09/11/2012

Geneva Airport: late departures again

On Fridays and Sundays there are often late departures: last weekend saw several, with a final easyJet flight well after midnight!


My rather generous definition of "late" is normally flights leaving after 11h30 pm.This is permitted within the rules for Switzerland (although the Swiss Federal Aviation Office does request that departures should only very sparingly be scheduled after 10 pm). However, we should remind ourselves that at Zurich airport, whose management appears to pay more attention to the sleep time of local residents than does that of Geneva airport. the normal closure hour is 11pm, possibly with a 30 minute extension in case of flights behind schedule.

The Saturday evening (actually, Sunday morning) flight was the return flight of a Madrid-Geneva-Madrid round trip. For unknown reasons, for the Madrid to Geneva leg there was a long unexplained delay, so the aircraft only landed in Geneva at 11h30 pm.As such, a departure well after midnight was inevitable, no doubt waking some Vernier residents at 25 minutes after midnight.. I am a bit surprised that easyJet could not find an aircraft to do the Madrid-Geneva leg on time, but there was surely a good reason.

Apart from that, there have been three other late departures, all aircraft not operating normally scheduled services. The two of Friday evening were both small jets, and there is no doubt that any attempt to find out when they were scheduled to leave and why they were so late will be futile: silence reigns supreme in such cases.

The other Sunday take-off, just before midnight, was an interesting case: it was of a two-engined turboprop aircraft called a Beech B200 King Air. It is interesting because, although able to carry up to 13 passengers, it apparently just escapes the necessity to pay a departure noise surcharge. This is because, according to Wikipedia, its Maximum Take-off Weight (MTOW) is 5670 kg, just short of the 5700 kg lower limit above which a late night noise surcharge would have been imposed. Just in case you think that this "low" weight makes the aircraft quiet, think of an even lighter aircraft, the Piaggio P180 Avanti, which has a lower MTOW (5,239 kg), a capacity of 9 passengers and makes a howling noise that you can recognise a very long way off. BTW, this is the aircraft that looks as if it is flying backwards!

Interestingly, at 00h40 that same night, a different aircraft of exactly the same type landed. At that time it must have had either a special dispensation (medical, maybe) or a derogation issued by the airport management. Even more interestingly, there would have been no night-time extra surcharge for such a late landing.

It is one of the unfortunate facts (for Geneva people living around the airport) that there is no extra surcharge for jet aircraft landing between 10 pm and 6 am. Because of this, the noise surcharge currently paid by the companies operating the stream of Airbus A319/320 arrivals between 10 pm and 11h30 pm is zero.

At Zurich, however, there is such a landing surcharge, varying between 50 CHF and 800 CHF according to the landing time. If an identical charge were to be imposed here then a well-known low-cost company operating out of Geneva airport would be paying between 1000 and 1500 CHF per day, which is somewhere around 400,000 CHF per year (enough to do sound-proofing on quite a lot of buildings).

Yet another difference between Zurich and Geneva airport management!

ps I am sending this on Tuesday morning just after seeing that on Monday night the last takeoff was at 7 minutes to midnight (two hours after the last but one take-off of easyJet UK to Liverpool): a private Falcon 2000 jet belonging to TAG Aviation. Useless to try to get information on that: TAG are just as secretive as the airport management. All that I can deduce is that because Skyguide allowed it to go off over Versoix it must have been going eastwards. BTW, it has the nice registration HB-JKL!

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