Heathrow Airport will be able to use both runways simultaneously more often, as rules surrounding the alternation between take-off and landing are eased up.
At the moment, each of the airport's two runways are dedicated to just take-off or landing, and they switch designation halfway through the day to give residents a break from noise. Two trials (one running 1 November-29 February, the other 1 July-30 September) will relax the definition of 'emergencies' that allow planes to use both runways.
A plane will be allowed to use the 'other' runway if it's running 10 minutes late, or if 30% of flights are facing a delay of 15 minutes or more. (The BBC has dug up an interesting statistic that says the average delay at Heathrow is 12 minutes.) BAA and the Department for Transport say this will reduce three things: delays for passengers, the need for night flights that disturb residents and emissions from stacked planes.
These proposals have been knocking about for a couple of months, but residents are now being sent leaflets warning them of the changes. HACAN, who campaign against aircraft noise, are understandably not happy: their AGM a few weeks ago got a bit heated with people unhappy at losing their guaranteed half day break from noise.
Heathrow seems to be in an unwinnable situation: already bursting at the seams and denied a third runway, is this test a reasonable attempt to find a solution or the thin end of the wedge?