The family lives on the flight path from Aberdeen Airport and, in more normal times, as well as on frequent aircraft, they also undergo regular helicopter flights to oil platforms in the region – which also considerably reduced since the double crisis of coronavirus and oil prices. Shortly before he spotted the plane, says Chirnside, he was delighted to hear the call of a buzzard over his garden for the first time.
Before the crisis cuts air traffic by 90%, Chirnside says he doesn’t think he would have slept on the trampoline with his son on a Saturday afternoon, just to look at it. “I hope we will keep that spirit when we return to our” normal life “reverse commas.”
It is a feeling that has been deeply felt across the country by those living under flight paths, who find themselves unexpectedly able to breathe clean air, hear birdsong and – for many most affected – to sit in their own gardens. In the week before the UK lockout, 7,865 flights departed from the UK’s 10 largest airports, according to an analysis of BBC flight data. During the week before April 21, the number recorded by Flightradar24 was 711.
For some, the change in their quality of life has been dramatic. “It’s a joy at the moment,” says Maggie Thorburn, who lives in Isleworth, west London, so close to Heathrow that, at the worst of the day, planes usually scream at her house every 90 seconds, with constant air traffic from 4:30 to 11 p.m.
The noise from the airport is so overwhelming, says Thorburn, that in normal times his decisions to open his windows or sit in his garden are entirely dictated by Heathrow flight schedules.
With the number of flights down by two-thirds, however, she certainly sleeps better, “and I hear things from afar – the church clock striking, and of course the birds. It’s not the same as being in the country, but it’s the next best thing. It’s really a huge relief to be able to go home and have some peace of mind. “
Of course, no one claims clean air and relative calm is free. While the national economy has been wiped out by the foreclosure, the collapse of air transportation means that cities near airports are among the hardest hit. Research by the Center for Cities suggests that in Crawley, near Gatwick, more than half of all jobs are vulnerable to either job loss or total loss – a dizzying rate of collapse that is entirely unprecedented, according to Paul Swinney, director of the thinktank for policy and research.
“Of course, the hope would be that even if the recession is unprecedented, the rebound in theory will also be very rapid,” he said.
However, for Thorburn, who is vice president of the Hacan group
campaigning against Heathrow expansion, a return to what was once considered normal is a scary prospect. “I got used to not hearing planes all the time. And when they come back – if they come back – I can’t wait to continue as usual. “
With many airlines even struggling to survive,
it is not known when, if at all, air transport will return to pre-coronavirus levels – although Swinney believes it is likely that the flight will eventually recover, as “there is not enough viable alternatives to flying to different places ”.