Belfast Telegraph

‘No evidence’ that low-flying aircraft blew tiles off Belfast roof

By Amanda Poole

A Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) investigation into claims that a low-flying plane blew tiles from the roof of a Belfast house has found that the aircraft was following the right route at the correct altitude.

This has prompted “considerable concern” from campaigners at Belfast City Airport Watch, who pointed out that the CAA did not rule out the possibility that the damage was caused by the plane.

The report was ordered after claims that a plane had caused damage to properties in Parkgate Drive in east Belfast on June 8.

The report found no evidence of low-flying aircraft at George Best Belfast City Airport and was not able to reach a conclusion for the roof slates coming loose at the property.

A CAA air traffic standards investigator examined the flight profile of the arriving aircraft and concluded the aircraft was flying the correct flightpath and appropriate altitude.

Johnathon Nicholson from the CAA said: “We looked at the air traffic control recordings and based on that we can say the aircraft took exactly the route it should have. The route and height in question was no different to any other aircraft coming into Belfast.”

Mark Beattie, operations director at Belfast City Airport, said: “This report is consistent with the findings of our own internal investigation and the data obtained from our noise and track monitoring system which accurately plots the height and trajectory of arriving and departing aircraft.

“While the CAA investigation could not determine the cause of the dislodgement of slates, the airport immediately carried out full repairs to the property as a gesture of goodwill.”

Mr Beattie concluded: “The majority of flights arriving or departing Belfast City Airport do so over Belfast Lough.

“While certain weather conditions dictate an approach or departure over the city, these aircraft always do so in accordance with strict procedures.

“The airport is sensitive to the environment in which it operates and has a close relationship with the community it serves.”

Dr Liz Fawcett, chair of the Belfast City Airport Watch steering group, said: “The CAA report does not rule out the possibility that the roof tiles were blown off by a plane, nor does it advance any alternative theory as to the cause of this incident.

“If the aircraft in question was flying at the correct height at the time, that’s of considerable concern, because it suggests similar incidents could easily happen in the Parkgate area again.

“This was the third such incident in the space of nine months in that particular area, which is very close to the runway, and we remain sceptical about the level of risk to which residents in that area are being subjected as planes come in to land.

Sir Reg Empey said: “Unfortunately the conclusion that the plane was flying at the ‘correct altitude’ is not in itself an answer.

“The fact remains that the roofs of these houses were damaged and, given that the CAA investigation couldn’t determine the cause, we are no closer to a resolution.

“I remain very concerned that the present set-up simply doesn’t work for the local community and that the threat of injury remains.”

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