Resident’s Safety Ignored?
Since 1980 there have been 40 reported incidents/accidents (some fatal) at Rochester Airport. Eighteen have happened since 2000 when Rochester Airport limited was formed. The accidents are all associated with light aircraft and helicopters using the airfield. Rochester Airport’s safety record is far from unblemished.
A review of incidents/accidents reported to the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) for Rochester Airport shows that since Rochester Airport Ltd took control of the site in 2000:
1. The average number of accidents/incidents on an annual basis has increased.
2. 50% of the incidents/accidents are attributable to pilot error.
3. 38.9% are from mechanical and metal fatigue of aircraft.
4. 11.1% are from airfield infrastructure, (like potholes in the runway).
5. A 22.2% increase in pilot error incidents/accidents during the tenure of Rochester Airport Ltd over the previous 20 years.
From the review it is clear that accidents are going to happen and the probability of a fatal crash into populated residential area will increase with higher volume of aircraft using the facility.
The Council’s Master Plan proposes a single north/south aligned runway pointing directly to a highly populated residential area in one direction.
In order to operate safely aircraft need to take-off and land into wind. With the choice of take-off and landing direction restricted to one runway, light aircraft might be blown off course, lose stability and control by cross-winds.
Mechanical failure and pilot error are significant factors contributing to the air accidents reported at Rochester Airport too.
When the airfield was first opened in the 1930s, it was surrounded by open land and orchards. At that time areas of land – one of which is now occupied by houses, a nursing home with nearby schools – were designated as ‘drop zones’ where aircraft experiencing difficulties taking off and landing could ditch safely. Nowadays the airport is surrounded by densely populated residential areas, industrial estates, busy roads and schools. There are no areas of open land remaining for aircraft to ditch.
The Council’s Airport Master Plan will allow an increased volume of air traffic to and from the airport with the potential for commercial twin-engine turbojets flying at all hours of the day and night. Judging by the airport’s safety track record so far, the chances of air accidents will be significantly increased.
With future air traffic concentrated in North and South directions, the likely northerly crash zones will be the housing estates at Warren Wood, Cloisterham Park, Davis Estate, parts of Walderslade, Dickens Estate, City Way through to the Chatham Maidstone Road and the streets and a number of schools nearby.
At ‘Say NO to Rochester Airport Master Plan’ we want the safety of the Rochester Airport to be thoroughly and professionally assessed to avoid the unthinkable consequences of an aeroplane crash-landing on a busy road or houses or a school.