Noise row forces Stockholm to close new runway

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Swedish air traffic authority LFV is seeking to overturn a regulatory decision that will force Stockholm Arlanda Airport to effectively close its new third runway later this week.

The country’s air traffic inspectorate has declared that Arlanda’s runway 01R breaches an environmental restriction regarding southerly approaches.

The inspectorate says aircraft on approach to 01R overfly the town of Upplands Vasby instead of using a mandated curved approach intended to avoid the town. However, the installations required to enable such curved approaches are not yet approved in Sweden.

LFV argues that its interpretation of the regulations allow the continued use of the runway until it can implement the curved approach procedure. It is planning to apply for an inhibition decision from environmental authorities to avoid disruption to Arlanda’s operations.

“We don’t agree [with the inspectorate] about how to interpret the regulations,” says a spokesman for LFV. “We think that we can use the runway while awaiting approval [for a curved-approach system].”

LFV is to shut runway 01R from 20 September, allowing only a limited number of visual approaches. The air traffic authority says it hopes it can obtain permission from the environmental authorities to restart operations a few days later, and notes that a full legal bid to reverse a ban could take years.

If the runway stays shut, the spokesman says, there will be only a small short-term impact: “There are no immediate capacity problems.”

However, LFV is concerned that a long-term closure would give rise to more serious capacity restrictions. Arlanda is aiming to achieve a movement rate of 90 aircraft per hour but this could be reduced to 76 without the third runway. Certain weather conditions, says the spokesman, might result in this dropping further to just 44 movements.

Scandinavian flag-carrier SAS says that the impending runway closure is not a great concern but a spokesman for the airline admits: “We are a little worried about the discussions. Arlanda is not only the airport for Stockholm, it’s the airport for the whole of Sweden, the most important hub. If we had to reduce capacity, it would [affect our operations]. Of course we wouldn’t want that.”