatives of the aviation sector.

Noise pollution around Schiphol Airport has been of growing concern for some time, particularly with the gradual opening of the new runway in 2003. A stream of complaints about noise pollution were lodged with authorities last year.

The dispute intensifed after the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) confirmed that a calculation error had been made in drawing up noise pollution regulations, meaning that full use of the new runway would cause more pollution than initially expected, requiring adjustment to regulations.

The new runway has been fully operational since July 2003 and two companies lodged compensation claims due to the noise pollution. The Transport Ministry and the Schiphol damages board said they would examine the matter.

Meanwhile, the opposition party Labour PvdA claimed in mid-2003 that regulations allowing Schiphol’s expansion had descended into fiasco and local residents had not been adequately protected against noise pollution in recent years.

Ironically, Labour was a member of the 1994-2002 Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition government that forced through parliamentary approval of the airport’s expansion plans in 2001.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news