Noise complaints caused by planes flying over some Brussels’ municipalities have not gone away. The pressure is thus mounting on the Federal Minister of Mobility, who is in charge of managing the overflight of Brussels and its surroundings. For several weeks now, the discontent of households living under the landing paths in the north of Brussels, the South-East and its periphery, has been getting louder.
According to the ombudsman of Brussels Airport, Philippe Touwaide, the nuisances in these two areas “can be solved by a new instruction of the minister Georges Gilkinet concerning the respect of the wind norms which determine the choice of the landing strips”. He added that the Royal domain of Laeken “is regularly flown over even though the law forbids it”.
Touwaide has, at the request of the Minister, conducted a study on the opportunity to re-evaluate the wind standards from a safety point of view. “It is not necessary to launch yet another safety study on wind standards, there are already four studies on this subject. Three of which come to the same conclusion, namely a standard of 7 knots on 25R/L preferential runways,” he wrote in a statement.
We need to look more closely at the type of aircraft used and opt for less noisy or polluting aircraft.Philippe Touwaide, federal ombudsman responsible for Brussels Airport
In a letter addressed to Georges Gilkinet, the ombudsman stated that Skeyes (the public air traffic control company) continues to allocate landings on the basis of a ministerial instruction of 2013, which was nevertheless deemed illegal by the Brussels Court of Appeal.
“The attitude and functioning of Skeyes cannot be reproached, since they have not received any new instruction since October 22, 2020, the day the Brussels Court of Appeal pronounced its decision,” said Touwaide. According to Belgian news outlet L’Echo, the State already pays 50,000 euros per week following the lawsuit lost against the residents of the northern outskirts of Brussels. Given the current situation, new lawsuits could arise.
In July of this year, Touwaide told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen that a low-emission zone would ensure that most polluting and noisy planes would be banned from the airport. Low-emissions zones are already in force in cities such as Brussels in order to reduce pollution from cars and other motor vehicles there.
The cabinet of Georges Gilkinet has stated that a new royal decree “concerning a redefinition of wind standards” is being drafted. Gilkinet has pointed out that European legislation obliges the Belgian State to have a legal framework showing the foundation of the choices made, under penalty of being subject to appeals and judicial annulments.
“I am acting on various fronts to find solutions that reduce the environmental burden on the populations overflown,” Gilkinet said, adding that he is working on limiting the traffic of the noisiest aircraft, in particular by using taxes as a disincentive to noisy and polluting airplanes. Gilkinet’s main goal is that Brussels does not end up as “the noise bin” of Europe. According to his cabinet, options are being explored to have viable alternatives for short and medium distance flights. Night trains could be the path to take.
At this point, no time frame for a resolution has been given. Some political parties are trying to take action. A resolution is being put forward in the Brussels Parliament and in the Chamber to request the introduction of night flights between 10 pm and 7 am (compared to 11 pm and 6 am today), the limitation of the number of movements at the national airport to 220,000 and a ban on the noisiest aircraft.