Local residents are calling for an independent inquiry into aircraft safety after roof tiles on two bungalows in east Belfast were apparently dislodged by a low-flying aircraft bound for George Best Belfast City Airport.
The incident was the second such case in the area within just nine months.
Dr Liz Fawcett, Chair of the Steering Group of the umbrella residents’ group, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), said the UK aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, should be called in to investigate both incidents, and the whole issue of aircraft safety for local people living close to the airport.
“It’s extremely fortunate that no one was injured in either this or the previous incident,” she said. “Both these incidents could have resulted in serious injuries or worse.
“It’s now incumbent on the Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, to hold an independent, open, and transparent inquiry which would properly investigate these incidents to determine how any further accidents of this nature could be avoided in future, and to examine whether the level of safety risk to which residents are being subjected is acceptable.
“To ensure the investigation is a robust one, we are calling on him to bring in the Civil Aviation Authority which is responsible for regulating aviation matters in the UK, and has the necessary expertise to carry out such a task.”
This latest incident follows a surprise announcement by the Environment Minister that he was minded to allow further expansion at the airport by lifting the official ‘seats for sale’ or passenger limit – all without any proper public consultation.
That announcement was met with fury by local residents who are already gearing up for a public inquiry into plans by the airport to extend its runway.
“We hope very much that, in the light of this latest incident, the Minister will now change his mind and firmly reject the airport’s request to lift the ‘seats for sale’ cap,” said Dr Fawcett.
“The removal of that vital restriction would mean many more large aircraft would be able to use the airport, heaping further misery on residents who already suffer from both aircraft noise and the fear of a serious accident.
“What we would say to the Minister is this – please start putting the interests of ordinary people first. Literally tens of thousands of residents are affected by aircraft noise.
“If the Minister feels further airport expansion is justified, Belfast has a second airport with spare capacity just 30 minutes’ drive away – it’s ludicrous to even be contemplating further expansion at the City Airport.”
Last year, BCAW carried out a survey of more than 400 individuals in areas in east and south Belfast, and in north Down, affected by aircraft noise from the City Airport.
The shock findings from this survey demonstrated the extent to which aircraft noise is already a very real problem for many residents:
- More than three-quarters (78%) of the 412 individuals surveyed said that aircraft noise affected their sleep
- Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they often had to stop talking when a plane flew over because they couldn’t be heard
- Of the 157 respondents with children, nearly half (46%) said their children weren’t getting enough sleep because of aircraft noise.
- More than a third (34%) of those with children said their children found aircraft noise frightening.