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Stop Stansted Expansion comment on the failure of their bias challenge against Airports Commission in the High Court

High Court Judge Mrs Justice Patterson has issued her ruling on the challenge brought by SSE arising from the role played by Mr Geoff Muirhead as a Commissioner on the Airports Commission. She agreed it was right for him to step down from the Commission as soon as it became known that his former employer, MAG, the owners of Stansted Airport, would be submitting proposals for extra runways there. But she ruled against SSE in deciding that no previous harm could have been done by Mr Muirhead, in terms of bias, during his involvement with the Commission from 2.11.2012 until his resignation on 20.9.2013 – which happened only after SSE had instructed its lawyers to commence legal proceedings. She did say that it could not be regarded ”as the most wise” for him to remain on the Commission for so long. SSE still has some concerns about the integrity of the process going forward. SSE say that because there is so much at stake and the position is still not entirely satisfactory, they will be considering the ruling and whether aspects need to be taken to the Court of Appeal.  


Airports Commission – High Court Challenge

2.12.2013 (Stop Stansted Expansion)

High Court Judge Mrs Justice Patterson has today (2 December 2013) issued her ruling on the challenge brought by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) arising from the role played by Mr Geoff Muirhead as a Commissioner on the Airports Commission.

Mrs Justice Patterson agreed it was right for Mr Muirhead to step down from the Commission as soon as it became known that his former employer, the Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted Airport, would be submitting proposals for extra runways at Stansted.

Nevertheless, Mrs Justice Patterson ruled against SSE in deciding that no previous harm could have been done by Mr Muirhead, in terms of bias, during his involvement with the Commission from 2 November 2012 until his resignation on 20 September 2013 – which happened only after SSE had instructed its lawyers to commence legal proceedings.

Notably, Mrs Justice Patterson remarked in her ruling that neither the actions of Mr Muirhead, in remaining as a Commissioner until September 2013, nor those of the Commission in retaining him until then, could be regarded “as the most wise”.

Mrs Justice Patterson was also critical of the Commission for not being more transparent about Mr Muirhead’s consultancy arrangements.  The point she was referring to was that neither Geoff Muirhead nor the Commission had made any formal declaration that he was still being paid £150,000 a year by MAG when he was appointed to the Commission.

Although SSE has achieved its principal objective in pursuing this legal challenge, namely the removal of Mr Muirhead from the Commission, SSE still has some concerns about the integrity of the process going forward.  Some of SSE’s concerns were addressed in the course of the legal proceedings as a result of confidential information disclosed by the Commission in witness statements and exhibits, including the minutes of internal meetings.

Despite its public commitment to be open and transparent, the Airports Commission considers that it is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  Therefore, much of the information released to SSE as a result of its legal proceedings could not otherwise have been obtained.

One (non-confidential) point that has become clear during these proceedings is the pivotal role played by Department for Transport civil servants on secondment to the Airports Commission.  This is because Commissioners only work on Commission business for two days a month, one of which days is set aside for its monthly meeting.  The Chairman is expected to work four or five days per month.  All the Commissioners work pro bono.

Because there is so much at stake, and because the position is still not entirely satisfactory, SSE needs time to give proper consideration to the Judge’s (60-page) ruling and to discuss it in detail with its legal advisors before deciding whether there are aspects of the judgment that need to be taken to the Court of Appeal.  In the meantime, SSE will be making no further comment.

 SSE Supporters outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London on 22 November 2013



  • Further background is contained in earlier SSE press releases on this subject, dated 19 August 2013, 20 September 2013, 8 October 2013, 13 October 2013 and 18 November 2013, all of which are available at



The comment from the Airports Commission was this very bland statement:

“The members of the Airports Commission welcome this decision. The Commission has sought throughout the past twelve months to be fair, open, transparent and robust in how it takes forward its work, including the development of its sift criteria. It is pleased that the Court has recognised this and its work will continue unaffected by this action.”

They could be thought to be fortunate that the decision went their way … whether it was a political, rather than a legal decision, we “couldn’t possibly comment” (to quote Frances Urquart, in the House of Cards).



Earlier – background to this case:

SSE challenges Airports Commission at the High Court on “apparent bias” due to involvement of Geoff Muirhead

November 22, 2013        Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has launched a High Court bid to force the Airports Commission to revise its work on the future of aviation expansion in the UK. SSE’s case, asking that the Airports Commission should re-determine its so-called “sift criteria” for assessing growth options, was heard by Mrs Justice Patterson. SSE claims that the sift criteria process was infected by apparent bias because Geoff Muirhead, then still a member of the Commission, had worked as Chief Executive for – and continued to work for – MAG. The sift criteria will ultimately guide the Commission in its final decision on where any new runways in the UK should be built. SSE’s barrister, Paul Stinchcombe QC, argued that Mr Muirhead’s resignation was too late to save the sift criteria proceedings and that his involvement had tainted and was continuing to taint the activities and decisions of the commission by reason of apparent bias. The DfT said “there is no evidence whatsoever of bias and the Airports Commission is content that decisions taken to date are robust.” The Commission said its processes to date were “appropriate and robust”. Mrs Justice Patterson said she will make a decision on the matter in writing at a later date.     Click here to view full story…



Stop Stansted Expansion challenge to Airports Commission on apparent bias going to High Court on Friday 22nd Nov

Date added: November 18, 2013

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) will go to the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday 22 November to present its case that a key element of the work carried out by the Airports Commission has been tainted by apparent bias and needs to be done afresh. SSE’s legal challenge stems from the involvement of Geoff Muirhead, who was appointed to the Airports Commission. He had retired as MAG’s chief executive in October 2010 after 22 years with the Group but he was then immediately appointed as their highly paid ambassador, a role he continued to fulfil even after he was appointed to the Commission. Mr Muirhead resigned from the Commission on 20 September 2013, shortly after SSE began its legal challenge. He was directly involved in determining the Commission’s ‘sift criteria’ for deciding the most suitable airport expansion options and SSE believes that these are clearly skewed to favour expansion at Stansted. SSE will be asking the High Court to order the Commission to re-determine the ‘sift criteria’ and to delay the publication of any short-list of options until the sift criteria have been re-determined.     Click here to view full story…



Stop Stansted Expansion lodged papers at High Court alleging Airports Commission criteria “infected by apparent bias” due to Geoff Muirhead

October 15, 2013       The Stop Stansted Expansion group (SSE) have lodged papers at the Royal Courts of Justice alleging that the criteria being applied to decide on possible options for new runway sites in England are “infected by apparent bias”. SSE want High Court judges to order the Government-appointed Airports Commission to delay the publication of any shortlist of options until the “sift criteria” have been re-determined. They argue that there was apparent bias because Geoff Muirhead, a recently-resigned member of the Commission, had a conflict of interest. Mr Muirhead is a former chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted since February. He stepped down from the Commission three weeks ago after SSE warned Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin they would take legal action if he stayed. “For almost a year, Mr Muirhead was allowed to play a pivotal role on the Commission.” The High Court is being asked to order the Commission “to re-visit certain key decisions made by the Commission during the time that Mr Muirhead was involved”. Brian Ross, from SSE, said: “With proposals on the table from MAG to make Stansted the world’s busiest airport with four runways handling up to 160 million passengers a year, there is far too much at stake to allow the issue of apparent bias to go unchallenged.”         Click here to view full story…



Stop Stansted Expansion says of the Airports Commission: A tainted process – a dubious conclusion

October 9, 2013      Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) is disappointed that the Airports Commission has formed the preliminary view that extra runway capacity is needed in the south east of England. In his speech on 7th October 2013, the chairman of the Airports Commission, Sir Howard Davies said that his Commission had not been persuaded by the arguments against expansion. In SSE’s view, the arguments for more runway capacity in the south east are dangerously weak and they will be taking up Sir Howard’s invitation to comment on his preliminary conclusions. SSE believes the UK, as a whole, already has more than enough runway capacity to meet the DfT forecasts to 2050, and well beyond. Regarding the recent resignation of Geoff Muirhead from the Commission, due to ties with MAG, SSE said they are mounting a legal challenge on bias – due to Mr Muirhead’s influence – in formulating the “sift criteria” and there will be more information on that next week.     Click here to view full story…







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German study: air travel taxes are an important instrument for climate protection

A study in Germany has been commissioned by a range of development and environmental organisations, into the effects of taxing aviation. It found that charging some taxes to air travel does not lead to movement of passengers from German airports to use foreign airports or to job losses in the aviation business – which is what he Federation of German aviation industry claims, probably incorrectly. The report says that additional revenue should be generated from air travel, to help fund mitigation and adaptation to climate change in developing countries. The organisations are calling on the coalition government in Germany to keep, and increase, air travel tax. The tax started in January 2011, and is charged based on distance travelled with rates of  €7.56, €23.62, or €42.52 for short, medium and long haul flights. In Germany, as in the  UK and in most of Europe, jet fuel is exempted from the energy tax on international flights and VAT is not charged. This tax break amounts annually to about €10.4 billion euros lost to the German tax authorities, which is massively more than the approximately €1 billion from air travel tax currently paid. The report wants to see taxation incentivise the most efficient utilization of planes. 



Study: air traffic control important instrument for climate protection

20.11.2013 ( – Germany)

[Imperfect translation into English below].

The air traffic control does not lead to migration of passengers at foreign airports or to job losses in the aviation business as the Federation of German aviation industry claims. In order to develop an ecological steering effect and to generate additional revenue for the financing of climate change in developing countries, the air traffic control would have to be expanded.

These are the key findings of a study that was today (11/20/2013) presented in Congress in Berlin.

The study was supported and commissioned by Bread for the World, Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND), Greenpeace, Robin Wood, the organic traffic Club (VCD) and Forum Ecological-Social Market Economy (GBG).

From the perspective of environmental and development organizations the continuing criticism of the aviation industry on their control is thus refuted. Given the ongoing coalition negotiations are therefore calling for organizations strongly supported the preservation and the development of air traffic control.

The environmental and development organizations emphasize that the first since the January 2011 levied in Germany charge based on distance is so far the only effective control tool for klimaschädlichsten transport.

Since jet fuel is exempted from the energy tax on international flights and VAT is not charged, annually about €10.4 billion euros escape the German tax authorities. Compared to these harmful subsidies of air travel however, the cost of air traffic control is just under one billion euros per year.

Therefore, the groups are calling on the CDU / CSU and SPD to maintain the air traffic control system and continue to develop it.

While it already makes a contribution to the reduction of environmentally harmful subsidies of air travel, a higher tax rate could also increase their ecological steering effect. Furthermore, additional tax revenue generated could be used to assist in the financing of mitigation and adaptation to climate change in developing countries.

In their model, the tax is not levied on seats, but on the whole plane, and differentiated by booking classes. This will see the organizations an extra incentive for the efficient utilization of the planes, with high load factors.

The polluter pays principle must also apply to aviation: passengers who take up much space [premium classes] and thus consume more fuel, should pay more. The use of the tax revenue for climate finance in developing countries constitutes a contribution to global justice.

Finally, most people suffer in the countries of the global South from the consequences of climate change – many of whom have never even flown.

The complete study “The air traffic control. Impact on the development of aviation in Germany.” You find here .  (in German)   “Air traffic control - Effects on the development of of air transport in Germany.  Conclusions from the years 2011 and 2012″
Source: Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND)





“At the start of 2013 Germany froze its air passenger tax after the German federal Government published a study on the economic effects of the tax, concluding that two million passengers didn’t travel in 2011 due to the higher air fares”  according to

Germany may abolish national air travel tax

Fri, 22 November 2013

A possible end to the air travel tax in Germany may have potential benefits for German airlines, according to a report in German tabloid Bild cited by Credit Suisse analysts on Friday.

German government coalition parties are said to be in negotiations to abolish the national air travel tax. Introduced in 2011 it generates approximately €1bn in revenues for the country.

Lufthansa and Air Berlin, as well as federal states including Bavaria, have lobbied against the tax and a potential abolishment would prove a significant positive for air travel demand in Germany, the report claims.

“The result of government negotiations remains to be seen, but we highlight the potential benefit to Lufthansa in the meantime,” Credit Suisse said.




In 2011

Germany To Lower Plane Ticket Tax

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels
12 October 2011
Germany’s highly controversial plane ticket tax is to be lowered next year to compensate for additional costs arising from the extension of the European Union’s (EU) emissions trading scheme to flights over Europe from January 1, according to the German finance ministry. [The ETS has now virtually collapsed, and even where it works, the cost of carbon permits, at around €5 per tonne, is so low as to barely add any additional cost to flights. AW comment]. 

From the beginning of 2012, passengers will be faced with additional costs on international flights as the European Union’s right to impose carbon levies on all commercial flights using European airports was recently deemed by the European Court of Justice to be “compatible” with international law.

In accordance with the European emissions trading scheme directive, airlines operating into and out of the EU will from 2012 be required to surrender varying emission allowances, depending on the flight, and will be required to purchase any additional permits outside of their free allowance.

As a result of the new provisions, experts have calculated that passengers on long-haul flights may be faced with additional costs of between €2 to €12 a ticket.

Germany’s airline ticket tax, which entered into force from January 1, 2011, is currently levied at a rate of €8, €25 or €45 per passenger, depending on the destination.

A draft bill drawn up by the German finance ministry provides for a 5.52% reduction in the levy across the board, which would effectively lower the rates to €7.56, €23.62, or €42.52 respectively.

Concerned that they will be unable to sustain their cheap tariffs and that they will continue to lose passengers as a result, low-cost airlines have criticized the government’s proposed model, arguing that budget flights are disadvantaged under the current plans.

Despite an overall increase in recorded passenger numbers at airports in Germany in the first half of the year, low-cost and domestic flights have been significantly affected by the coalition government’s plane ticket tax.

In its release back in July, the German airport association ADV revealed that although the number of passengers at German airports rose by 8.1% in the first six months of 2011, despite turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, high oil prices and the effects of the volcanic ash cloud, developments at individual airports in Germany varied considerably.

ADV emphasized at the time that the effects of the plane ticket tax are becoming increasingly visible. Indeed, airports with a high proportion of low-cost and domestic flights have shown a significant decline in passenger numbers, the association revealed.

Warning of potential job losses in Germany, chief executive of ADV Ralph Beisel explained that the levy has led to a dramatic decline in passenger numbers in some airports in Germany. Beisel emphasized that airports in bordering states, including the Netherlands, have greatly benefited from the tax, revelling in increased numbers of new passengers.

According to ADV, low-cost travel declined by 0.8% in the first half of 2011, while sustained declines were observed particularly in the case of low-cost domestic flights, which in some cases fell by 22.6%. In stark contrast, ADV analysis revealed that numbers significantly increased at bordering airports in the same time period (for example numbers rose by 29.7% at Eindhoven airport and by 71.8% at Maastricht airport, both located across the German border in the Netherlands). Germany’s plane ticket tax represents a clear location disadvantage compared to bordering foreign airports, the analysis showed.

German airlines fiercely opposed and criticized the government’s plans from the outset, warning of competitive disadvantages for the country’s industry and arguing that passengers in border areas would merely fly from airports abroad.

The German government is due to re-examine its airline ticket tax and the effects of the levy next year [2012], and is expected to present its findings to the German parliament or Bundestag at the end of June.







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Some 250 CEOs write to Chancellor (yet again) to try and stop APD rises in line with RPI due in 2014

Regularly, every few months, there is another push by the aviation industry and its supporters, to get Air Passenger Duty (APD) reduced or scrapped. There is an other of these lobbying events again now. Some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor, accusing the Treasury of “ignoring evidence that APD is harming the economy.” The UK has one of the highest aviation tax regimes in the world. Most other countries barely tax aviation. Several others in Europe do tax in one way or another. The reason the tax is charged is that UK air travel pays no VAT and no fuel duty. APD is intended to reduce this massive tax break, and in some way and incompletely, put a fair amount of tax onto air travel.  The aviation and business lobby ignore this, and claim APD has a substantial negative effect on the UK economy. They ignore the need for fair taxation, and the Treasury’s need for revenue.  The businesses say: ….we are bitterly disappointed with the Government’s decision to keep increasing a tax which acts as a barrier for business in attracting inward investment and creating new jobs.” They quote a study earlier in the year by PwC on which the Treasury commented: “We do not recognise the figures in this report or agree with the assumptions behind it.”


For a lot more information, see 

Scrap air passenger tax rises, urges CEOs

Some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor this weekend, accusing the Treasury of ignoring evidence that Air Passenger Duty is harming the economy

By  (Telegraph)

30 Nov 2013

The Government has been accused of “turning a blind eye” to the damage caused to inward investment and job creation in the UK by a controversial tax on air travel.

Some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor this weekend, accusing the Treasury of ignoring evidence that Air Passenger Duty (APD) is harming the economy.

The UK has one of the highest aviation tax regimes in the world. In a recent study by the World Economic Forum, the UK was ranked 138th out of 139 countries according to the competitiveness of its air ticket taxes and airport charges – ahead only of Chad in Africa.

APD, which applies to all passengers flying from a UK airport, will be raised again in April 2014.

Rates have soared since 1994, when APD was introduced. Then, passengers paid £5 per person for short-haul destinations and £10 to travel further afield, but now as much as £188 can be added to a long-haul ticket.

“Year-on-year APD rises are making the UK economy increasingly uncompetitive,” the chief executives, including British Airways head Keith Williams and Heathrow Airport boss, Colin Matthews, write.

“As UK businesses, we are bitterly disappointed with the Government’s decision to keep increasing a tax which acts as a barrier for business in attracting inward investment and creating new jobs.”

The business chiefs, who range from directors of large companies such as Emirates and Lufthansa, to small firms, point to research published by PwC earlier this year which claimed that scrapping APD would deliver a 0.45pc boost to gross domestic product within 12 months and create 60,000 jobs by 2020.

The study, which used economic modelling used by government departments and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, estimated the UK would be £16bn better off by 2015 were APD to be abolished.

The research was dismissed by the Treasury but the 250 chief executives, who also include Craig Kreeger, head of Virgin Atlantic, are pressing for the Government to carry out and publish its own study into how APD affects the economy. A similar call was made earlier this year by the Commons Treasury Select Committee.

“In the current economic climate it will be the private sector that drives growth, but taxes like APD are hindering us from competing internationally and slowing us down in the global race,” write the chief executives, who are members of the campaign group A Fair Tax on Flying.

An HM Treasury spokesman said: “The Government has frozen APD in real terms since 2010, and in the last year, APD has not changed at all for the majority of flights. Passenger numbers are going up, and airlines do not have to pass on the cost of APD to passengers.

“However, it is important that the aviation sector plays a part in helping to bring down the deficit.”






The Battle over Air Passenger Duty

1st December 2013

Blog by John Stewart

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the introduction of Air Passenger Duty (APD).  It has proved hugely controversial.  Environmentalists and most residents groups’ believe it is not high enough.  Aviation interests argue it is crippling the industry.

Even today the Sunday Telegraph is reporting that some 250 chief executives have written to the Chancellor, in advance of his Autumn Statement this week, claiming APD is harming the economy.

In a sense, both sides are right.  Air Passenger Duty has the potential to transform demand for air travel.  And both sides know it.  If it is removed, more people will fly.  If it is increased, demand over time is likely to fall.  Higher rates of APD would hit leisure travel hardest as it is much more price-sensitive than business travel.  Less demand for air travel would, in turn, reduce the demand for new runways.

Howard Davies, the chairman of the Airports Commission, has argued that it is not his job to advise on taxation rates; that he has to work within the current regime.  In my view, he is correct.  It is the job of governments to decide the extent they want to use fiscal measures to manage demand.

When Kenneth Clarke, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced APD 20 years ago in his budget of November 1993, it wasn’t to manage demand but to ensure aviation paid its fair share of taxation: “First, air travel is under-taxed compared to other sectors of the economy. It benefits not only from a zero rate of VAT; in addition, the fuel used in international air travel, and nearly all domestic flights, is entirely free of tax. A number of countries have already addressed this anomaly”.

By 2007 the Government was framing APD as a response to rising aircraft emissions.  But, in recent years, government has seen it as a substitute for tax on fuel and VAT.  Ministers regard it as easier to impose APD than enter into prolonged international negotiations to get agreement for aviation fuel to be taxed or for a VAT-type tax to be imposed on international flights.

At present there is a huge discrepancy between what motorists are taxed and the tax paid by the aviation industry.  Revenue from car travel (tax on fuel and VAT) bring the Treasury about £12 billion a year.  APD raises around £2.8 billion.  It would need to be quadrupled match the income from car travel.  **

Of course, the aviation industry argues that, unlike roads, it doesn’t depend (certainly in the UK) on state money to build and maintain its infrastructure.  It also points out there are tax-breaks given to rail and bus travel.  However true those arguments are, I’m not sure they fully answer Kenneth Clarke’s original point that aviation fails to contribute its fair share of general taxation.

The industry also argues that APD does not exist in other countries.  That is true.  However, there are a variety of ticket-type taxes or other charges in many European countries.  For example in Austria, the ticket fee depends on the distance, 7€ is for the short distances, 15€ for middle and 35€ for long distance.  None of them – yet – bring in as much money as APD.

But politicians across Europe are beginning to understand APD-type taxes have two potential benefits:  they rake in money during these recessionary times; and they can act as an effective tool to regulate demand if they want to do so.  That’s why they fill environmentalists and residents with hope and strike fear into the heart of the aviation industry.

I suspect the battle will go on for at least another 20 years.

 ** [The RAC says in 2012, the overall motor vehicle traffic volume (not only cars but including lorries etc) in Great Britain was 302.6 billion vehicle miles, which is 492 million kilometres. This is similar to traffic volumes in 2011 (303.8 billion vehicle miles) and 2010 (303.2 billion vehicle miles).The CAA said in 2011 the number of seat kilometres flown by UK airlines was around 306 billion kilometres (not miles) but that excludes the seat kilometres of foreign airlines using UK airports.  Therefore, including an assumption on the foreign airlines that also use UK airports, the number of kilometres travelled by cars and air passengers to/from the  UK are broadly comparable.  AW comment]. 




PwC report on APD met by dismissive comments from Treasury – Chancellor has no intention of lowering APD


The 4 largest airlines in the UK (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet and Ryanair) commissioned a report from PwC on Air Passenger Duty (APD). The intention was to try and get APD reduced, or removed altogether. PwC put together arguments that the UK economy would benefit, if flyers could fly slightly more cheaply. There was a range of arguments, including more tax take, more investment, spin offs of all sorts.  However, this has cut no ice with the Treasury. The pressure from the 4 airlines got a frosty response from the Treasury, which made clear that the Chancellor had no intention of lowering APD. The FT reports that a Treasury spokesperson said APD, which is forecast to bring in £2.9bn this year, makes an “essential contribution” towards helping meet the government’s deficit reduction plans. “We do not recognise the figures in this report or agree with the assumptions behind it,” the Treasury said. The report also had to admit that making flying a bit cheaper would have a negative impact on parts of the UK economy, as yet more Brits took they money to spend abroad.



Some other recent news about Air Passenger Duty:

Treasury Minister confirms APD is necessary and government has no plans to reduce it

27.10.2013      .On 23rd October there was an “Opposition day debate” in the Commons, on Air Passenger Duty -especially in relation to Northern Ireland. There were attempts by some MPs with no interest in environmental concerns, to make out that APD is a “green tax”, (and so, along with other “green taxes” should be cut, in the misjudged belief that would benefit the UK economy. The new Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Nicky Morgan, replied for the government, that “we must continue to work hard to reduce the deficit, so if we were to abolish APD, an alternative source for the revenue would need to be found. We never seem to hear any suggestions,” and “….the £3 billion that is raised by APD is a significant contribution to the Exchequer when we are tackling the deficit.” And “There is also no duty charged on the fuel used in international, and virtually all domestic, flights. …..despite the fiscal challenges, the Government have ensured that APD rates have been frozen in real terms since 2010, rising by just £1 for the vast majority of passengers since then. The Government therefore reject the suggestion that we have pushed taxes on aviation too high.” 

Anti-APD campaign wastes no time in lobbying new shadow minister, Lilian Greenwood

September 10, 2013     . After the resignation of Jim FitzPatrick as a Labour opposition transport spokesman on 29th August over Syria, his shadow aviation responsibilities have been taken over by Lilian Greenwood (MP for Nottingham South). The aviation industry has lost no time in lobbying her on Air Passenger Duty. British Air Transport Association (BATA) say her new role “offers an ideal opportunity for the opposition to put pressure on the government between now and the next election to review the impact of APD on the UK economy.” While APD does no harm the UK economy, it has a very slight impact on demand for air tickets (it is only £13 for a return flight to anywhere in Europe), so the aviation industry is deeply opposed. All the lobbying ignores the fact that the Treasury charges APD because air travel pays no VAT and aviation does not pay fuel duty. People on internal return flights within the UK pay £26 in APD as each part of the trip is charged. Scotland has long lobbied to get APD devolved to the Scottish Government, with businesses campaigning to get APD removed. 


Report shows EU governments miss out on up to €39bn a year due to aviation’s tax breaks (no VAT or fuel duty)

July 30, 2013      . A report has been produced, by consultants CE Delft, for the sustainable transport group, Transport & Environment (T&E). It shows that debt-ridden EU countries miss out on up to €39bn every year from airlines not paying taxes. CE Delft found that this revenue shortfall is due to out-dated EU laws exempting international flights from fuel taxes, and from VAT, which is levied on almost all consumer goods. While every European consumer, small business and haulier has to pay on average a tax of €0.48 / litre of fuel for petrol or diesel, big commercial airlines – both those based in the EU and overseas – don’t pay any tax on their fuel. This revenue shortfall totals up to €32bn a year. In addition to this EU governments miss out on €7.1bn every year on VAT which is exempt on international flight tickets. T&E’s aviation policy officer Aoife O’Leary said: “International airlines are like flying tax havens inexplicably exempted from paying the basic EU taxes every EU citizen and company is obliged to pay.” However the airline industry says that without such tax holidays it would be hard pressed to turn a profit. (So much fuel used. So much CO2 generated. So little profit.) The EU consultation on state aid to airports & airlines closes 25th September.


Latest ‘Fair Tax’ campaign focuses on business

20 June 2013      .A Fair Tax on Flying has launched a new initiative [yet again!] to highlight opposition from businesses to Air Passenger Duty (APD). The latest initiative encourages UK and international companies to add their support to a petition hosted on the campaign website – – which says that ‘As APD continues to increase each year, our competitive position gets worse, not better. In the current economic climate, the Government should be making it easier for companies like ours to travel overseas to win new business.’ Businesses are also being asked to add their names to a letter to their local MP and the Chancellor, which campaign organisers plan to send later this summer.

For full details of the latest initiative click here.   And it continues. To see full story see


No change to the rate of APD in the Budget – it will continue to rise at the rate of RPI

No change of rate of APD in the Budget. It will continue to rise at the rate of the RPI. The Budget document says: Air Passenger Duty (APD) rates – As announced at Budget 2012, APD rates for 2013-14 will rise in line with the RPI from 1… April 2013. (Finance Bill 2013) Budget 2013 announces that APD rates for 2014-15 will rise in line with RPI from 1 April 2014, as set out in Overview of tax legislation and rates. (Finance Bill 2014) The Government has no plans to vary APD rates by levels of airport congestion.
Treasury expects to get, from APD: year 2013/14 £2.9 billion; 2014/15 – £3 bn; 2015/16 – £3.3bn; 2016/17 – £3.5bn; 2017/18 – £3.8 bn. Budget document. Pages 86 and 103

Budget coming up this week – so it’s time for the habitual bash at APD by the airlines…

March 17, 2013    With the budget coming up on the 20th March, the airlines do their usual predictable attack on Air Passenger Duty, in the vain hope that the Chancellor will be persuaded to let flying be a bit cheaper, and agree to the Treasury forgoing an important source of revenue for the UK economy. The last attempt the airlines had was a report that they had written by PWC, with a range of claims about APD. The FT reported in February that a Treasury spokesperson said APD, which is forecast to bring in £2.9bn this year, makes an “essential contribution” towards helping meet the government’s deficit reduction plans. “We do not recognise the figures in this [PWC] report or agree with the assumptions behind it”   FT link    Air Passenger Duty is charged because there is no VAT on aviation, and the industry is zero-rated. There is also no fuel tax on jet fuel. So APD is charged, because of these tax breaks the industry receives. The aviation PR spin is that aviation is vital to the UK economy. In reality, around 80% of trips made by air from the UK are for leisure purposes, the majority taking Brits to spend their money on trips abroad. Cutting APD would only be beneficial to the aviation industry. It would not benefit the UK as a whole.    Click here to view full story…


PwC report on APD met by dismissive comments from Treasury – Chancellor has no intention of lowering APD

February 5, 2013   The 4 largest airlines in the UK (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet and Ryanair) commissioned a report from PwC on Air Passenger Duty (APD). The intention was to try and get APD reduced, or removed altogether. PwC put together arguments that the UK economy would benefit, if flyers could fly slightly more cheaply. There was a range of arguments, including more tax take, more investment, spin offs of all sorts. However, this has cut no ice with the Treasury. The pressure from the 4 airlines got a frosty response from the Treasury, which made clear that the Chancellor had no intention of lowering APD. The FT reports that a Treasury spokesperson said APD, which is forecast to bring in £2.9bn this year, makes an “essential contribution” towards helping meet the government’s deficit reduction plans. “We do not recognise the figures in this report or agree with the assumptions behind it,” the Treasury said. The report also had to admit that making flying a bit cheaper would have a negative impact on parts of the UK economy, as yet more Brits took they money to spend abroad.    Click here to view full story…


Airlines have another go at trying to get rid of APD. Reminiscent of turkeys and Christmas.

February 4, 2013    EasyJet has produced two press releases, making out that a new study done for the airline industry shows that the UK economy would benefit if Air Passenger Duty was cut. EasyJet, BA, Virgin and Ryanair commissioned PwC to investigate the possible effect of abolishing APD. Using elaborate contortions of facts and logic, and glossing over the point that the main beneficiaries of abolishing the tax would be themselves (not UK plc) they ignore the inconvenient facts that the majority of air travel takes Brits abroad, to spend their money elsewhere. Only a minority – around 20% at most – of air passengers from the UK are on business. The study also ignores the fact that air travel pays no VAT and no fuel duty – making it a very special case, and very under-taxed in comparison to other sectors. Much of the “logic” behind the calculations by PwC of the suggested economic benefits of removing APD involve indirect effects, such as boosting tax take in a variety of sectors, increasing investment, and presumed spin off effects of this over time. All very dubious. No industry likes to pay tax, but there is no reason why air travel – largely discretionary spending by the better off – should escape a fair level of tax. These APD claims by the 4 airlines really are stunning nonsense.   Click here to view full story…


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Police helicopter crashes onto crowded bar in Glasgow – 8 confirmed dead, many more badly injured

A police helicopter has crashed into a crowded bar, smashing through the flat roof and entering the building. The bar was full of people listening to live music. The helicopter, weighing around 3 tonnes, did huge damage to the building (there was no fire though) and many people were trapped in collapsed masonry and rubble. The three in the helicopter died, and 5 others s far are confirmed dead. There are many others seriously injured, as well as more with minor injuries. The helicopter apparently does not have a black box. Accident investigators are already working to establish the cause of the accident. Some eye witness reports indicate the rotors stopped and the helicopter virtually fell to the ground. The helicopter is an Eurocopter EC135 T2, which is the standard Scottish police helicopter. It began service in 1996 and there are now around 1,000 in operation, for police and emergency services. Witnesses spoke of hearing the helicopter’s engine spluttering as it fell. The crash will add to pressure on the Government to look into the safety of helicopters. Last week, the Transport minister Robert Goodwill rejected calls for a full-scale public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.


30 November 2013  (BBC)

Glasgow helicopter crash: Police name dead man

Police have named one of the eight people who died after a helicopter crashed into a busy Glasgow pub.

Gary Arthur, 48, was from the Paisley area, Police Scotland said.

Three people inside the helicopter and five people inside The Clutha were killed after the Police Scotland aircraft came down at 22:30 on Friday.

A further 14 people are being treated for “very serious injuries”. Prayers for the dead will be said at a service at Glasgow Cathedral on Sunday.

Police Scotland said in a statement that “the body of a male has been recovered from the scene”.

“The male has now been identified as Gary Arthur, aged 48, from the Paisley area. His family have been informed.

“Extensive efforts continue to recover the remaining bodies from the scene but, due to ongoing safety constraints, this is likely to take some time.”

Officers from Police Scotland’s major investigations team have asked for any footage of the incident or surrounding areas to be emailed to the dedicated address:

The investigation will run in parallel with one being run by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.

A total of 32 people were hurt in the crash – 14 of them seriously.

Dr Jennifer Armstrong, medical director at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said 18 of the injured people had now been treated and discharged.

“The main injuries we have seen include chest injuries, head injuries, long-bone fractures and lacerations,” she said.

It is thought that about 120 people were in the pub at the time of the crash.

Many were rescued or escaped but others were trapped by a collapse on the left-hand side of the building.

The emergency services remain involved in a “search and recovery” operation

The three occupants of the helicopter who died were two police officers and a civilian pilot.

A significant number of personnel from Police Scotland, The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance Service are still at the scene.

Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House told a news conference on Saturday afternoon that they would remain there for some time.

He said: “This is a complex and ongoing rescue operation. It will not be a quick operation. It is a very complicated and indeed dangerous scene.”

Chief Constable House said the operation would go on “for many days yet”.

He paid tribute to the emergency service personnel who were working at the scene and the people of Glasgow who disregarded their own personal safety to help survivors in the aftermath of the crash.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the same news conference that the increased death toll from the crash was “news that everybody today has been both dreading and expecting”.

“Our hearts go out to everyone who has been bereaved. It is impossible to imagine the grief and loss that they are experiencing,” she said.

“They should know that the thoughts and prayers of everyone across the city, and indeed across Scotland, are with them at this unimaginably difficult time.

Ms Sturgeon also praised the courage and fortitude of the emergency services and people of Glasgow in the aftermath of the crash.

She added: “I think we were all moved last night by the way in which those who were in and around the scene did everything possible to help and the outpouring of concern and kindness today, I’m sure, will be a comfort to those affected.”

Ms Sturgeon’s colleague, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, will attend a special service at Glasgow Cathedral on Sunday to offer prayers for the dead and injured.

In other developments:

  • A large area of the city centre has been cordoned off
  • A mass has been held at St Andrew’s Cathedral in city for those involved in crash and emergency services involved in response
  • The city council has cancelled St Andrew’s Day celebrations in George Square as a mark of respect
  • A minute’s silence was held ahead of the Falkirk v Rangers match
  • Flags are flying at half-mast on Scottish government buildings
  • Casualties were taken to Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Western Infirmary and the Victoria Infirmary
  • The Police Scotland Casualty Bureau number is 0800 092 0410 - for those concerned about relatives
  • Glasgow City Council has opened a family reception centre at 40 John Street

The Police Scotland helicopter which crashed was a twin-engine Eurocopter EC135 T2.

In a statement, Eurocopter said its experts were “on standby to support the investigation in every way possible”.

“An accident investigation team from Eurocopter is on its way to Scotland to assist the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch and the BFU (German AAIB) in its efforts to investigate the cause of the accident,” the statement said.

Helicopter operator Bond Air Services said it was working with the police and emergency services.

A statement added: “Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic incident.”

William Byrne, 45, from Coatbridge, who was in the pub when the helicopter came down, returned to the scene on Saturday morning.

“There was a loud bang. Then there was dust and the lights went out. It was surreal,” he told BBC Scotland.

“We didn’t know what had happened. At our side of the pub at least two people were trapped under the gantry. Myself and others lifted it up and managed to get them out. I spent some time with one injured man.”

He added: “At our side of the pub I would say there were less than 10 people injured, mainly walking wounded, not seriously injured. One girl had clearly been hit on the head – she had a big bump.

“The other side of the pub took the brunt. Myself and my friends managed to get out without a scratch. Everyone helped everyone else to get out.”

About 250 people attended a special service at St Andrew’s Cathedral on Saturday afternoon.

Archbishop Philip Tartaglia told worshipers: “We pray for those who have lost their lives, who are injured, the bereaved, and the emergency services and members of the public.

“We pray for our city of Glasgow, which is in mourning today.”

One of The Clutha’s owners, Saverio Petri expressed his “heartfelt sorrow to the people who have tragically lost their lives just going out to listen to some music”.

He told the BBC that he was serving drinks in the bar when the crash happened.

He said: “I was hit with some falling debris on my head, my arm, my leg, my foot – which subsequently knocked me to the ground.

“In my situation, luckily from my point of view, is what saved me and, unfortunately, where others perished, because I’d fallen behind the bar and the debris was landing more so on the bar or bouncing off the bar and to the front of the bar.

“I managed to subsequently get up, I climbed over the debris I could. I got as many people as I could out of the bar.

“The customers in the pub were exceptional in assisting in getting the injured out of the pub.”

A statement posted on The Clutha bar’s Facebook page on Saturday stated: “Our thanks go out to all the goodwill messages and prayers for those who tragically lost their lives in the accident last night. An event beyond comprehension and belief.

“The customers who could showed the true spirit of Glasgow along with all the emergency services. Our heartfelt sorrow to all of the families of those who perished.”

The band who were playing in the pub at the time of the crash, Esperanza, released a statement on their Facebook page.

Bassist Jess wrote: “Waking up and realising that it is all definitely horribly real. Despite the situation everyone was so helpful and caring of each other.

“The police, ambulances, firefighters all did a stellar job and continue to do so today in extremely difficult conditions.”

Eddie Waltham, a former firefighter who had a friend inside the pub, told the BBC: “A roof joist came down and hit him and pushed him towards the window which is at the left side of the left door.”

He added later: “My own reaction was to run straight up to the pub.

“It was amazing to watch just how people were trying so hard to get into this building.”

Gordon Matheson, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said his heart went out to the families affected.

He also praised the response of ordinary people in the area before the emergency services arrived.

Map of the area

Mr Matheson said: “People who were in the pub, the people who were in the streets and who just helped out their fellow human beings who were out having a good time.

“It’s Glasgow at its best you know, if people are in need the spontaneous response is to go to their help. And I want to pay great tribute to that and I’m very proud as leader of the city that that was the reaction. It doesn’t surprise me.”

The Queen has said her thoughts and prayers are with the victims of crash.

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond said: “This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland

The Eurocopter EC135 T2

Police Scotland helicopter
  • Began service in 1996 and there are now around 1,000 in operation
  • Used around the world by the police and emergency services
  • Has capacity for one pilot and six or seven passengers
  • Weighs 6,504 lbs (2,950kg)
  • Maximum speed of 137kts (254 km/h)
  • Twin-engined and has a maximum range of 334nm (620km)

What do we know about crash helicopter?

“The response from our emergency services and citizens has been exemplary.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This is a tragic event and our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends who lost a loved one last night.

“I want to thank the emergency services who worked tirelessly throughout the night and I also want pay tribute to the bravery of the ordinary Glaswegians who rushed to help.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband described the crash as an “unimaginable horror”.

He added: “My thoughts are with… the people of Glasgow who are an incredibly strong people.”

In 2002, a police Eurocopter EC-135 came down in a field in Ayrshire. All three people on board survived.

In 1990, a police sergeant was killed when a Bell Jet 206 helicopter crashed in bad weather at Newton Mearns in East Renfrewshire.




‘It dropped. Just like dropping a 10p piece’: Eight dead after police helicopter crashes into packed Glasgow pub



30 November 2013 (Independent)

Eight people were confirmed dead after a police helicopter crashed through the roof of a packed Glasgow music pub.

It was feared that the death toll could rise when emergency services raise the wrecked aircraft from the shell of the Clutha, a bar in central Glasgow. But police were not discounting the possibility that some people inside could still be alive, insisting that a rescue operation was still under way, although the chances appeared slim.

Last night, Scottish Police confirmed the name of the first victim of the helicopter crash was 48-year-old Gary Arthur, from the Paisley area. Emergency service sources said there could be 10, or possibly as many as 20, people, alive or dead, inside.

One grief-stricken man said yesterday he had been told that his father had been sitting in his favourite spot at the bar when the helicopter crashed down on top of him. He planned to stay outside the Clutha until he learned the fate of his father for certain.

Police confirmed that all those on board the helicopter – a civilian pilot and two police officers – were killed, along with at least five revellers in the pub on Friday night. Fourteen people were in a serious condition in hospitals yesterday, but 18 others who were treated had been allowed home.

Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, described it yesterday as a “black day for Glasgow and also for Scotland”.

A view of the roof of the Clutha Vaults bar, showing where the helicopter crashed into it

The Air Accident Investigations Branch and Police Scotland both launched inquiries into the crash. Helicopter operator Bond Air Services said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by the incident and was working with the authorities.

Witnesses spoke of hearing the helicopter’s engine spluttering as the aircraft descended rapidly on to the pub’s roof.

The crash will add to pressure on the Government to look into the safety of helicopters. Only last week, the Transport minister Robert Goodwill rejected calls for a full-scale public inquiry into offshore helicopter safety.

From the outside, the Clutha – appeared to be intact yesterday, but the inside was described as a mess of mangled metal, dust and debris. Rescue workers covered the roof and helicopter with a protective tarpaulin.

At a press conference yesterday, Sir Stephen House, chief constable of Police Scotland, said that the “very complicated and, indeed, dangerous” rescue operation would continue through the night and into today. He said that it was not known how many people were inside.

“The helicopter is in there and it is dominating the whole space within the building,” Sir Stephen said, standing just outside the cordoned-off area around the pub. “Until it is out of the way, we won’t know everything that is going on underneath the helicopter. We simply can’t say what the situation is at this moment definitively.”

He added: “I have to ask you to imagine the situation where the helicopter has come down and is literally sitting in the middle of the building. Until that is resolved, we can’t know everything that is in that building.”

The Eurocopter EC135 T2 helicopter hit the pub at around 10.30pm on Friday evening.

Dogs from the Trossachs Search and Rescue charity were brought in on Friday night to search the wreckage, but they were stood down at about 6am on Saturday morning. Fibre-optic cameras, specialist sound equipment and carbon-dioxide indicators to detect human breath were also used.

There had been a party atmosphere in the Clutha on Friday, with the ska band Esperanza in full swing, when, at about 10.25pm, the helicopter crashed through the roof on to the bar, filling the room with blinding, choking dust. Some initially thought that a bomb had gone off.

Eyewitnesses in the pub described how they saw the bar “buckle” before collapsing, completely crushing people below. They said the bar went dark and filled with clouds of dust that made it hard to see and breathe.

Despite chaotic scenes, people in the pub, including some who were injured, and passers-by from outside helped to rescue people from the wreckage until emergency services arrived.

Kenny Hamilton, a 48-year-old painter and decorator, told The Independent on Sunday yesterday that he had been “knocked sideways” by the gantry above the bar when the helicopter hit. He was pulled out of the wreckage and then, despite suspected cracked ribs, he helped several people lift the shattered bar so that another injured man trapped beneath it could be taken to safety.

Echoing earlier comments by Mr Salmond, Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to “the bravery of the ordinary Glaswegians who rushed to help”, and emergency services personnel “who worked tirelessly throughout the night”.

Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson described the crash as “heartbreaking”, but nevertheless took some comfort from the response. “When there is trouble and people need assistance, the people of Glasgow head towards those situations,” he said yesterday. “The motto of the city of Glasgow is ‘People make Glasgow’. That was at no better time demonstrated than last night and in the period since.”

Flags flew at half-mast across the city and the annual St Andrew’s Day celebrations in the central George Square were cancelled. Throughout the day, a steady stream of people arrived to lay flowers on the pavement outside the Holiday Express hotel, a few yards down the street from the scene but as close as police would let them.

In a personal statement, the Queen added her condolences, saying that she was “saddened to learn of the dreadful helicopter crash”.

The names of the dead were understandably slow to emerge. But a clearly distressed John McGarrigle, 38, standing outside the Clutha, said he had been told by an eyewitness that his father, also John McGarrigle, 59, was sitting “right in the spot” where the helicopter hit.

“The realisation, and just a deep instinct kicked in right away as soon as I heard there was an accident at Clutha. I just knew something bad had happened to him,” he told BBC News at the scene. “When I came round and seen where the position of the helicopter [was], that was when I knew, because he sat in that spot all the time, where the ‘copter hit. I am still shaking. I could walk in there and pinpoint him myself in the rubble.”

Mr McGarrigle said he had checked every hospital with no sign of his father and planned to stand outside the Clutha until he saw that all the casualties were removed from the pub.

The Clutha – the name means “Clyde” in Gaelic – is a popular bar in the centre of Glasgow known as one of the city’s best music venues. It was once a favourite venue for Billy Connolly when he was starting out as a comedian.

Ska band Esperanza’s bass player and general manager, Jessica Combe, said yesterday that they were “waking up and realising that it is all definitely horribly real”.

“Despite the situation, everyone was so helpful and caring of each other,” she said in a statement. “The police, ambulances, firefighters all did a stellar job and continue to do so today in extremely difficult conditions.”

A statement on the Clutha’s Facebook page said that it had been “an event beyond comprehension and belief”. It read: “Our heartfelt sorrow to all of the families of those who perished.”

Additional reporting by Victoria Finan





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AEF comment on CAA review of environmental landing charges at airports

The CAA published a review in October of environmental landing charges at the 6 largest UK airports. The CAA review considered whether differential landing charges, based on noise and air pollution by NOx emissions, could be used to encourage the take up of cleaner and quieter aircraft. The main finding of the review is that environmental landing charges have some incentive effects but are unlikely to be the main financial driver for using quieter and less polluting aircraft. Currently, charging varies across the 6 airports, with some offering greater financial incentives for better performing aircraft which limits the effectiveness of environmental charging. The Aviation Environment Federation believes future schemes should assess the cost of local air quality impacts and then charge airlines for their contribution (the differential would mean that the polluter pays more in addition to the existing landing charges). The environmental charges collected should not be retained by the airport but could be used to fund effective mitigation and avoidance measures.


A review of environmental landing charges at airports, report by CAA

Nov 29 2013  (AEF – Aviation Environment Federation)

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) published a review in October of environmental landing chargesat the three designated airports for noise management (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted) and three of the busiest airports in the UK  (Manchester, East Midlands and Birmingham).

The study examined whether differential landing charges for noise and air pollution – where noisier and more polluting aircraft are charged more than quieter, cleaner aircraft to land at a specific airport – could be used to encourage the take up of cleaner and quieter aircraft. [CAA use the term "clean" to refer to NOx pollution, rather than the unhelpful general use of the term to indicate lower carbon emissions]. 

The main finding of the review is that environmental landing charges have some incentive effects but are unlikely to be the main financial driver for using quieter and less polluting aircraft. Currently, charging varies across the six airports with some offering greater financial incentives for better performing aircraft which limits the effectiveness of environmental charging.

Of concern is that certain airports (Gatwick for example) applied reduced landing charges for early morning and night flights which are classified as off-peak periods. This creates an incentive for airlines to fly at times when residents are more sensitive to aircraft noise, which could exacerbate the noise problem.

In order to improve the effectiveness of charging schemes, the report calls for charges to be better linked to environmental impacts, along with greater differentials between efficient and noisy or polluting aircraft, and an earlier introduction of higher charges as new standards of aircraft emerge.

Under current CAA regulations, increases in environmental landing charges at the regulated Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick would have to be counter-balanced by decreases in other aircraft charges. Yet environmental charges only account for 3% of landing charges at Heathrow meaning there is scope for raising environmental charges.

CAA make several recommendations on noise, including that charging categories should cover all aircraft using the airport and that there should be different charges for operations occurring at night. The review also recommends that NOx landing charges should be distinct to those for noise.

Our view is that environmental landing charges should include a differential to take account of the relative contribution of each aircraft, and the ability to raise revenue proportional to the impact (the external cost of the impact).

In this case, AEF welcomes the introduction of differential environmental charges but the use of an existing charge – in this case the landing fee – makes the overall scheme “revenue neutral”. This is a missed opportunity and is, in effect, subsidising aircraft that are less polluting than the average by discounting the landing fee.

Future schemes at UK airports should assess the cost of local air quality impacts and then charge airlines for their contribution (the differential would mean that the polluter pays more in addition to the existing landing charges). The environmental charges collected should not be retained by the airport but could be used to fund effective mitigation and avoidance measures.

The report, titled CAP 1119: Environmental charging – Review of impact of noise and NOx landing charges was released on the 15thOctober 2013 and is available by following the link below:

CAA Environmental Charging Review



CAA calls on airports to use landing charges to encourage cleaner, quieter flights

Date: 15 October 2013

UK airports should use their landing charges to offer better incentives for airlines to operate cleaner and quieter flights, says a new report released by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) today.

The report follows the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Aviation Policy Framework published in March this year, which suggested airports consider using differential landing charges to incentivise quieter aircraft. The CAA has since reviewed the noise and emission elements of landing charges at six of the UK’s busiest airports and has published in its report a set of good practice principles for airports to encourage airlines to operate more environmentally friendly flights.

During the review, the CAA found approaches to the environmental elements of landing charges varied greatly from one airport to another – with some airports offering greater financial incentives for airlines to use cleaner and quieter aircraft than others.

The report also found that whilst some airports used differential landing charges to encourage airlines to operate in the day, others applied reduced landing charges for early morning and night flights – most likely due to differences in demand. This approach therefore gives airlines a financial incentive to fly at times when residents are more sensitive to aircraft noise and could actually increase airlines’ environmental impact on local residents.

With approaches to differential landing charges varying across the six airports reviewed, the CAA is calling for charges to be more consistently linked to impact to maximise the incentives for more environmentally friendly operations.

Dan Edwards, Head of Economic Policy and International Aviation at the CAA, said:

“We are very clear that the aviation industry needs to do more to tackle its environmental impacts, particularly if the sector wishes to grow. This means adopting innovative approaches and using landing charges to encourage cleaner, quieter flights is one way we believe the industry can make a difference.

“Adopting the principles we’ve published in our review will lead to a more consistent approach to noise and emissions landing charges across the UK, with better incentives for airlines and ultimately reducing aviation’s environmental impact on residents.”

The review acknowledges that options to increase incentives for airlines will be restricted to increasing differentials in landing charges, rather than the overall landing charges airlines pay. In addition, airports will need to consider potential trade-offs with economic and consumer choice factors when considering their approach to landing charges.

The CAA’s review looked at six UK airports in total. This included Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted, which are all designated for noise management restrictions by the Secretary of State for Transport. The remaining airports included in the review are Birmingham, East Midlands and Manchester.

The full review is available here. 


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University of Calgary analysis tar sand oil extraction show it is sometimes not even a net producer of energy

According to a new scientific analysismany tar sands wells are actually using more energy than they produceIf it requires a barrel of oil – or its equivalent in gas – to retrieve a barrel of oil, then what’s the point? It appears this is only possible at present in Canada as the price of oil is lower than the price of oil, so it is commercially viable to burn the cheaper gas in order to get out the more expensive oil. It may make some (warped) financial sense, but it makes no energy or environmental sense. But if the price of gas rises, in relation to the  price of the oil, these tar sand wells will go bust. The economics of oil extraction use the term  EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Investment) –  ideally with EROEI as high as possible (eg. the light, sweet crude found near the surface in Iraq). Other assessments have found the EROEI for tar sands may be 7:1 for extraction and 3:1 after it has been upgraded and refined into a useful fuel. Squeezing oil out of tar sand is an extremely wasteful process, requiring between 2 – 4 tons of tar sand and 2 – 4 barrels of water to produce one barrel of oil. The richest deposits are being exploited first, but already produce a low return – which will become worse once the “lowest hanging fruit” has been removed.


The Tar Sands Smoking Gun

NOV 26th 2013
For years the Canadian government has been lobbying governments across Europe not to “discriminate against the tar sands” as the EU implements its ground-breaking climate legislation called the Fuel Quality Directive.

The Canadians have argued that the carbon intensity of tar sands production is similar to other crudes and therefore should not be “discriminated against”.

For years, the Canadians have also been lobbying the Obama administration to approve the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

On both sides of the Atlantic, a central part of their lobbying campaign has been the claim that the exploitation of the tar sands is both economically and ecologically sustainable.

But the tar sands industry has a dirty little secret that has overwhelming political and economic consequences for the development of the tar sands.

According to a new scientific analysismany tar sands wells are actually using more energy than they produce.

From an economic and environmental perspective, this is total madness.

In fact, according to the paper, the only reason that these wells are in any way economical is due to the prevailing low natural gas price in North America.

If and when the price of natural gas increases, these wells will go bust.

So what is going on?

Some of the most iconic and disturbing images associated with the tar sands are huge open pit mines, with vast dumper trucks, but this production method is increasingly being outdated as producers move to develop deeper bitumen deposits.

These deeper deposits account for 80 percent of total proven tar sands reserves and are expected to account for 80 percent of total tar sands production, up from about 50 percent today.

They are extracted in a process called Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage, or SAGD for short, which has now become the extraction method of “choice”.

SAGD uses two wells: one to inject steam to heat and reduce the viscosity of the tar sands, and one to collect the oil.

So a study carried out at the University of Calgary, published in the journal, Fuel, has examined the energy and emissions intensity of operating SAGD projects, and argues that “SAGD requires large amounts of energy and emits significant volumes of greenhouse gases”.

The scientists conclude that the thermal efficiency of SAGD projects varies immensely due to the huge differences in geology and differing properties of fluids used in the extraction process.

Actual oil sands reservoirs are completely different from the homogeneous sandstones with uniform fluids envisaged by the reservoir engineers that developed the early SAGD process,” the scientific paper warns.

Field data suggests that these wells are operating with a thermal efficiency of less than 40 per cent, with some wells even less efficient.

The scientists conclude that:

many operations exceed this value and thus are not net energy generation processes yet may be ‘‘economic’’! With disconnected price markets for natural gas and bitumen, it is possible for bitumen recovery under these conditions to be economically viable today even though it makes no sense to pursue such an energy inefficient process“. (Our emphasis added)

So many wells are using more energy than they produce. However because tar sands companies burn cheaper natural gas to produce more expensive oil, the low gas price is hiding how inefficient the wells are.

This led the industry’s top trade journal, the Oil Sands Review, to suggest that:

“From the standpoint of many of Alberta’s thermal bitumen producers, a recent study on the efficiency of SAGD could be titled “Thank God for low natural gas prices.”” (our emphasis added, article behind pay wall).

It goes without saying, the U of C scientists warn, that “in all cases, carbon dioxide intensity is high”.

It also goes without saying that this research is the smoking gun that shows that the tar sands are not economically or environmentally sustainable at all.

Given that SAGD is the future of tar sands production, and that the standard progression of oil exploration is to exploit the richest deposits first, the study should be cause for a reexamination of the data on the carbon intensity of tar sands production.

The industry, the Canadian government, and the U.S. Department of State, which is analyzing the climate impact of the Keystone XL pipeline, all use data from a handful of SAGD and mining projects to extrapolate a figure for tar sands carbon intensity.

It is clear from this study that if a full survey were conducted, the true climate impact of tar sands production would be much higher than current figures suggest.

As the U of C scientists conclude:

“The results demonstrate that on an energy and carbon dioxide emissions basis, bitumen or bitumen-based energy recovery processes need to step well beyond the capabilities of current steam-based bitumen recovery processes, such as SAGD, if practical and sustainable energy balance and emissions scenarios are to be achieved from the in situ oil sands operations.”

Given that there are dozens of SAGD projects under construction and proposed, it is clear that the tar sands industry is out of control and needs to be stopped in its tracks.

The first step is to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.




University of Calgary analysis of energy balances and emissions of SAGD oil sands production finds need for improved processes; some operations not thermally efficient or net generators of energy

19 October 2013

Although optimized SAGD can yield “reasonably high” recovery factors, they found, the economic and environmental costs can be large given the amount of steam required. The data suggests that at the extreme, some operations are actually not net energy generating—i.e., the energy injected via steam exceeds the recovered chemical energy in the retrieved bitumen. The results suggest that in situ bitumen recovery processes need to advance well beyond current capabilities “if practical and sustainable energy balance and emissions scenarios are to be achieved,” they said.

One of the key challenges in producing bitumen and heavy oil is their high, variable viscosity. Heavy oil (between 10° and 20° API) has a dead oil viscosity ranging up to the thousands or tens of thousands of cP. Bitumen (<10° API) has viscosities ranging from the tens of thousands to more than 10 million cP at reservoir conditions.




Low energy return on investment (EROI) need not limit oil sands extraction

June 10, 2013

This is a guest post by Adam Brandt, Assistant Professor from Stanford University, Department of Energy Resources Engineering.

1. Introduction

[EROI is Energy Return on Energy Invested]

Low energetic returns (e.g., EROI, NER) from oil sands extraction and upgrading have been noted as a potential limit to the development of the oil sands as a substitute for depleting conventional oil resources (e.g., Herweyer and Gupta, 2008). In this article we will examine this claim from a variety of perspectives. Specifically, we will examine the following questions:

  • Are the energetic returns from oil sands extraction lower than conventional oil?
  • How have the energy returns from oil sands extraction varied over time?
  • What energy sources are used in oil sands extraction, and what are the implications of this sourcing for net energy availability from the oil sands?
  • Will low energy returns limit the net output of energy from the oil sands industry?

This article is based on the peer-reviewed journal article: Brandt A.R., J. Englander and S. Bharadwaj (2013). The energy efficiency of oil sands extraction: Energy return ratios from 1970 to 2010. Energy.

….      there is a long article ……. which  contains this couple of paragrphs:

“5. Will low energy returns limit the output of net energy from the oil sands?

These data suggest that oil sands processes exist that have reasonably high energetic returns relative to external energy provided by other energy sectors. That is, relative to the amount of energy that they consumed from the rest of society (e.g., natural gas, imported diesel, and electricity), these processes produce a significant amount of net energy output. This is partly a result of historical development and geographic considerations: the oil sands mining operations developed in a remote and poorly-integrated part of Alberta, and therefore were designed to be largely energy self-sufficient. Importantly, these conclusions are not just limited to mining operations. In situ operations such as the Nexen Long Lake project produce steam using upgrader by-products (asphaltene residues).

“Our results suggest that it is not realistic to expect oil sands extraction to be limited by their calls on natural gas and other resources. If natural gas becomes expensive, processes can be adopted to use byproducts of the processing of bitumen to fuel extraction (e.g., integrated operations). However, these integrated processes have implications for the amount of oil sands resource available (e.g., not all barrels able to be produced will be available as “net” barrels of output) and can have important climate implications (e.g., using coke for fueling bitumen separation or steam production is more GHG intensive than using natural gas). ”



Tar Sands Too Inefficient & Energy Intensive, Not Worth Cost

10.3.2012 (The Independent Report)

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s been in the news a lot lately. The pipeline was intended to carry tar sands oil across the Canadian border to the U.S.There was a big hullabaloo in Congress over the pipeline, which was finally voted down by the Senate this week. Notably, 45 Republicans voted in favor, while the other two abstained.

The obvious question is, what is the value of tar sands?

The story currently being promoted by some suggests that Canadian tar sands (also known as oil sands) are the solution to America’s energy needs and a way to relieve us of our reliance on Middle Eastern oil.

Somehow, this story ignores the fact that tar sands are still a form of imported oil, and that most of America’s imported oil already comes from Canada and Mexico, not the Middle East.

But that’s not the heart of the matter.

Here’s the key question: What is the net energy returned after utilizing oil or natural gas to obtain more oil? In the oil business, this is referred to as Energy Return On Energy Investment (EROEI).

EROEI is defined in the following way: Energy Produced / Energy Used = EROEI

For example, if oil is selling for $100 per barrel and it costs $10 in energy to produce a barrel, the EROEI is 10. Traditional oil development is currently estimated to have an EROEI of about 15.Obviously, the higher the number (i.e., the higher the EROEI), the better.

If it requires a barrel of oil to retrieve a barrel of oil, then what’s the point? Energy producers have to take into account the market price of oil or natural gas, versus how much it will cost to extract and refine them.

The light, sweet crude is the good stuff that sits at the top, where it’s relatively easy to extract. The lower quality oil — like tar sands — just happens to be the most expensive oil because it is the most difficult to extract.

With tar sands, the cost to produce a unit of energy is much higher than with traditional oil. Simply put, tar sands do not come cheaply.

Just how energy-intensive are tar sands? Professor Kjell Aleklett of Uppsala University in Sweden, a recognized expert on tar sands, puts it this way: “The supply of natural gas in North America is not adequate to support a future Canadian oil sands industry with today’s dependence on natural gas.”

The problems begin right at the start of the operation. Tar sands are typically mined, which means a large amount of energy is required just to get the process started.

Tar sands are a mixture of roughly 90 percent sand, clay and water, plus 10 percent bitumen, a thick hydrocarbon liquid. After extracting that 10 percent of bitumen from the tar sand mixture, the bitumen can be purified and refined into synthetic crude oil.

Bitumen is one of the world’s most expensive and heaviest hydrocarbons. And it is very energy intensive. In fact, bitumen production requires so much natural gas for processing and enrichment that it now accounts for one-fifth of Canada’s natural gas demand.

That’s the problem Professor Aleklett was referring to above.

Since bitumen is a highly viscous “heavy” oil that doesn’t flow as easily as lighter crude, it requires more processing to facilitate its flow through oil pipelines.

In fact, bitumen is so heavy and viscous that it will not flow unless it is heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons, such as natural gas. Typically, tar sands are produced using natural gas to heat the steam that drives the oil out of the sands. And it takes a lot of gas to do this.

Finally, bitumen has to be upgraded so that it can be refined. This can be done by adding methane or hydrogen — from even more natural gas — to the bitumen to create lighter oil.

Even if electricity is used to extract the tar sands and natural gas, this ultimately comes from a coal-fired power plant. It doesn’t change the equation; you’re still exchanging one form of energy for another.

Perhaps you now get a sense of just how inefficient tar sands really are. In fact, tar sands are so inefficient that just 75% of the bitumen can be recovered from sand.

At the turn of the 20th Century, it took just one barrel of oil to find and liquidate 100 barrels. That amounted to an extraordinary Energy Return on Energy Investment.

However, according to Peter Tertzakian, the chief energy economist at ARC Financial Corporation, the EROEI for tar sands amounts to 7:1 for extraction and drops to 3:1 after it has been upgraded and refined into something useful, such as gasoline.

The process of making liquid fuels from oil sands requires abundant energy from beginning to end, extraction to refining. The entire process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil.

Ultimately, squeezing oil out of tar sand is an extremely wasteful process, requiring between two and four tons of tar sand and two to four barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. The current level of water consumption is enough to sustain a city of two million people every year, according to an analysis by Energy & Capital. And after the water has gone through the entire process, it is so toxic with contaminants that it cannot be released into the environment.

When you look at the big picture, tar sands clearly aren’t the answer to our energy needs. They’re not even part of the answer. They are too energy intensive, release far too much carbon into the atmosphere and are far too dirty, polluting precious water supplies.

Until some renewable, synthetic fuel is developed that can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, conservation will be our best bet. Oil prices are in a long term upward trend, and tar sands present more problems than solutions.






Greenpeace website at

Disaster for the Albertan wilderness and people

The tar sands are already the biggest industrial development anywhere on Earth, and also the biggest opencast mining operation.

The tar sands deposits of heavy oil mixed with clay and sand lie below the surface of the Canadian wilderness. To extract the tar, oil companies clearcut the Canadian boreal forest, gouge out hundreds of metres of topsoil, and turn the landscape into a gaping black pit. Two tonnes of earth has to be dug up and processed to produce each barrel of bitumen. The tar sands are producing 1.35 million barrels a day.

The huge lakes of toxic sludge that fill with the toxic water used in the operation are poisoning the Albertan landscape and water supplies. The impact falls heavily on the First Nations indigenous people of the area. George Poitras, a member of Mikisew Cree indigenous First Nation, says: “My people are dying, and we believe British companies are responsible … UK oil companies like BP … are extracting the dirtiest form of oil from our traditional lands, and we fear it is killing us.”

If the bitumen is too deep to be mined, the oil companies inject high-pressure steam into the ground, to blast the oil out of the sand and up to the surface. This is called ‘in-situ’ extraction, and as oil companies begin to go after the tar sands deposits that are deep underground, it’s lined up to be the extraction method of the future.

In-situ extraction doesn’t create the same enormous opencast pits, but to install the gas piping, roads and rigs it requires still means cutting a swathe through the Canadian boreal forest, destroying the habitat of many plants and animals, and driving many local wildlife species to extinction.

Disaster for the planet

It’s very carbon-intensive to produce oil from the tar sands. The site that BP is planning to invest in will produce about three times the emissions per barrel of oil than you would get from normal crude. The steam used in the extraction is produced by burning huge amounts of natural gas – in energy terms, it’s up to seven times less efficient to get oil from the tar sands than it is from normal crude.

On any rational assessment of what’s happening to the climate, there’s no way tar sands make any sense. This is the most polluting source of oil in existence.





See also:

Nobel laureates demand European Commission action to classify oil from tar sands as very high carbon


Twenty-one Nobel prize winners, many of whom have won Nobel Peace Prizes, have urged the EU to immediately implement the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) which would label tar sands as higher carbon (“dirtier”) than other fuels. The Nobel laureates say the extraction of unconventional fuels – such as oil sands and oil shale – is having a particularly devastating impact on climate change. The powerful letter has attempted to restart the discussion about how tar sands and oil shale should be treated in the EU, a discussion that has been delayed for too long, following a massive lobbying campaign by Canada, the US and the global oil industry. Conventional oil has been given a value of 87.5g of CO2 equivalent per megajoule. In comparison, tar sands oil has a value of 107g, oil shale 131g and coal-to-liquid 172g.  The laureates quote IEA warnings that unconventional fuel sources are especially damaging to the environment and climate, and its calculation that two-thirds of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left in the ground ‘to avoid catastrophic climate change’. The letter says the time for positive action is now. The EU can demonstrate clear and unambiguous leadership on this.


See also

German research institute pulls out of Canadian tar sands project

 19.3.2013  (Euractiv)

“A 2011 report commissioned by the EU from Adam Brandt, an Assistant Professor at Stanford University, found that the lifecycle emissions of fuel from tar sands – also known as oil sands – were between 12-40% higher than conventional crude, with the most likely barrel being 22% more carbon intensive.

“Brandt wrote that tar sands were “significantly different enough from conventional oil emissions that regulatory frameworks should address this discrepancy with pathway-specific emissions factors that distinguish between oil sands and conventional oil processes.”  ”


Read more »

Many regional airports doing badly – falling numbers of passengers and falling profits

Many of UK’s regional airports are not doing well – with the sale for only £1 of Prestwick, and the sale of Manston for little more recently.  Over the past 5 years, with the recession, many have seen falling passenger numbers. Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham airport, is quoted as saying nationalising airports (Prestwick and Cardiff) is not the answer. “If you’re nationalising (airports) – then something’s not working. Governments shouldn’t have to interfere.”  A venture capitalist specialising in turnarounds says there are too many airports, and very few UK airports are profitable.  Many of them therefore need to close. While airlines fight for customers, competitively cutting fares, the airports fear this passes the economic pain onto them.  The proliferation of regional airports means that many have overlapping catchment areas, intensifying the scrabble for a limited pool of travellers. Airports have to keep their aeronautical charges low in order to keep airlines, and make little or no profit.  Many regional airports were bought for high prices, and there was undue optimism about their growth – which has not materialised. However, some regional airports within reach of London may be used to increase the south east’s airport capacity.


Regional airports grounded by drop in prices and traffic

By Jane Wild  (Financial Times)


When Holyrood completed its takeover of Glasgow Prestwick at the weekend – the second UK airport to be nationalised this year – it highlighted the plight of many regional airports.

Prestwick’s sale by infrastructure investment firm Infratil for just £1 to the Scottish government after a commercial buyer could not be found hammered home how tough conditions are in the airport industry.

But the government’s intervention also illustrated the value of airports to the local economy. Airports typically support thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of pounds of economic activity for their region. As with Prestwick, for many it is a case of airports being too big to fail, and industry experts say others are likely to follow it into government ownership.

Downward trajectory

Number of airport passengers in the 5 years 2008 to 2013 (approx)  - taking each year as the 12 months September to September.

Belfast Internat: – 23.7% 2008 5.3 million 2013 4.0 million.

Belfast City: – 3.3% 2008 2.6 m 2013 2.5 m

Prestwick – 53.3% 2008 2.5m 2013 1.1m

   Aberdeen + 1.6% 2008 3.3m 2013 3.4m

Liverpool – 22.6% 2008 5.4 m 2013 4.2m

    Leeds Bradford + 11.1% 2008 2.9m 2013 3.2m

Manchester – 4.8% 2008 21.5m 2013 20.5m

East Midlands – 25.8% 2008 5.7 m 2013 4.2m

Stansted – 22.9% 2008 22.9 m 2013 17.7m

    London City + 2.4% 2008 3.2 m 2013 3.3 m

    Gatwick – no change 2008 35.1m 2013 35.1m

Southampton – 13.1% 2008 2.0m 2013 1.7m

    Heathrow + 6.5% 2008 67.5m 2013 71.9m

Cardiff – 48.7% 2008 2.0m 2013 1.0m


“As in any market-driven economy, there will be some that turn out to be uncompetitive. There will only be relatively few who can rely on rescues from local governments and cash-strapped councils.”

Read more »

Monbiot on our relentless and unceasing consumerism – and its impacts on us

George Monbiot, writing on the damaging modern phenomenon of accelerating consumerism says that advertising and consumerism dull our capacity for empathy. The Greendex survey in 2012, indicates countries with the highest consumption levels often have some of the lowest levels of guilt about environmental harm done. That includes the UK.  Monbiot says the government’s programme for economic recovery depends on unceasing consumption: that if people start repairing things or doing without, the scheme collapses. “Christmas permits the global bullshit industry to recruit the values with which so many of us would like the festival to be invested – love, warmth, a community of spirit – to the sole end of selling things that no one needs or even wants.”  ”Are we so bored, so affectless, that we need to receive this junk to ignite one last spark of hedonic satisfaction? Have people become so immune to fellow feeling that they are prepared to spend £46 on a jar for dog treats or £6.50 a bang on personalised crackers ….” Air travel is one particularly high carbon type of consumption; buying a trip by plane is just another product, albeit a particularly environmentally damaging one.


Spend, Don’t Mend.

November 25, 2013
by George Monbiot

Advertising and consumerism dull our capacity for empathy.

Published in the Guardian 26th November 2013.

Guilt is good. It’s the feature that distinguishes the rest of the population from psychopaths. It’s the sensation you are able to feel when you possess a capacity for empathy.

But guilt inhibits consumption. So a global industry has developed to smother it with a 13-tog duvet of celebrities and cartoon characters and elevator music. It seeks to persuade us not to see and not to feel. It seems to work.

The 2012 Greendex survey found that people in poorer countries feel, on average, much guiltier about their impacts on the natural world than people in rich countries(1). The places in which people feel least guilt are, in this order, Germany, the US, Australia and Britain, while the people of India, China, Mexico and Brazil have the greatest concerns. Our guilt, the survey reported, exists in inverse proportion to the amount of damage our consumption does. This is the opposite of what a thousand editorials in the corporate press tell us: that people cannot afford to care until they become rich. The evidence suggests we cease to care only when we become rich.

Greendex graphGraph taken from the 2012 Greendex report

“Consumers in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China and India,” the survey tells us, “tend to be most concerned about issues like climate change, air and water pollution, species loss, and shortages of fresh water … In contrast, the economy and the cost of energy and fuel elicit the most concern among American, French and British consumers.”(2) The more you have, the more important money becomes. My guess is that in poorer countries empathy has not been so dulled by decades of mindless consumption.

Watch the latest advertisement for Toys ‘R Us in the US(3). A man dressed up as a ranger herds children onto a green bus belonging to “the Meet the Trees Foundation”. “Today we’re taking the kids on the best field trip they could wish for,” he confides to us. “And they don’t even know it.”

On the bus he starts teaching them, badly, about leaves. The children yawn and shift in their seats. Suddenly he announces, “but we’re not going to the forest today …”. He strips off his ranger shirt. “We’re going to Toys ‘R Us guys!” The children go beserk. “We’re going to get to play with all the toys, and you’re going to get to choose any toy that you want!” The children run, in slow motion, down the aisles of the shop, then almost swoon as they caress their chosen toys.

Nature is tedious, plastic is thrilling. The inner-city children I took to the woods a few weeks ago would tell a different story(4), but hammer home the message often enough and it becomes true.

Christmas permits the global bullshit industry to recruit the values with which so many of us would like the festival to be invested – love, warmth, a community of spirit – to the sole end of selling things that no one needs or even wants. Sadly, like all newspapers, the Guardian participates in this orgy. Saturday’s magazine contained what looks like a shopping list for the last days of the Roman empire(5). There’s a smart cuckoo clock, for those whose dumb ones aren’t up to the mark; a remotely-operated kettle; a soap dispenser at £55; a mahogany skateboard (disgracefully, the provenance of the wood is mentioned by neither the Guardian nor the retailer(6)); a “papardelle rolling pin”, whatever the hell that is; £25 chocolate baubles; a £16 box of, er, garden twine.

Are we so bored, so affectless, that we need to receive this junk to ignite one last spark of hedonic satisfaction? Have people become so immune to fellow feeling that they are prepared to spend £46 on a jar for dog treats or £6.50 a bang on personalised crackers, rather than give the money to a better cause?(7) Or is this the Western world’s potlatch, spending ridiculous sums on conspicuously useless gifts to enhance our social status? If so, we must have forgotten that those who are impressed by money are not worth impressing.

To service this peculiar form of mental illness, we must wear down the knap of the Earth, ream the surface of the planet with great holes, fleetingly handle the products of that destruction then dump the materials into another hole. A report by the Gaia Foundation reveals an explosive growth in the pace of mining: cobalt production up 165% in ten years, iron ore by 180%, a 50% increase in non-ferrous metals exploration between 2010 and 2011(8).

The products of this destruction are in everything: electronics, plastics, ceramics, paints, dyes, the packaging in which our fatuities arrive. As the richest deposits are mined out, ever more land must be attacked to maintain production. Even the most precious and destructive materials are junked when a new dopamine hit is required: the UK government reports that a tonne of gold embedded in electronics is landfilled in this country every year(9).

In August a most instructive row ignited within the Conservative Party. The environment minister Lord de Mauley urged people to repair their gadgets rather than junking them(10). This, he argued, was necessary to reduce the amount of landfill, in line with the European waste directive. The Telegraph reported that “the proposals risk alarming businesses that are struggling to increase demand for their products.”(11) The Tory MP Douglas Carswell demanded to know “since when do we need government to tell us what to do with broken toasters? … having ruined our prospects of economic growth, the Eurocrats now seem to be giving us advice on how to make do and mend. The sooner we leave the European Union the better.”(12)

He understood that the government’s programme for economic recovery depends on unceasing consumption: that if people start repairing things, the scheme collapses; that mahogany skateboards and wifi kettles are necessary responses to a saturated market; that the iron god of growth to which we must bow demands that we spend the living world into oblivion.

“‘But old clothes are beastly,’ continued the untiring whisper. ‘We always throw away old clothes. Ending is better than mending, ending is better than mending.’”(13). Brave New World seems less fantastic every year.






5. This feature isn’t online, but it covered 36 pages in the Saturday magazine.


7. As above.

8. Philippe Sibaud, 2012. Opening Pandora’s Box: The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth. The Gaia Foundation.

9. Defra, 21st November 2013.




13. Aldous Huxley, 1932. Brave New World. Penguin edition, page 43.




The Greendex survey:

“Greendex 2012: Consumer Choice and the Environment — A Worldwide Tracking Survey”
measures consumer behavior in areas relating to housing, transportation, food and consumer
goods. Greendex 2012 ranks average consumers in 17 countries according to the environmental impact of their consumption patterns and is the only survey of its kind.

First conducted in 2008, the Greendex survey was expanded in 2009, with the addition of
Argentina, South Korea and Sweden to Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain and the United States. Seventeen-thousand consumers were polled online (1,000 in each country). The same 17 countries were included in the 2012 survey.





How high carbon is flying, compared to other forms of consumption?

Carbon footprints of products, and their life cycle carbon footprints, are not easy to measure – and there are a limited number of figures around. Calculations are complicated, and there are huge numbers of variables and imponderables.

But below are some comparisons from information available.

Taking data from the (excellent) book by Mike Berners-Lee “How Bad are Bananas?”:

(CO2 e = CO2 equivalents)

Some consumption examples:

A carpet – good quality. 4 x 4 metres.    290 kg CO2 e

100 loads of washing, at 40 degrees C dried in a vented drier. 240 kg CO2 e

100 baths, generously filled, heated by an efficient gas boiler. 260 kg CO2 e

100 loaves of bread, from a supermarket.   100 kg CO2 e

A Mac laptop –  its manufacture.  Between 200 – 700 kg CO2 e

A Mac laptop - electricity consumption in use.   ? 20 – 50 grams CO2e per hour. Average ? 35 grams CO2 e                                                                                                              ie. using laptop for 8 hours per day that, per year, is 102 kg CO2 e

Expensive gold and diamond necklace.  Per £500 of cost.   400kg CO2e

Average UK Christmas (presents, extra food, trips, decorations, lights…) 280 kg CO2 e      per adult

300 pints of beer (local bottled beer from shop, or foreign beer in a pub) – 150 kg CO2 e

300 showers (3 minute shower, efficient gas heated, aerated showerhead) –  27 kg CO2 e

300 showers (6 minutes, typical electric shower) – 150 kg CO2 e

Leaving a 20 watt light bulb on all the time for a year   100 kg CO2 e

Lavatory paper use for a year (one person) – ? 200 – 300 kg CO2 e

Driving 5,000 miles (around half UK average annual car use) in a car that does around 35mpg  (about 15 km per litre - or 187 gCO2/km ).   Around 3,000 kg CO2 e

from  Mike Berners-Lee “How Bad are Bananas?”



Flight London to Rome return (one person  - economy class)  - 280 kg CO2 e without including non-CO2 impacts (= radiative forcing), and 530 kg CO2 e including them.  see link for calculation

Flight London to Rome return (one person – First class) – 790 kg CO2 e including non-CO2 impacts    see link for calculation

Flight from Manchester to Barcelona return (one person, economy class) – including non-CO2 impacts  - 510 kg CO2 e

Flight. London to Glasgow return. (one person – economy class) – including non-CO2 impacts –  370 kg CO2 e   see link for calculation

Flight London to New York return (one person – economy class)  - including non-CO2 impacts -  1,840 kg CO2 e

Flight London to Thailand return (one person – economy class) - including non-CO2 impacts – 3,160 kg CO2 e

Flight London to Hong Kong return, in a 747. Economy class. 3,400 kg CO2e  (taken from “How Bad are Bananas”)


Annual gas and electricity consumption:

Average UK domestic use of gas  per year   (see link)  16,500 kWh  (Using DECC conversion figure of 0.20435 kg CO2 per kWh for natural gas)  - 3,370 kg CO2e per year

Average UK domestic use of electricity  per year   (see link)  3,300 kWh             (Using DECC conversion figure of around 0.58 kg CO2 per kWh for natural gas)  -  1,914 kg CO2 e per year








Read more »

Large purchases of planes by middle eastern airlines heralds change in Heathrow-type hub model

Emirates ordered 150 Boeing 777Xs at the 5-day Dubai air show, worth about $76bn [£46bn]. In total Emirates bought $99 billion-worth, and the total value of orders for planes bought was over $200bn – much by middle east airlines, like Qatar Airways and Etihad of Abu Dhabi. The middle east airlines are redrawing the global aviation map, enabling Gulf carriers to move traffic from hubs like Heathrow, Frankfurt and Singapore. They will be doing more long haul routes in future, not merely medium haul, and competing more with established long haul European airlines like BA, Lufthansa and Air France. An aviation analyst said the hub-spoke model, where long-haul passengers transfer to a short flight to reach their destination, would come under increasing threat. Hub traffic (the Heathrow model) with one long-haul and one short-haul flight is incredibly wasteful. Two medium-haul flights into a hub is more efficient. A 16-hour flight broken up into two 8-hour flights is quite efficient- more so than a huge plane carrying enough fuel for a very long flight. That suits a middle eastern hub airport.


Gulf potentates lavish $200bn on new airliners in a battle for the skies

by John Collingridge
24 November 2013   (Sunday Times)

Emirates ordered a large number of planes this month at the 5-day Dubai air show. They will order 150 Boeing 777Xs and another 50 purchase rights – worth about $76bn [£46bn].  The middle eastern airlines are planning for 10 years ahead. The star of the Dubai Airshow was Boeing’s new 777X, a twin-engine jet which can carry 350 – 400 passengers, which with 259 orders and commitments, has become the largest product launch in commercial aircraft history. It is designed for hot climates, where take-off is harder in the thinner air. An aviation analyst said the hub-spoke model, where long-haul passengers transfer to a short flight to reach their destination, would come under increasing threat. “Hub traffic with one long-haul and one short-haul flight is incredibly wasteful. Two medium-haul flights into a hub is more efficient.”

Long Sunday Times article at




From an FT article by John Strickland on  16.6.2013

“Dubai will overtake Heathrow as the world’s busiest international airport by 2015. It is a well-conceived hub airport with a home carrier, Emirates, tapping into the air travel needs of key growth economies. When the current airport is full, Emirates will move seamlessly to the new Dubai World Central Airport. No 20-year wait, no fragmented split hub operation.

“Even in Europe there is spare capacity at rival hubs, not least Amsterdam. Having worked for the Dutch carrier KLM (half of Air France-KLM), I know what an effective job it does in tempting traffic from the UK market.”




British airports under threat from rise of Gulf hubs, says Etihad boss

Heathrow especially in danger of losing status as global conduit of air traffic warns airline’s CEO, James Hogan
  • , transport correspondent (Guardian)
  • 29 July 2012 

Lack of long-term planning will damage British aviation as the Gulf hubs grow and passengers bypass Heathrow for long-haul trips, the boss of one of the world’s fastest-growing airlines has warned.

James Hogan, chief executive of Etihad, the Abu Dhabi flag carrier, said decisions about allocating fleets and routes for the next 30 years are being taken now and airlines were unsure about Britain’s position in their plans. The expansion of Heathrow, while officially ruled out by current government policy, has been thrown back on the agenda by industry lobbying.

Hogan said he would like greater access to Heathrow but that the airport was “maxed out” and his airline was not interested in off peak slots that would not command traffic. “London plc needs a competitive gateway – and a long-term decision needs to be taken about where that is. As we plan our gateway 30 years out, London needs to do the same.”

He said a new airport meant building “infrastructure, schools, housing”, adding: “When cities make decisions about an airport the infrastructure moves towards it – but that doesn’t happen overnight.” Hogan said most people outside London would bypass Heathrow if they could use a local airport and “would rather do one [airport] scanner than two”.

He also affirmed his airline “was in Manchester for the long haul”. The European call centre for Etihad is now in Manchester. Two flights daily operate to Abu Dhabi, while its bigger, more established Gulf rival, Emirates, runs three daily flights to its hub in Dubai. Qatar Airways also runs daily services from Manchester to the third major, growing Gulf hub of Doha. Hogan said the constraints on British aviation would give the Gulf the competitive edge.

Etihad was formed in 2003 but started to expand rapidly from 2006 when Hogan was appointed to the top job with a mandate to buy aircraft and grow the business. In 2008 he placed a $43bn (£27.3bn) order for up to 205 aircraft and he expects to have 160 in operation by 2017. A new runway and terminal has since been constructed at Abu Dhabi airport, along with offices and accommodation for thousands of expat employees.

Etihad’s name has become familiar to millions as the name of Manchester City’s stadium. It has sponsored the Premier League champions since 2009 and Hogan claimed the deal was “on strict commercial terms, although we were very lucky to get the terms” and was struck independently of the fact that the team is bankrolled by one of the Abu Dhabi plutocrats, Sheikh Mansour. He said he “treats the City CEO exactly as I do the CEO of Harlequins”, the rugby club Etihad also sponsors, although he confessed to having no idea of the latter’s name.

He insisted that the Abu Dhabi gazillions did not give Etihad a licence to lose money. “I don’t get free fuel or sovereign guarantees when I raise debt with the banks – it’s all on the strength of our business.”

Hogan said it was premature to describe the Gulf as a world centre for aviation, although he said its position at the crossroads of global air traffic and particularly the proximity to the relatively untapped Indian market would give its airlines and hubs huge opportunity. He warned: “This is a long-term game and the challenge to the European hubs is growing.”

In the meantime the Gulf hubs are trying to assert their position at the expense of longstanding south-east Asian stops on the “kangaroo route” – a development that could spell further bad news for British airlines. Reports suggest that the long-standing partnership between British Airways and Qantas may be at risk as the Australian carrier looks to switch its international focus to the Gulf, via a tie-up with Emirates. Qantas, which has been losing money rapidly on its international flights, has also faced increased competition due to Etihad’s own tie-up with Virgin Australia.



What’s driving the world’s leading international hubs?

2010 article.

The list of leading international airports is a highly dynamic one, reflecting the broad shifts occurring in the global economy.

AIRPORTS THRIVE ON INTERNATIONAL PASSENGERS. They make more valuable contribution to an airport’s overall revenue than domestic passengers, helping to drive airport retailing and a range of related services. Not surprisingly, airports aggressively court airlines to add new or expanded international services. Crucially for suppliers and investors, the list of leading international airports, is a highly dynamic one, reflecting the broad shifts occurring in the global economy. And equally, the trends in international airport growth faithfully track the evolution of the global industry.

London Heathrow is by far the world’s leading international airport, topping 60 million passengers last year. The gap to second-placed paris CDG is, however, closing as its hub role grow. In 2001, Paris CDG handled 43.8 million passengers – or around 80% of Heathrow’s 53.8 million. By 2009, Paris had accelerated to 53 million international passengers – or 87% of Heathrow’s 60.6 million. The gap is expected to continue to close this decade, as Heathrow’s capacity remains capped, while plans for a third runway have stalled.

In contrast, Paris and rising star Dubai have great flexibility to grow capacity and position for bigger slice of the global international aviation market.

Dubai has soared 20 places up the world ranking since 2001, when it handled just 12.4 million international passengers. Handling an astonishing 40.1 million in 2009 [and 57.7 million in 2012], Dubai is set set to leapfrog Amsterdam this year and challenges Frankfurt and Hong Kong as the word’s third busiest international hub in 2011. The Emirates growth story is a large part of Dubai ‘s ascent, but the Middle East hub is increasingly attracting new airline and it now has one of the most diverse airline customer lists of airports worldwide (with around 105 in total – only Paris, Frankfurt and Rome Fiumicino have more), a solid endorsement of the value of the UAE’s open skeis regime.

But outstripping even Dubai since 2001 has been the spectacular growth of the smaller Doha. Fuelled by Qatar Airways’ aggressive expansion, Doha’ s international traffic has risen 376% from 2.8 million in 2001 to 13.1 million last year. Growth of around 15-20% in 2010 is likely.

Istanbul Ataturk is another new entrant to the world’s busiest international airports club, surging into 20th place with 18.4 million international passengers – more than doubling from the 8.8 million passengers handled in 2001. Also in Turkey, reflecting the rapid expansion of flag carrier Turkish Airlines, is Antalya Airport, which handled 15.2 million international passengers last year, up 76.1% from 2001.

The Asia Pacific region generates much of the movement on the international leader board. Beijing Capital leapt into 33rd place with growth of 133% since 2001 to 14.1 million passengers. Beijing, with its massive domestic market, is now the world’s third busiest airport (in terms of total throughput, behind Atlanta and Heathrow) and will climb into the World’ s Top 30 internationally this year on the back of China’s strong economic growth. Air China, China Southern and Hainan Airlines continue to expand their international networks from Beijing. Foreign carriers are also adding capacity to meet rising demand.

Kuala Lumpur was another star performer in Asia, almost exclusively as a result of AirAsia’s remarkable growth last decade. The Malaysian low-cost carrier has catapulted the national gateway into 19th place on the world hub rankings, as 19.4 million international passengers passed through last year. AirAsia has focused its expansion on Southeast Asia, but is increasingly adding India and destinations in North Asia to its suite. AirAsia X will drive long-haul expansion to Australia/New Zealand, the Middle East, Europe and North America in coming years. Kuala Lumpur could easily reach the 30-million international passenger club by the end of this decade, taking it inside the world’s Top 10.

South Korea’s Incheon International Airport has also soared up the rankings from 23rd position in 2001 to 12th in 2009, as international passengers doubled to 28.1 million last year. Further growth up the rankings is possible in the near term (potentially leapfrogging Gatwick, Bangkok, Narita and Madrid this year or next), particularly if Japan and China liberalise aviation access to Korean carriers and LCCs gather some momentum in the sleepy North Asian triangle, as appears likely.

Tokyo Narita has so far maintained its position as the eighth-ranked international hub, growing its throughput by a creditable 38.9% between 2001 and 2009. Its position is, however, threatened by JAL’s bankruptcy and the addition of a fourth runway at Haneda Airport from late Oct-2010 and Haneda’ s expansion of long-haul services. But Narita is striking back with plans to grow its domestic network. A cross-flow of traffic from long-haul international to short-haul/domestic services is vital for most prosperous major hubs.

Singapore remains in 7th place (having overtaken Gatwick but been surpassed by Dubai), while Bangkok has slipped one place since 2001 to 10th last year (passed by Madrid).

The traditional European international hubs witnessed only moderate growth last decade and have been overtaken by several fast-charging Asian and Middle East airports. International traffic at Brussels and Manchester declined 1.2% and 14.3%, respectively since 2001, though both are making spirited comebacks as they focus on emerging markets, such as the Middle East, and – in Brussel’s case in particular – the LCC market.

London Gatwick’s largely point-to-point throughput was virtually static last year compared with 2001, while Copenhagen, Zurich, Stockholm and Palma de Mallorca have all experienced growth of less than 10% over the same period. Amsterdam and Frankfurt expanded by around 11%, while Dusseldorf grew 15%.

But some Southern Europe hubs have prospered, particularly those with exposure to emerging markets and/or LCCs. Madrid climbed into the Top 10, handling 29.1 million international passengers last year, driven by strong demand to/from Latin America and North Africa. A key reason for British Airways’ merger with Iberia is the pursuit of a growth engine – and looking to Southern Europe is a sound strategy. Unlike Heathrow, Madrid has plenty of room for expansion.

Rome’s international traffic has surged 61.5% since 2001, despite Alitalia’s turmoil. Paris Orly and London Stansted – favoured by LCCs – have seen a similar surge in traffic, while Spain’s Barcelona has also grown by greater than 60%.

The eastern and western fringes of Europe are also attractive. Dublin and Vienna have grown by 47% and 55%, respectively, though the downturn in 2008/09 has affected these airports, particularly Dublin. Not surprisingly, Aer Lingus and Austrian Airlines attracted takeover interest, from Ryanair (unsuccessfully) and Lufthansa (successfully), respectively. Munich Airport is the exception to the Northern Europe trend, growing 54.2% under the influence of Lufthansa’s strategy to build up its hub there.

Just four North American airports make the global Top 30, although none is in the Top 10. New York JFK is the busiest international airport on the continent, though it slipped two places to 14th in the global rankings, despite growth of 32% since 2001.

Toronto and Miami have experienced slow growth, of 12.1% and 4.7% respectively, since 2001. In Toronto’s case, this reflects the protective aviation policy pursued by Canada in recent years. Los Angeles’ international traffic has actually contracted by 5.3% over the same period, despite its seemingly favourable geographic positioning closer to burgeoning Asia Pacific gateways. Its congested and outdated infrastructure and the unfriendly impact of US visa restrictions makes transfer difficult. This creates further challenges, as new technology aircraft, such as the B787, raises the competitiveness of rival airports across the US for non-stop services to growth markets in Asia and elsewhere.

Miami has also failed to capitalise on Latin America’s boom, with other Florida-area airports gaining ground. Traditional trans-Atlantic leisure markets have been affected by the global economic downturn and domestic US LCCs have largely eschewed the famous Florida gateway.

There is no single formula for success in climbing the ranks of the world’s leading international hubs, as the examples above have demonstrated. But common themes include an aggressively expanding flag carrier, exposure to the LCC sector and airports located in regions of high economic growth, such as Asia. Undoubtedly, the preferred characteristics converge at Heathrow, with its geographical and end-to-end traffic advantages – but the missing factor there, as the UK government shoots itself in the foot economically – is capacity.

The shape of the Global Top 30 in 2020 will be very different again. CAPA expects greater representation of Asia Pacific/Middle East hubs in the upper echelons by that time. Dubai will overtake Heathrow at some point late in the decade and more European airports, especially those in the slower growing central part of the continent, will be squeezed out of the leading group – unless they can effectively court the European LCC segment and Middle East entrants.

CAPA expects airports on the fringes of Europe to do well as they tap neighbouring emerging markets. Some Latin American hubs will also take the place of their North American counterparts in the world’s leading international hubs as that region’s economy continues to develop.







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Ways to improve airport capacity without extra runways – from NATS

NATS is the organisation that manages air traffic and airspace within the UK. Without efficient and safe use of airspace for more flights, there could be no airport capacity expansion. A blog by a NATS manager says there are many ways to get more air traffic onto the existing runways. He writes that NATS has developed tools and analysis methods that allow them to identify where growth is being constrained. Better co-ordination and sharing of information across an airport can help improve efficiency, and getting the maximum use from one runway – which could be as effective as sub-optimal use of several.  He hints at mixed mode at Heathrow, using both runways for both take-offs and landings, rather than the current “runway alternation” by which Londoners get half a day of respite, when the runways switch use at 3pm.  With a mix of larger and smaller planes, with the problem of air turbulence from the larger ones, it is important to optimise the landing sequence for aircraft arriving at busy capacity constrained airports to maintain capacity and throughput. Optimal planning reduces the time aircraft take from starting up their engines, to take-off. 


heathrow tower

Five ways to improve airport capacity without extra runways

25 November 2013

by Nick Stevens,

Manager External Operations Analysis, NATS OA

Back in August I wrote about why measuring airport capacity means more than just tarmac and terminals. The same is equally true when it comes to increasing capacity.

But, before you can improve anything you need to understand its current level of performance and where improvements might be possible. At NATS we’ve developed tools and analysis methods that allow us to assess the key performance metrics of the air traffic management (ATM) operation both in the air and on the ground.

We use those tools to analyse things like airborne and ground based radar data, airport operational database logs, airline schedules and numerous other sources of information in order to build up a comprehensive understanding of the operation.

From this rich dataset we can then look at overall performance, benchmark it and then identify which elements are the most constraining.

1.    Sharing information across the airport

An airport works much like a relay race where the team performance is dependent upon each individual runner. For an airport to operate efficiently – each part of the team – from the check-in and baggage handling through to air traffic control – has to be of an equally high standard.

Through years of support to the seasonal capacity declarations for some of the world’s busiest airports, NATS has a pretty unique understanding of just how important each component of an airport operation is. We use huge amounts of operational performance data to inform discussions with the rest of the airport community about how their individual contributions affect overall performance.

It sounds simple, but often when we do similar assessments overseas we find that the availability and sharing of this sort of information isn’t commonplace. And experience has shown that as soon as the right people are engaged and the right information is available to them, improving operational performance becomes part of the working culture.


2.    Better use of what you have

Having two is not always better than one. We recently completed a capacity enhancement project for a busy international airport in the Sub-Continent where the two runways cross each other and therefore require aircraft movements to be carefully coordinated.

Through a detailed capacity review and benchmarking exercise, we were able to recommend that the airport should focus its efforts on using just one runway to provide what’s called HIRO – High Intensity Runway Operations.

We used state-of-the-art fast-time simulation tools to evaluate the potential gains and as a result, the consistency and performance of the airfield has been boosted together with an increase in the declared capacity. The second runway is still available if needed, but is now only used tactically or as a contingency.

3.    Balancing demand

If two or more runways are available and can be used independently of each other, then the key to maximise capacity is to ensure each can be fully utilised at all times.

This can be achieved by flexing the mode of operations and allowing take off and landings from each runway. This can then provide short term relief for arrival or departure peaks and will also ensure individual runway demand is as balanced as it can be.

By looking at the airport operations against the challenges posed by airline schedules, it is then possible to find ways to enhance performance. As part of a typical assessment we would normally use simulation and other tools in order to understand the operational impacts.

A good example from a recent study is where we were able to demonstrate capacity benefits by revealing the trade-offs of additional taxi time and fuel burn for using a non-preferred runway, compared to a short taxi time but a longer wait when operating off a closer runway.

4.    Getting your sequence right

Arrival Manager - or AMAN - is an advanced controller support tool that provides real-time information on the optimum landing sequence for aircraft arriving at busy capacity constrained airports. Because different sizes of aircraft need to be separated to varying distances, getting that optimum order right is absolutely fundamental to maintaining capacity and throughput.

Similarly, tools such as the TSAT (Target Start-up Approval Time, which gives individual aircraft an optimal time to start their engines prior to departure) can significantly improve the departure start-up order and sequence, thereby reducing delay and enhancing capacity.

This is something that is a key focus for NATS within our own operations in the UK, but it’s also something that we are supporting other organisations with around the world.

Aircraft queuing at Changi Airport, Singapore. NATS has been working at the airport to help increase capacity. Image by  Simon_sees vis Flickr

Aircraft queuing at Changi Airport, Singapore. NATS has been working at the airport to help increase capacity. Image by Simon_sees vis Flickr

5.    Being consistently consistent

Probably the most important factor for maximising airport capacity without building any new infrastructure is simply the ability to consistently deliver an efficient operation.

This sounds obvious, but when we do capacity enhancement projects around the world, this is typically the least understood area. We use our data capture and analysis tools to provide airport operators with the evidence which demonstrates where inefficiencies lie. Our air traffic experts are then able to interpret that information and through observing the live operation, are able to recommend changes to deliver a much more consistent service. Our simulation tools can then predict what the capacity gains would be.

Quite often these gains can be considerable. For example, a 10-25% potential capacity increase is not uncommon and in some cases it can be much more.





Further improvements in UK airspace efficiency

14.11.2013  (NATS)

Further improvements in UK airspace efficiency

The environmental efficiency of UK airspace has improved over the last three months of the year, continuing a trend begun in the spring.

NATS is unique in measuring the efficiency of the aircraft flying through its airspace using its 3Di metric. Each flight is compared to a scale where zero represents total environmental efficiency. Most flights usually score somewhere between 15 and 35, with the UK Civil Aviation Authority setting NATS a target score of 24.

By providing smooth continuous descents and climbs, direct routes and optimum flight levels, air traffic controllers can help minimise aircraft fuel burn and carbon emissions, thereby earning a low 3Di score.

The latest statistics show the running average score for 2013 now stands at 23.5.


This represents an improvement over the beginning of the year where poor weather saw the 3Di score rise above the CAA target.

Ian Jopson

Ian Jopson

Ian Jopson, NATS Head of Environmental and Community Affairs, said: “These latest results show that we’re well and truly back on track and it is especially pleasing to see consistent improvement over the course of the busy summer season, with August in particular scoring very well.

“Severe winter weather will always present a challenge, but we will be doing our best to continue the current improving trend well into next year and beyond.”

NATS environmental programme involves delivering long-term improvements to the efficiency of UK airspace. Since 2008 it has helped avoid the release 800,000 tonnes of aircraft CO2 into the atmosphere – the equivalent to cutting £160 million from airline fuel bills.

Read the full commentary on NATS’ latest environmental performance.








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