A Short Cut written for G2 about the first scheduled flight of the day to land at Heathrow airport…

Imagine a party in which the antics of 400 revellers had the capacity to disturb the sleep of two million people. The police would shut it down faster than you can say “Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003”, which is what gives the authorities the legal power to deal with noise at night.

Now imagine a Boeing 747-400 filled with 400 people audibly passing over the heads of, according to Department of Transport figures, an estimated two million people at around 5am each morning. Welcome to BA Flight 26, the first scheduled flight of the day to land at Heathrow airport.

It needs no introduction, however, to the residents who live directly under the flight path. BA Flight 26, which departs Hong Kong 13 hours earlier, is the 50-plus decibel early alarm call none of the residents ever requested. (The World Health Organisation says that more than 30 decibels of sleep disturbance has a “critical health effect”.) As all flight-path insomniacs will tell you, the first plane of the day joins the dawn chorus of birds, car alarms, cat fights and the early-to-work whistling neighbour as the most potent disturbers of sleep. That first approach of whining jet engines can signal the last hope of further decent sleep before the slide out of bed towards the nearest cup of coffee.

What makes it worse for Londoners is the knowledge that BA Flight 26 is just the first of an average 15 further flights legally allowed to land at Heathrow before 6am – the moment when night becomes day in the world of airport noise regulation. The only relief comes when the prevailing westerly winds shift and aircraft are forced to approach Heathrow from the west instead. But what is a relief to those in, say, Barnes becomes a curse for those in, say, Maidenhead. Tomorrow, Richmond, Wandsworth, and Windsor and Maidenhead borough councils will take their bid to stop night flights to the high court, claiming that some of these flights – which include BA Flight 26 – break the government’s own noise rules.

However, the cursed of London might just want to consider their brethren living under the Charles De Gaulle flight path in Paris. Due to the large volume of freight flights landing at the airport, up to 150 flights are allowed every night. Later this year, sleep-disturbed Parisians will travel to Strasbourg to argue that, under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, their right to respect “for private and family life” is being violated by night flights. Many Londoners will no doubt raise their double-strength lattes in support.