Aircraft activity to the South

The current aircraft routes explained on this page were developed and established following in depth trials in 2006/2007 and were introduced in consultation with local stakeholders. The aim of the “Noise Preferred Routings” is to minimise the noise impact on local people, and divert aircraft away from populated areas as far as practical.

Specialist Approach Guidance Systems

Aircraft arriving from the South will utilise one of three approach methods to arrive into the airport.

VOR/DME – Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range Finder with Distance Measuring Equipment (Black Line)

The VOR is best described as a bicycle wheel on its side. There are 360 spokes each representing 1 degree of a compass and each spoke will emit a straight line radio transmission which the aircraft will tune into, and follow, to guide them into the airport. Aircraft utilising this approach will follow an offset approach path to the runway and position with the runway centreline once the pilot has sight of the airport.
The reason for the offset approach is because the VOR is located in a position to the north east of the runway so it is not in line with the runway. The VOR is used in conjunction with the DME which, like the ILS, will inform the pilot of their distance from touchdown.

NDB – Non-Directional Beacon (Yellow Line)

An NDB is a single aerial transmitter that does not transmit specific directional information to an aircraft, unlike a VOR. Instrumentation on board the aircraft will home into the transmissions, and the aircrew fly towards the beacon, making adjustments to the track as they fly towards the runway. The NDB flight path over the ground can vary slightly. As the NDB beacon is located off to one side of the runway, as per the VOR approach, aircraft will follow a slightly offset path.

Visual Approach (Red Line)

A visual approach is where pilots position the aircraft to land by using a visual reference to the airfield. The pilot will manually fly the aircraft and will align with the runway using a combination of visual referencing and various lighting systems that are on the ground at the airport. A visual approach can only be flown when visibility is good and when the clouds are above a certain height. The flight path over the ground for a visual approach can vary slightly.

Aircraft Departing to the South (Runway 20)

Aircraft taking off to the south will climb straight ahead to 500ft above mean sea level, and then turn right to follow a 217° heading. This heading will direct aircraft towards the path of the River Itchen and the track will be maintained until reaching Southampton Water or 2000ft above mean sea level, whichever is reached first. The exact point, at which aircraft reach 500ft and subsequently turn, will vary depending on many factors, such as engine type, aircraft weight and weather conditions.

Aircraft Arriving from the South (Runway 02)

Non-Visual Approach (using specialist navigation equipment)

Please see above for VOR (Radio Beacon) Approach.

Visual Approach

The point at which aircraft are required to be on alignment with the runway’s centre line, when making a visual approach is four miles. Aircraft join the approach path over the less densely populated Southampton Water area to manoeuvre onto the runway centre line for arrival. The aircraft are then required to follow a 3º angle of approach for operational reasons.

Exclusions from Noise Preferred Routes

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has a strict consultation process in place to ensure that all stakeholders are made aware of, and given an opportunity to feedback on any proposed permanent flight path changes. It is important to note that Southampton Airport will not permanently change any flight paths without following this process of consultation. However, there are conditions when noise preferred routes will not be flown on a temporary basis. These include:

Type of aircraft

These routes only apply to commercial aircraft above 5700kgs and to all jet aircraft. Smaller aircraft types, such as the Trislander aircraft, smaller propeller aircraft and helicopters will not follow these routes as this would result in significantly increased journey times and increased fuel usage.

Operational activity

Occasionally aircraft will be directed by NATS not to fly the Noise Preferred Route due to weather conditions, other air traffic in the area, or for aircraft performance reasons.

In addition, communities around the airport are likely to see and hear aircraft even if they do not fly directly overhead.