Belgium’s Ostend-Bruges Airport which only two years ago was was happy to have set up a cargo cooperation platform with private and public partners (CargoForwarder Global 1. June 2016) and who has in the meantime managed to attract various cargo carriers, is now being faced with a night-ban for large and heavy freighters.
Very few restrictions in the initial stages
The airport was proud of the fact that they have for a long time held a 24/7 operating license which enabled cargo carriers to operate into and out of the airport throughout the night. This exemption ensured that the airport managers were able to attract cargo operators who may well have not obtained slots at other airports.
There were however some restrictions imposed to the 24/7 ruling. These were mainly environmental (noise) restrictions to the 20-year license granted to the airport in 2004.
The first one was that the so-called QC Rules (Quota Count) on noise abatement were set at QC 82 up until the end of 2014 and were then readjusted down to QC 37 as of January 2015.
This in the meantime had been further reduced so that a QC 26 level was in operation
The QC requirements are based on three main operating factors: (a) overflight noise - (b) take off noise and (c) approach noise levels. For example: larger and older freighters such as the B747-400F have a QC of 24 at takeoff level but only a QC of 12 when landing. This applies also to types such as the Antonov AN-124 and the AN-12 aircraft.
This was all OK for a time until the State Council stated that the general takeoff and landing QC level should be fixed at QC 12.
Belgian State Council acts on complaints
It was in 2016 that the Ostend Airport manager Marcel Buelens requested and was granted by the authorities that a general QC 26 ruling should come into effect which would enable larger nosiest freighters a 24/7 access on landing and take-offs at Ostend Airport.
The local Ostend environmental action group, ‘Wiloo’ (Werkgroep Impact Luchthaven Oostende op de Omgeving) has campaigned since then that this QC26 ruling be dismissed and that tighter noise restrictions be imposed. The group states that the increase of nightly traffic which has been mainly with nosier freighter aircraft, has made local residents lives a misery. The Belgian State Council, after considerable deliberation, has agreed that they are in favour of a general QC 12 level which should be mandatory for all carriers.
The State Council finding still however has to be ratified by the relevant Belgian ministry. Their decision is still outstanding.
In the event that the QC12 is made law, then there are quite some airlines which serve Ostend who will be banned from taking off between 23.00 and 06.00 hours. They could however land in this time as their QC level would be estimated at the agreed QC12. An ironical situation for the airlines concerned. And - there are quite a few such as Western Global, Air Atlanta Icelandic, Kalitta Air, Air Cargo Global and others who all operate older B747 freighters. Antonov operators such as Volga-Dnepr, Ukraine Air, Antonov Airlines and others who fly the AN124, AN12 and IL-76 freighters would also be obliged to stay on ground during the night time.
Has the last word been spoken on this?
John Mc Donagh