|An aerospace company has apologised this week after Southport residents complained about the noise its aircraft were making during testing in the skies above the town.
A number of Champion readers got in touch after spotting large aircraft flying at low altitude over the skies above the northern parts of Southport, and said that they hoped the noise was affecting their quality of life.
But BAE Systems, who have been organising the tests from its base at Warton Aerodrome, just five miles across the River Ribble from Southport, said the flights were of vital importance to RAF front-line operations and could only be carried out in two locations in the UK.
“Earlier this week you may have seen a large aircraft completing a number of ‘circuits’ in and around BAE Systems’ Warton facility. The aircraft in question is an RAF VC10, which is used by the RAF as a transport aircraft and for air-to-air refuelling. This particular aircraft is currently flying from Warton for BAE Systems to undertake some trials for the RAF before it returns to operations,” a BAE Systems spokesperson told The Champion.
“Wherever possible the trials are conducted at high-altitude and away from urban areas, however part of this particular trial requires the aircraft to be flown at low altitude, at varying speeds, and close to specialist test equipment which is permanently fixed at the Warton facility – one of only two places in the country.”
The noise the aircraft make has prompted several complaints from readers, particularly in the Churchtown and Crossens area, who are concerned about the regularity of the flights.
“I've been living in Crossens since 1977 and while there have occasionally been smaller aircraft flying over, but not regular flyovers by big airliners like the ones we've been seing over the past few days,” said a Rufford Road resident, to asked not be named.
“I'm concerned that if there are plans for flights like these over Southport on a more regular basis, the value of houses underneath the flight path will be affected and quality of life will suffer.”
But Bill Ovel, Chief Test Pilot for Nimrod and Strategic Aircraft at BAE Systems, insisted that the tests could only be carried out at Warton and were vitally important to the RAF.
“To complete all the necessary test points we need to fly the VC10 in a wide range of configurations, as well as at a wide range of airspeeds, which results in a large number of circuits being required. We recognise this causes some disturbance and inconvenience, for which we apologise, but the information being collected is essential to support RAF front line operations,” he said.
“We are keeping the flight trials around Warton, and therefore the impact on the local community, to a minimum and we will aim to complete the trials during normal working hours where possible.”
BAE confirmed that flights will continue around its Warton site, including over Southport, for the next few weeks.
By David Simister