Andrew Doyle/LONDON

BRITISH AIRWAYS is preparing the way for a possible court challenge to new noise limits at the three major London airports, due to be imposed by the UK Government from 1 January, 1997.

The carrier expects to complete an internal review within the next few weeks of the cost implications of the limits, which it "conservatively" estimates at around £800,000 ($1.24 million) annually at present charge levels.

Such a challenge would place BA in a potentially embarrassing position as it grapples with opposition from local authorities to the planned expansion with a fifth terminal of London Heathrow. The carrier has yet to name an engine supplier for 14 Boeing 747-400s ordered recently and is considering dropping incumbent supplier Rolls-Royce in favour of US manufacturers supplying quieter engines (Flight International, 4-10 September). The airline also has some technical reservations about the R-R RB.211-524 engine.

The Government's move has astonished BA and other airlines which serve Heathrow with 747s, as they believe that the limits cannot be met without payload restrictions on many long-haul flights.

BA chief operating officer, Alistair Cumming says that the carrier is "-assessing the situation and looking at the options. A judicial review is one thing we could ask for, but no decisions have been taken".

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says, meanwhile, that it "-opposes this move - which is discriminatory in its effect and which would have no impact on the overall perceptions of the aircraft noise experienced by people living close to the airports".

IATA director-general Pierre Jeanniot has written to UK minister for aviation Lord Goschen "strongly urging" the Government not to implement the new limits. His letter also highlights the fact that "-British [RB.211]-powered 747-400s could be affected".

The UK Department of Transport claims that only 12% of flights by Chapter 3-compliant 747s will infringe the new limits.

Source: Flight International