1,500 suspected breaches of night flight rules at Brussels Airport

The federal ombudsman found more than 1,500 suspected breaches of the rules around night flights at Brussels Airport last year. Philippe Touwaide argued on Thursday, at the presentation of the ombudsman’s annual report, for a stricter approach to night cargo flights in particular. 

“An old Boeing 747 cargo plane landing late at night or taking off early in the morning at Brussels Airport, that should be over,” he said.

Most of the suspected breaches were related to aircraft taking off or landing between 23.00 and 6.00 when they did not have authorisation, known as a night slot, possibly as a result of delays. There were also flights by aircraft that are banned from flying at night because they make too much noise, and flights that took off at times when no departures are allowed. 

Operator Brussels Airport Company proposed in May last year to treat night flights without a slot more strictly. For example, departures after 23.00 without a slot would be banned. The proposal was transmitted to the federal government but is not yet in force. 

29,000 complaints

Touwaide called for a stricter approach, especially in relation to cargo planes. The fleet of passenger aircraft at Brussels Airport has been largely modernised, he said at a press conference, but that is not the case for cargo aircraft. “Sixty-three per cent of cargo aircraft operating at Brussels Airport pre-date 2000,” he said. 

He called for a “low-emission zone” at the airport that would ban old, noisy cargo planes, especially at night. The definition of heavy aircraft, which have a specific take-off procedure, has been the same for 50 years, although aircraft have changed in that time. 

The ombudsman service received a total of 28,893 complaints last year, from 4,736 people. The number of complaints was stable compared to 2022, but the number of complainants has risen sharply in recent years. 

For decades, the Flemish and Brussels governments have been arguing over the problems caused by air traffic to and from Brussels Airport, which is in the Flemish Brabant municipality of Zaventem. While the airport is in Flanders, it falls under the competency of the federal government. However, studies have repeatedly shown that Brussels residents are also affected by its operations.


#FlandersNewsService | © PHOTO BELPRESS

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