27 per cent decrease in military flights
- Aircraft Noise Control Board meeting at NATO Air Base -
NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. The annual meeting of the Aircraft Noise Control Board took place at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen on 30 January 2012. The Chief of Staff of the NATO E-3A Component, Colonel Werner Nemetschek, informed the mayors and other representatives of the neighbouring towns and communities of Geilenkirchen, Gangelt, Übach-Palenberg and Herzogenrath, and the representatives of the Heinsberg District Authority, the Transport Ministry of North Rine Westphalia, and the Initiative gegen AWACS Emissionen e.V., about flight operations at the NATO Air Base in 2011 and the outlook for 2012.
“There are unusual developments to report,“ said Nemetschek in his words of welcome to the Board. Despite having flown considerably more hours overall in the past year, the NATO E 3A Component was able to reduce the number of flight moverments at the NATO Air Base by 27 per cent. In 2011 there were 2,304 takeoffs or landings affecting the urban area of Geilenkirchen, whereas in 2009 there were 3,152. “Nine flight movements per working day is a remarkably small number for a military air base“, emphasized Nemetschek.
Various reasons account for the substantial decrease. The primary one is the Component’s deployment of E-3A aircraft to participate in three international operations. “Our involvement, in some cases concurrently, in counter terrorism missions in Afghanistan, Libya and the Mediterranean region, made 2011 a very special year. The E-3A Component has been 100 per cent involved in ongoing military operations for more than a year now“, said Nemetschek. The airspace surveillance and airspace coordination capabilities of AWACS are in great demand at international level. “Nevertheless, any decisions on whether to employ AWACS are not made by us, but by the politicians,“ Nemetschek explained.
Apart from these deployments the Component was also able, as in previous years, to transfer training flights to other regions of Europe. In 2011 only about one third of the training flights took place at NATO Air Base Geilenkirchen. Furthermore the crews can accomplish part of their training in an ultra-modern simulator. “We conduct as much training there as possible“, emphasized Nemetschek. “Training flights are essential for successful operations. And certain training flights have to be flown live in an aircraft.“ This applies to air refuelling, for example.
Whilst the number of flight movements in Geilenkirchen decreased by almost one third as a result of operations in other countries, the number of flight movements outside the airfield opening hours (45 in 2010; 76 in 2011) rose for the same reason. Almost all these flights occurred before midnight. Colonel Nemetschek explained to the Aircraft Noise Control Board that takeoffs and landings after 22:00 hrs and before 08:00 hrs on weekdays, or at any time on weekends, are only executed if they are operationally essential and have been authorized in advance. “Our Component does everything it can to keep the number as low as possible,” said Nemetschek reassuringly. “But sometimes there is no alternative.“
The procedural modifications for training flights under visual flight rules met with great interest. The advantage of the new routes lies in the fact that they avoid more densly populated areas and urban centres. Flights under instrument flight rules, however, are flown on specified routes with which the crews have to comply. “Flight safety always has highest priority,“ emphasized Nemetschek.