The beginnings

On June 2, 1991, the annual general meeting of the Geneva-based Union Européenne Contre les Nuisances des Avions (UECNA) was held at the Hôtel Communal in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, a concentration of all Belgian associations concerned by the essential question of aircraft noise and overflight of built-up areas was created around the new Belgian section of UECNA, which was then called “Union Belge Contre les Nuisances des Avions – Belgische Unie Tegen Vliegtuighinder – asbl UBCNA – BUTV vzw”.

On the 2nd
September 5, 1991, 23 public representatives from the airport’s main neighboring municipalities met in a Board of Directors meeting and officially founded the UBCNA on the initiative of the former Mayor of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, Honorary Senator Jacques VANDENHAUTE.

On September 26, 1991, the UBCNA’s constituent general meeting was held in public in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, where the composition of the association’s executive board was ratified and the UBCNA’s constituent charter was unanimously adopted. UBCNA’s articles of association were published under number 11860 in the Moniteur Belge on July 30, 1992.

Nine communes are members of the UBCNA and actively participate in the work, meetings and actions undertaken by the UBCNA in its fight against the nuisances (safety, pollution and noise) caused by the passage of low-flying aircraft: these are the municipalities of Auderghem, Anderlecht, Crainhem, Jette, Schaerbeek, Watermael-Boitsfort, Wezembeek-Oppem, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, as well as the Brussels-Capital region represented by the Brussels Institute for Environmental Management.

On September 25, 2011, UBCNA celebrated its 20th anniversary!

The Union Belge Contre les Nuisances des Avions was officially and statutorily founded on September 25, 1991, on the initiative of a number of municipal representatives who were very active in environmental protection. Among the founding directors, we find representatives who are still very active in the fight against aircraft nuisance, such as its Chairman, Jacques Vandenhaute, Mayor of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, as well as Georges Désir, Mayor of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, François van Hoobrouck, Mayor of Wezembeek-Oppem, and Bernard Guillaume Echevin of Schaerbeek. Alongside representatives from the world of politics, various scientists and experts were among the founding directors, including Edgar Kesteloot (Secretary General of the UBCNA) and above all Philippe Touwaide (Managing Director of the UBCNA from 1991 until his appointment in 2001 as Director of the Federal Mediation Service for Brussels Airport).

The UBCNA was a pioneer in the relentless fight against all forms of nuisance caused by untimely aircraft overflights, against noise, pollution and threats to the safety of overflown populations. Immediately, the UBCNA became a powerful and influential lobby for all decision-makers, including at European level. A close and constructive collaboration was soon established between UBCNA and the Union Européenne Contre les Nuisances des Avions (UECNA), an association under Swiss law which federates all the national associations involved in the fight against aircraft nuisance. From 1994 to 2000, Philippe Touwaide held the important position of European Vice-President of UECNA.

The first ten years of negotiations

Thanks to the quality of its publications, UBCNA has established itself as THE Belgian reference in the field of aircraft noise abatement. For the first ten years, Philippe Touwaide, a graduate in Air Law, was in charge of the association’s day-to-day management. Philippe Touwaide displayed incredible negotiating skills during the consultation committees held with the Régie des Voies Aériennes to limit the use of old, noisy and polluting aircraft. negotiation meetings between UBCNA, the government, airlines and operators were held at breakneck speed. In these early years, UBCNA published a number of information brochures on runway use, airport history and flight procedures, as well as a compendium of Belgian and international aviation case law.

UBCNA dialogues, informs, proposes. Through the intermediary of its Chairman, 9 very constructive bills were tabled in Parliament, first in the Senate and then in the House of Representatives. The various Ministers of Communications, Coëme and di Rupo, in agreement with Member of Parliament Vandenhaute, have taken over the content and spirit, particularly as regards the ban on flying older aircraft, or the establishment of a system for limiting night flights by the noisiest aircraft.

The constructive contacts established between the UBCNA and the Régie des Voies Aériennes gave rise to noise abatement procedures such as the Tour du Brabant imposed at night on wide-bodied aircraft as early as 1992, successive corrections to the Ring Road, and the establishment of a list of aircraft banned from flying at night.

On July 11, 1996, the Court of Appeal ruled in favor of UBCNA residents in the communes of Evere, Woluwe-Saint-Lambert and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, banning noisy aircraft from flying over the commune at night. Unfortunately, this first important ruling was overturned on appeal on January 24, 1997 by a famous judgment which stated, among other things, that the inhabitants of a large city must necessarily benefit from the advantages as well as the disadvantages of proximity to an airport, that the center of Brussels is emptied of commuters at weekends, and that overflights of the historic center of Brussels can therefore be intensified at this time; or that aeronautical regulations are pure information intended solely for pilots, that they can be departed from at any time, and that these instructions are not enforceable against third parties and are devoid of any legal basis.

Following this ruling, the Régie des Voies Aériennes, headed by Eric Kirsch, former Chef de Cabinet to Jean-Luc Dehaene, took advantage of the situation to establish the beginnings (already!) of dispersion, by limiting the use of the Tour du Brabant procedure and bringing hushkitted aircraft back to depart from runway 20. Relations between UBCNA and the authorities deteriorated sharply until the appointment of Isabelle Durant as Minister of Transport in 1999.

Under the Durant era, the UBCNA was involved in all the courageous decisions taken by the government and Minister Durant: abolition of the Route Chabert and reactivation of the Tour du Brabant ( 2001 ), increase in the wind standard on runway 25 ( 2003 ), establishment of noise quotas per movement at night ( 2002 ) and complete overhaul of the organization of night flights ( 2002 ) following the famous airport agreements of 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Five years of consultation

Philippe Touwaide’s constant contact with Minister Durant’s staff, and his ability to provide them with all the comprehensive information they expected from UBCNA, won over all the members of the government with his unprecedented capacity for work and his extraordinary, detailed knowledge of the entire dossier. And when it came to creating the brand-new Federal Mediation Service for Brussels Airport in February 2002, it was to him that the Federal Government unanimously entrusted the onerous task of setting up and running the service. It was for this reason that, after 11 years of loyal and faithful service to both UBCNA and UECNA, Philippe Touwaide resigned as Managing Director of UBCNA in December 2001 to “fly” to other climes.

Cortois OK

He was succeeded by Peggy Cortois, the quadrilingual Managing Director. A new era for the UBCNA, an era of protests against Bert Anciaux’s dispersal plan and of all-out legal action against outlandish runway uses.

Since 2002, UBCNA has been working with all the other local residents’ associations, with the exception of Noordrand. Peggy Cortois has taken part in a number of important conferences and symposia, and even represented all the Oostrand associations at the parliamentary hearings in June 2006. With a single voice, in both languages, with conviction and knowledge, Peggy Cortois has been managing the UBCNA perfectly since 2002, with all the talent that everyone has come to recognize.

Through its tireless work, it is attacking this very bad dispersal plan on all fronts. It prepares appeals to the Conseil d’Etat, the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal. She gives press conferences in all languages, and fights with all the victims of the dispersal plan for a return to the 1999 runway use plan. Peggy Cortois even went so far as to appear twice on her own before the Conseil d’Etat as an applicant, without lawyers, and was twice successful.

Thanks to the work of Madame Cortois, the UBCNA, in collaboration with friendly associations AWACSS of Wezembeek-Oppem and WAKE-UP of Kraainem, has won numerous court cases against the dispersal policy: the plans of Ministers Anciaux and Landuyt have been condemned 4 times by the Council of State, twice by the Court of Appeal and once by the Court of First Instance. Runway 02 can no longer be used as part of a preferential runway use system, and wind standards have had to be raised to 7 knots on runway 25.

The UBCNA continues its tireless work of informing and popularizing this issue, and it’s working wonders. 15 years ago (in 2006), no one knew about the Oostrand or runways 02 or 20 (renamed runways 01 or 19 since September 19, 2013), no one knew the value of tailwind components. Today, thanks to the hard work of UBCNA, every citizen in our community can find out in real time what’s happening at our airport. Hats off to the UBCNA for this 15th anniversary on September 25, 2006, and the best present we could give would be the outright cancellation of the Dispersion Plan, which we are demanding before the Conseil d’Etat, and, why not, at last, the creation of a supervisory authority responsible for noting all infringements and fining pilots, airlines and airport operators.

Over the past 30 years, UBCNA and its managers have succeeded in imposing much greater transparency in the management of our airport, to the benefit of all citizens, communities and people overflown, gradually leading to an airport that finally takes into account the rights to rest and tranquillity of its neighbors, as well as their safety. An airport that wants to become sustainable must respect its neighbors – that’s the mission UBCNA has been fulfilling for all of us for almost 30 years, because on September 25, 2021, UBCNA celebrates its 30th anniversary!