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Netherlands noise issueNetherlands noise issue

In The Netherlands pilots cutting corners risk being fined

Editor’s note: AOPA-Netherlands has requested that AOPA-US bring to the attention of our members the following incident involving noise-abatement procedures at Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport. AOPA recommends that pilots anticipating operations at Schipol familiarize themselves with the noise-abatement procedures in effect. For more information, contact AOPA Aviation Services at 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).

By Ronald Schnitker

Flying from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport back to the States on a standard instrument departure, called Bergi, an American pilot accidentally flew beyond the tolerance zone, installed for noise-abatement reasons. ATC noted the violation but did not warn the pilot. The president of AOPA Netherlands expressed the sincere apologies of the pilot but pointed out that a warning could have corrected the track instantly, thus preventing any violation. The sentence of the court was “guilty but no charge.” This has been published in AOPA Netherlands bulletin issue nr. 173, December 1997.

The pilot was one of 20 captains and airlines whose names and addresses were taken because they deviated from the new (November 1, 1996, in force) departure routes and exceeded tolerance zones. These new rules are meant to limit aircraft noise nuisance. What are these new rules?

Incorporated in the assignment of Schiphol Airport is the obligation of captains to fly a standard instrument departure route (SID-route) as given by ATC, within the tolerance zone of that SID. Deviation from a SID is not permitted, unless by order of ATC. Breaking this rule is punishable according to art. 62 of Dutch Aviation Law.

Routes are situated in such a way that residential areas are circum-flown as much as possible. The departure route structure was decided on in consultation with the Dutch CAA (RLD), ATM, Schiphol Airport, KLK Committee Noise Nuisance Schiphol (CGS) and surroundings. The tolerance zone on both sides of the nominal path serves legal deviations which are more or less standard in navigational apparatus. Reaction time, heading- and reading-off-errors, when SIDs are flown manually, are also taken into account. Same applies to tolerance handled in ground apparatus and devices on board of the aircraft.

In order to check whether aircraft comply with the given SIDs and in doing so stay within the tolerance zone, the Dutch CAA (RLD) has set up a control system. This system is called “FANOMOS” (Flight Track and Aircraft Noise Monitoring System). FANOMOS registers the position of the aircraft by using radar information and calculates the amount of noise nuisance. The tolerance zones, permitting a certain amount of track deviation, are included in this Flight Track and Aircraft Noise Monitoring System (FANOMOS). Using this system, aircraft can be controlled to see whether they fly the compulsory routes and do not exceed a tolerance zone. At night all aircraft are being controlled. During the day samples are taken at random.

If Aeronautical Inspection Directorate of the RLD has observed an aircraft having flown beyond the tolerance zone, first thing to do is to check whether ATC has instructed to fly a deviating track. RT recording of communication between ATC and the pilot should then be carefully examined. This is very labour intensive; every controlled flight takes up 45 minutes. While doing this, also must be taken into account the fact that a pilot in command remains authorized to deviate from track for reasons of flight safety. If there is no reason to deviate, a report is made and handed over to the aviation police. Aviation police make their own inquiries. The airline is requested to give an explanation, the name of the pilot in command, and the reason why this happened. Then an official report is sent to Court, resulting in a legal prosecution.

The first to be convicted, after the new SID rules were installed, was a Malaysian captain of a Boeing 747 who flew beyond the tolerance zone without permission beforehand. Also the airline was summoned. Primarily pilot and airline were charged for violating art. 34 of Dutch Aviation Law, because the airfield had been used in defiance of regulations stated in the assignment of Schiphol Airport. Alternately the same has been charged, but this time as an offence according to art. 11 paragraph 3 of Air Traffic Law. Art. 11 paragraph 3 of Air Traffic Law says: “Pilot in command must comply with the conditions connected with the clearance given by ATC. Deviation from these conditions is only allowed if circumstances urgently require to do so for reasons of flight safety.” The pilot in command was sentenced to pay Dfl. 400.-, to be raised up to Dfl. 10.000 in case of a second offence. Earlier the public prosecutor demanded Dfl. 1000. for the offence. Important in determining the sum to be paid was the fact that ATC, when the pilot had requested the deviation in time, would have consented. Malaysia Airways was cleared of blame, because there was no sign at all that the offence should have been imputed to Malaysia Airways.

The importance of the first judgment of the Court concerning deviation of tracks mainly lies in the fact that FANOMOS registers offences and is accepted as legal evidence.

Nevertheless there are objections to this way of tracing. A problem connected to FANOMOS is the fact that radar registration just above aerodrome level is very inaccurate because trees and other obstacles cause interference. In this way offences of the tolerance zone are being registered although they have not been made. Additionally the departure routes, fixed around Schiphol Airport, show technical failures. Data from flight computers in aircraft do not adequately show the position of the aircraft. The Aeronautical Information Publication only publishes the nominal path of SIDs. So it happens that flights are made outside the tolerance zone, while the pilot in command is not aware of doing so. Research done by RLD and Aviation Police is very time consuming. For pilots in command it often is very difficult to remember after a period of time exactly which is the flight concerned. This fact damages their defence. During the defence a pilot in command can bring this up, but the best remedy undoubtedly is to realize the importance of what has been said and, after having visited Schiphol Airport, follow the SIDs correctly.

The author is single-engine pilot and glider instructor, working as a lawyer at Eindhoven Airport. Additionally connected to Tilburg University as research worker.

April 3, 1998

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