OVER the course of the past few weeks, The Gazette has received a number of complaints from people living in Hatch Warren and Brighton Hill about the roaring sounds, irregularity and frequency of which the RAF’s doublebladed helicopters travel overhead.

Criticism was fired at the Royal Air Force for late flying, with one resident claiming a Chinook was “about 50ft above my house” one evening.

Sue Hill, a resident in Brighton Hill, said: “They’re so loud and the flight times are totally inconsiderate and surely unacceptable.

“Personally, I’ve resided here in this house for 33 years and over the last few years the use of Chinooks is very clearly and rapidly increasing.

“I am a London-based worker and have to be up at 4am most mornings, but am constantly woken from the noise of these confounded machines.

“Neighbours talk of having to raise TV volumes and feel as if their houses are shaking, it’s ridiculous – we would never allow this level of disturbance from commercial aircraft.

“There is no talk of compensation by offering noise reducing windows etc offered to locals around airports.”

She added: “These beasts are far too noisy for flights over residential areas and this has to be addressed.”

When The Gazette contacted the RAF, the air base invited a reporter on site to understand why the training sorties [exercises] were essential to its operations.

Wing Commander Steven Bell, one of the top bosses at RAF Odiham who helps look after more than 30 Chinooks currently on site, said: “The RAF has helped in some of the biggest world crises.

“In the Falklands, where RAF Odiham currently has two Chinooks, in Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and of course Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s important to remember, the RAF answers the call of the government, whether we agree with conflict or not is irrelevant. We don’t choose.

“We also have a number of our aircraft poised to assist in the Mediterranean region, if directed by government.”

He added: “So we have to train in all sorts of different conditions, in order to be able to fly safely, as this is important to what we do to protect civilians.”

The Gazette joined members of 27 Squadron to “lift” and fly across the borough – taking in a route that went high above Bramley, Brighton Hill, Hatch Warren, Basingstoke and Odiham.

Away from built-up areas and with the Chinook descending from 1,000ft to just under 50ft in a nearby tree-covered field where it had been cleared to land, the disparity between heights became abundantly clear.

Tree branches spinning, fallen leaves shooting wildly around; it’s fairly clear if a Chinook was only 50ft above your house, you’d know about it.

Flight Lieutenant Andy Donovan, who accompanied The Gazette on the 40-minute flight, said: “We’re always preparing for anything that could happen. The context of what we do has to be understood because we’re preparing for the future.”

Wg Cdr Bell added: “We will always try and be good neighbours as we are part of this community.

“As you have seen, we are not allowed to fly at such low levels across Basingstoke Town due to Air Traffic Control [the body that determines the flight paths and heights for all sky-dwelling machines] regulations and the no lowflying zones over certain parts of the town including Basingstoke hospital.

“We try to be considerate when we plan these training exercises and understand they can be noisy. Where we can, we undertake our training away from builtup areas, such as Salisbury Plain. Obviously though, we have to transit past Basingstoke when we depart from, and return to, RAF Odiham. But it must be remembered that there is a reason we are doing this.

“We have to train to carry out our primary function – which is serving the government, to protect people and help the lives of others.”

What do you think? Email your thoughts to newsdesk@basingstokegazette.co.uk.