The Dutch Minister of Defence is talking about cutting down more trees. Do the trees have to be cut down so that the AWACS planes can then fly lower?

No. Tree maintenance has to take place to ensure compliance with the international aviation safety regulations relating to obstacle-free zones, which have to be applied at all airfields, including Geilenkirchen Air Base. These rules state that no obstacles exceeding a specified height are permitted on approach and departure routes. The maximum permitted height of obstacles on these routes depends on their distance from the runway. The further away they are, the taller they are allowed to be. The upward growth of the existing trees is causing them to breach the required safety margins. This means that during takeoff from a wet runway in conditions with a strong side wind the aircraft have to carry less fuel. We then have to perform more flight movements or arrange additional tanker flights to provide the necessary air refuelling. During landing there is a decisive point where landing clearance will not be granted unless the pilot can see the runway. If he is unable to see it, a new landing attempt has to be made. As a result of the trees’ growth this decisive point is shifting from a location near the runway (with a greater chance that the pilot will be able to see the runway) to a location between Schinveld and Brunssum. If the landing has to be aborted, the pilot has to increase the engine thrust in order to ascend and ‘go around’. This acceleration inevitably occurs between the two built-up areas and results in an additional flight movement that would not be necessary if the height of the trees were properly managed. So the lack of tree management results in more noise, not less.

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