The Liberal Democrats have launched their Pre-Manifesto 2014, and it contains an emphatic statement against any new runway at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted – and no estuary airport. Their policy: “Ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern and open economy, without allowing emissions from aviation to undermine our goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. We will carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from the Committee on Climate Change. We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK as a whole by prohibiting the opening of any new runways unless others are closed elsewhere.” It is thought that this position will not be popular with big business, which wants expanded airport, and ever increasing aviation – with little consideration for the climate impacts.
This is the text, relating to runways, from the Lib Dem Pre-Manifesto 2014:
“Ensure our airport infrastructure meets the needs of a modern and open economy, without allowing emissions from aviation to undermine our goal of a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. We will carefully consider the conclusions of the Davies Review into runway capacity and develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of the UK in the light of those recommendations and advice from the Committee on Climate Change. We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK as a whole by prohibiting the opening of any new runways unless others are closed elsewhere.”
Nick Clegg rules out London air expansion plans
Kate McCann (City AM)
9th September 2014
LIBERAL Democrat leader Nick Clegg has ruled out airport expansion in London if his party is elected in 2015.
Launching the party’s draft manifesto yesterday, Clegg vowed to oppose any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick, as well as a new airport in the Thames Estuary because of air and noise pollution. The party is also against any net increase in the number of runways across the UK. The plans will cause concern among business leaders, who have been calling for airport expansion in London for years. On Monday, the Confederation of British Industry called the lack of capacity a “ticking time bomb”.
“We’ve learnt our lesson from tuition fees – and we’ve learnt it the hard way. There will be no repeat of that mistake,” the Lib Dem leader promised, adding that 75 per cent of his party’s previous manifesto pledges were successfully negotiated into the coalition agreement.
The manifesto includes around 300 pledges, some more controversial than others. Plans to move towards the legalisation of some drugs for personal use is a key proposal, as well as a plan to build 300,000 new homes a year and 10 new garden cities.
This manifesto commitment means, in effect, the LibDems would veto the expansion of any airport – whether Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted – during the next parliament if the Lib Dems formed part of another coalition government.
The Lib Dems have arrived at their position after a lengthy debate, on the basis of the impact of aviation on climate change and the effect of Heathrow’s expansion on voters in southwest London. The party has several seats in the area including Twickenham and Kingston & Surbiton and has previously held Richmond.
Before the 2010 election Nick Clegg warned: “A 3rd runway at Heathrow would be a disaster for the local area as well as a disaster for the whole country.”
There is thought to be some opposition to the no-runways position, within the party, from MPs who believe (rightly or wrongly) that planes will become “cleaner and quieter”. The reality is that planes will become very slightly more fuel efficient, and very slightly less noisy, but not enough to make much difference, and these improvements will be cancelled out by growth in air traffic.
Many LibDems are stuck between a desire to be environmentally responsible, and the ever-present push for economic growth, regardless of its consequences. One said: “I believe Lib Dem’s ambitions for a greener future must also fit with our vision for a stronger economy and a fairer society – and that means looking for opportunities for growth across the whole country. …. We don’t yet know how technology will improve air travel: carbon emissions may fall faster or slower than currently predicted, and our policy response must be flexible to accommodate the evidence as it emerges. . . There is a real chance we risk prejudicing decades of growth by nailing down excessively restrictive plans for airport growth now.”
The Lib Dems said at the time of the interim report from the Airports Commission in December 2013 that they were “not opposed in principle” to new runways in the south east.
But they are now back to opposing runways, in the so-called “pre-manifesto.”
Lib Dem MP Lorely Burt defies party over runway extensions
She is to take on activists who want future governments to allow “no net growth” in runways, in a debate at the party’s conference in October.
The runway ban is to be included in the party’s pre-manifesto, launched by Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg.
This is an early draft of the General Election manifesto for next year’s poll.
It is due to be debated at the conference, to be held in Glasgow, where policy proposals will be put to a vote.
Ms Burt, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, is to propose an amendment to strike out the ban and highlight the importance of airports outside London for regional jobs and growth.
However, she is likely to face opposition from activists who argue that preventing new runways will protect the environment.
Writing for the Birmingham Post, Ms Burt said the Lib Dems’ ambitions for a greener future “must also fit with our vision for a stronger economy and a fairer society”.
“It would be short-sighted of us to rule out new routes for airlines offering a chance to explore new markets and encourage investment,” she added.
“There is a real chance we risk prejudicing decades of growth by nailing down excessively restrictive plans for airport growth now.”
Birmingham Airport last year published plans to build a second runway, allowing it to expand into a truly global airport capable of dealing with 70 million passengers each year – as many as Heathrow handles now.
The proposals were submitted to the Airports Commission addressing a shortage of capacity in the UK.
The commission last year decided not to shortlist proposals for expanding Birmingham but said there was likely to be a case for considering the airport as a potential option for expansion by 2050.
Under the plans submitted to the commission, the airport would also have an additional terminal and see up to 500,000 take-offs and landings annually.
The plan has a heavyweight coalition behind it, with business leaders, local councils and MPs all firmly on board including MP Mark Garnier (Con Wyre Forest), Birmingham City Council and Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group.
An Aviation Commission set up by the Government is considering whether to allow a new runway at Heathrow or at Gatwick Airport.
Birmingham Airport has urged the commission to give a greater role to airports in other parts of the country.
HACAN has proudly launched a new local newspaper, called “Third Runway News,” a new publication which provides residents of west London, east Berkshire and north Surrey with the facts about what an expanded Heathrow Airport would mean for them. It is 4 pages in full colour, illustrated – link at Third Runway News. HACAN is a residents-led campaign, and by contrast with the millions of ££s that Heathrow airport has for its publicity, benefits from the work of local volunteers. The new newspaper has been designed by a local HACAN member, not by a hugely expensive professional design company. The paper asks people to get in touch to say which of the many impacts of a 3rd runway they are most concerned about. These include noise pollution, air pollution, increased car traffic, loss of their home – or loss of the value of their home, or impacts on children and schools from aircraft noise. Meanwhile Heathrow airport have massive adverts, containing extravagant claims for “benefits” of a 3rd runway, (with no supporting evidence), such as “120,000 more jobs” and “£100 billion of economic benefits (not time-scale indicated)” and “loss of £125 billion per month in last trade” for every month without the new runway. Really??
HACAN to distribute 50,000 newspapers outlining reasons why a 3rd Heathrow runway should not be built
HACAN has proudly launched Third Runway News, a new publication providing residents of west London, east Berkshire and north Surrey with the facts about what an expanded Heathrow Airport would mean for them.
HACAN is a residents-led campaign and indeed this newspaper was designed by one of our local members, not by a hugely expensive professional design company. HACAN relies on donations and membership fees to fund our activities.
Unlike some other campaign organisations, we are not bankrolled by Heathrow Airport!
Whether it is noise pollution, air pollution or increased traffic, there are plenty of reasons why a third runway should never be allowed to take off. This newspaper explains why.
Find your village or town in the yellow banner running across the top of each page and spread the word around your neighbourhood today!
For much more information on our campaign and activities, email us on email@example.com
[HACAN = Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise]
Prime Economics: “Out of thin air – the economic case for a 3rd Heathrow runway” – takes apart the claims made by Heathrow
September 6, 2014
Prime Economics, a group of independent economic thinkers, has taken a look at Heathrow’s claims about the economic case for a 3rd runway. They are not impressed. While Heathrow (see its latest advert) says: “If we want Britain’s economy to keep growing, we need to grow Heathrow”, the reality is very different. Among Heathrow’s dodgy 3rd runway economic claims, they say: “• It will bring economic benefits of £100bn • It will bring 120,000 new jobs • Every month the problem goes unresolved is costing the British economy £1.25bn through lost trade”. Prime Economics says “the evidence for each of these is very thin and hypothetical …. The link between trade and airport capacity is at best indirect, and certainly opaque. At a macroeconomic level, the impact is simply invisible.” They say “Economies depend on many factors, and hub capacity is one of the least significant, at least once you reach a decent threshold of scale.” They pick to pieces the £1.25 billion figure; the idea that the UK needs flights to every destination in every country; and the hub competition between EU countries. “The current debate assumes exponential growth both of our economies and of our travel into the indefinite future. This will not happen … Airports …are not the main drivers of economic success nor of national well-being.” Well worth reading.
In a blog, the Carbon Brief has a look at the climate and environmental impacts of the expansion plans by London’s airports. Leaving aside the noise and other impacts, and looking here just at carbon, it is clear that there is an issue. While UK aviation makes up some 6% of just CO2 emissions, under the current system by which aviation is not required to cut its emissions by 2050, UK aviation will then make up about 25% of UK carbon emitted. The UK is required to cut its overall carbon emissions by 80% of their 1990 level, by 2050. Aviation just needs to keep its emissions to 37.5 megatonnes – which was about the level in 2005. As long as the rest of the economy decarbonises very intensively, aviation could keep its very generous allocation. But that means not going above 37.5 Mt. A report in July, by AEF, showed that it would be likely that an additional new runway would contribute some 8.2Mt of CO2 per year, making meeting the 37.5 Mt target “effectively impossible”. It would require air travel at regional airports to be reduced, which apart from contradicting regional development policies would be”politically very difficult to implement and have significant economic consequences.”
Blog by The Carbon Brief
Assessing the climate and environment impact of London’s airport plans
This morning the Airport Commission dismissed Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary. With remaining options for expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick what are the potential climate and environmental impacts of each?
The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, recommended adding a second runway to south east England by 2030, with the possibility of another by 2050.
In December 2013, the Commission shortlisted three options for the first additional runway in its Interim Report – a second runway at Gatwick, a third runway at Heathrow or an extension to the second runway at Heathrow (so it operates like two).
Any expansion of airport capacity will lead to more flights and more passengers, and increase carbon emissions from aviation.
At the moment aviation makes up around 5% of the UK’s emissions – around 33.3 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon a year in 2011. [More like 6.5% in reality]. Under the Climate Change Act, the UK must reduce its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050, compared with 1990 levels. That would mean we emitted no more than 160 Mt of carbon per year in 2050.
The Committee on Climate Change suggests that to stay under this limit, carbon emissions from flights will need to be no more than 37.5Mt per year. At that level aviation would use up just under a quarter of the UK’s carbon budget in 2050.
So can airports expand and stay within this level?
Research from the think tank Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) suggests not. Their analysis found that a new runway – wherever it is situated – would contribute an additional 8.2 Mt of carbon emissions, making meeting the 37.5 Mt target “effectively impossible”. [AEF report “The Implications of South East Expansion for Regional Airports” is available for download here.]
The study, funded by the WWF, developed future scenarios of emissions based on aviation forecasts from the Department for Transport. It found that in order to build a new runway and still meet the 37.5 Mt target, air travel at regional airports would need to be reduced. This, the study concluded, would be “politically very difficult to implement and have significant economic consequences.”
Other environmental impacts
Heathrow has been a victim of its own success. An extra runway would make this huge airport even bigger, exacerbating local environmental challenges. The air quality around Heathrow, for example, is consistently worse than the standards required by the EU. Heathrow’s most recent proposal suggests more frequent rail links and a congestion charge to discourage passengers from using their cars.
Noise is also a significant issue. A study commissioned by the Mayor of London found that a third runway at Heathrow would increase the number of people affected by aircraft noise by over 300,000 – to over a million.
Solutions such as steeper flight paths, no-flight periods and paying for insulation are proposed to manage the problem. Failing that, the airport says it will provide compensation to those affected.
Change in patterns of air noise with additional runways at Heathrow. Heathrow Airport July 2013
Heathrow is also on Greenbelt land, but the 2003 government White Paper on Aviation had already decided that: “the benefits [of expansion] would outweigh the environmental impact as long as the effects were properly controlled.”
Gatwick would face many of the same issues as Heathrow, albeit to a lesser degree as it is a smaller airport. But it’s also located in a more rural area. A study commissioned by West Sussex County Council found that a new runway would require 30,000 to 45,000 new homes to be built in the area. Gatwick’s largest nearby town is currently Crawley, with a population of around 40,000.
‘Boris Island’ is the most famous of the airport expansion proposals, with the Mayor putting forward plans for a hub airport to be built in either the inner or outer Thames estuary. Its drawbacks were well documented – not least a potential cost of £120 billion and the likely impacts on important habitats in the area.
But a hub airport in the inner estuary did have some appeal to the Airport Commission, particularly for the potential to “reduce aviation noise impacts in the South East of England.”
Other options – such as expansion of Stansted or Birmingham airport – were also discounted in the Commission’s Interim Report, primarily because those airports will not be operating at capacity for many years.
With the Commission expected to make its final decision next summer, this leaves three options in two locations.
But with vocal advocates and opposition for each, it appears for the moment that the effect any new runway would have on the UK’s carbon targets has been lost amongst the noise.
The key findings of the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) report are:
Building a new runway in the South East would in practice mean that airport capacity elsewhere would need to be reduced in order for UK aviation to keep within carbon limits required by the Climate Change Act. This could involve closure of a number of regional airports.
Government policy, however, supports the growth of regional airports, and official forecasts anticipate that they will grow by over 200% between now and 2050. Many airports in fact consider Government figures to be conservative. With politicians from all main parties having made commitments to supporting regional economic growth, capping or reducing aviation activity outside the South East would therefore require very significant hurdles to be overcome.
By contrast, with full utilisation of current airport capacity, it would be challenging but
achievable to keep aviation emissions to a level compatible with the Climate Change Act.
The Summary of the AEF report states:
Capping capacity may not at first glance appear the ideal solution to the aviation emissions
challenges. Indeed the fact that emissions are forecast to exceed the 2050 target even without increasing runway capacity demonstrates that other measures – such as MBMs, taxes, carbon efficiency incentives, or a moratorium on any new planning permissions or terminal expansions – would need to be implemented even if no new runways were built in order to bring emissions down to the required level.
But as we argued in our 2011 analysis for WWF, we believe that while challenging, the 37.5 Mt tonne target is – with a committed focus on making best use of existing airport capacity – achievable. With a new runway, by contrast, it would be effectively impossible.
Our airport capacity scenarios illustrate how difficult it would be to constrain demand to a target compatible level if a new runway were to be built. The fact that the 37.5 Mt target would be breached even if regional airports were prevented from increasing their passenger throughput from today’s levels (for example using powers available to the Secretary of State under the Civil Aviation Act) suggests that achieving the climate target while building a new South East runway would require an overall reduction in activity at regional airports.
Not only would this be politically very difficult to implement and have significant economic consequences, it would also run directly counter to the Government’s support for regional airport growth set out in the 2013 Aviation Policy
The Guardian, in an editorial, says Boris is insisting his estuary airport scheme is “not dead” at all, because in the end it will not be for the Airports Commission to decide, but the next government. In which, of course, he intends to play a major part . The Guardian remembers that the main issue is the deeper environmental damage done by the CO2 belched out by jet engines, which regrettably seems to have been dropped from the political equation. While the UK should be discussing the sort of economic growth we want, instead policy appears to boil down to “planning for rising demand” so anyone who wants to fly can. And cheaply. Allowing airport expansion in the south east will require restrictions on the growth of northern airports, which does not fit with regional policy, or by making reductions of unrealistic depth in other economic sectors. And of course, most air travel is holidaying. “The economics do not dictate that fast projected growth in air travel must be taken as a given: it ought to be possible to manage demand instead. …. there is no easy way to [manage demand] without keeping a lid on capacity. Instead, however, Westminster indulges passengers and airlines with the old lie: the sky’s the limit.”
Mr Johnson’s estuary proposal, as it is never described, has loomed large in the aviation debate, despite its abject lack of seriousness. London’s mayor put forward an entirely new airport on the Isle of Grain, which would cost five to 10 times as much as expanding Heathrow. The technocratic Airports Commission were bound to reject it, although they chickened out of quite saying so to Boris Johnson last year, agreeing to give his pet project one final look, even as they dropped it from the shortlist. Yesterday, adding new arguments about birdlife and the sheer dislocation of moving the capital’s main airport 70 miles to their original cost concerns, they finally gave the formal thumbs down.
Mr Johnson was having none of it – insisting his scheme was “not dead” at all, because in the end it will not be for Sir Howard Davies and his commissioners to decide, but instead for the next government. As he plots his move from City Hall over to the Uxbridge parliamentary constituency, close to Heathrow, if the dismal environmental legacy of his mayoralty isn’t weighing on him, deep resentment about air traffic noise across the west and south-west of the metropolis assuredly is. A Conservative party that absorbed painful London losses in May will not recover in the capital without rebuilding in these areas of historic strength. Attention could yet turn away from the two proposals for a bigger Heathrow, and towards expanding Gatwick in true-blue Sussex. The stage is set for dull debates about “hub economics” and the feasibility of one city hosting two different sites at which the world disembarks, buys some lunch and a magazine, then clambers on to another plane.
The question of where is drowning out the question of whether bigger London airports are desirable. Amid the sound and fury over noise, the deeper environmental damage done by the carbon belched out by jet engines has dropped out of the equation. Just a few years ago, at the depth of the Great Recession, Ed Miliband tried (and for the most part failed) to resist Heathrow expansion while inside the Labour government, and in opposition David Cameron made green play of making a stand against. Today a recovering economy ought to permit more discussion about the sort of growth we want, but policy appears to boil down to “planning for rising demand”.
The argument may have fallen silent, and yet the implications of unresting climate science grow ever closer. As the melting of the Greenland ice sheet picks up pace, those solemn promises of an 80% cut in emissions by 2050 could be rendered entirely hollow by aviation. Yes, increased efficiency may do some good, as may biofuels. It is true, too, that some of the immediate additional climate-changing costs of flying could be easier to reverse than the fundamental damage done by the carbon, which makes it tricky to be precise about the numbers. But then not much precision is required, since the only carbon price that bites on air tickets at all comes from the emissions trading system. It bites only on European flights, and some experts say it currently leaves carbon 100 times cheaper than it will eventually need to be.
Without gripping aviation in the south-east, Britain could probably only hit its green ambitions by restricting northern airports, which hardly fits with regional policy, or by making reductions of unrealistic depth in other sectors. The biggest chunk of air travel is holidaying, where the net effect is always to deepen the current account deficit with sunnier parts of the world. In the Skype age, the proportion of flyers on business trips has been in decline, and with high-speed rail in prospect, internal flights could become entirely superfluous.
The economics do not dictate that fast projected growth in air travel must be taken as a given: it ought to be possible to manage demand instead. But given Europe’s broken carbon market, there is no easy way to do that without keeping a lid on capacity. Instead, however, Westminster indulges passengers and airlines with the old lie: the sky’s the limit.
There are many comments below the article, many sensible:
Below is one comment:
“I am afraid this is no longer the choice. We can keep flying, which I agree we very much want to do, and help tip climate change into a completely uncontrollable state (if we have not already) or we can come to the realities presented by physics and economics that say that aircraft that are green enough to really make a difference are no where near being developed and they certainly are not even on the horizon as far as broad acceptance and use. This pipe-dream technological optimism that you and others put forward is dangerous in that keeps us from really taking a good look at the sustainability of the now globally dominant economic/political model.
“Jet flight is one of the surest indicators that global capitalism is completely unsustainable. The fact that this insanely energy/carbon intensive mode of travel is so necessary to perpetuate this economic model should cause everyone to pause and contemplate if jet flight (along with other behaviorus) is really worth the kind of world run-away climate change will leaver us with.”
Jumping on the back of the Thames Estuary airport media bandwagon, Let Britain Fly have launched their public pledge campaign to give the “silent majority” they claim are apparently in support of airport expansion a voice in the run up to the 2015 election. They have put out a public pledge that they want “thousands of people” to sign, asking for more runways and more airport capacity, so everyone can continue to go on lots of holidays, by plane. They are asking that all the political parties commit to build more runway capacity in their 2015 election manifestos. They are also asking that there is a Parliamentary vote on airport expansion in 2016, at the latest. Let Britain Fly has obtained statements in support of its claims from various business people, such as the MD of Harrods (which naturally gets a lot of high spending tourists), and Mace (a construction company – no vested interest there). Lots on the mantra of “jobs and growth.” Let Britain Fly and their backers appear oblivious to the fact that the Airports Commission is only considering one runway at most, not runways. They also ignore the inconvenient fact that most air travel is for leisure, and only a small proportion could be deemed to be boosting business links.
Let Britain Fly say:
It’s time to Let Britain Fly.
Before the next general election we urge the three main party leaders to immediately acknowledge the need for more air capacity, commit to finding a cross-party solution to modernise our airport infrastructure; and in their manifestos commit to be guided by what the Airports Commission recommends for the long-term; pledging to maintain, protect and enhance Britain’s status as a global aviation hub.
BUSINESS LEADERS CALL ON PUBLIC TO ‘SPEAK OUT’ ON NEW RUNWAYS
2.9.2014 (Press Release by pressure lobby “Let Britain Fly”)
Leaders of some of Britain’s biggest firms have made an appeal to the public, calling on
them to sign a pledge demanding politicians back new runways in London and the South
A recent survey by the Office of National Statistics showed a majority (59%) of the British
public support the construction of new runways, and the Let Britain Fly Pledge, which was
launched today, aims to give this “silent majority” a voice in the national debate.
[Note: what Let Britain Fly is quoting is an ONS survey, which shows on Page 9 which shows 59% agree (45% not strongly) that: “People should be allowed to travel by plane as much as they want to, even if new terminals or runways are needed to meet demand.” The same chart shows that only 28% agree that: “People should be allowed to travel by plane as much as they want to, even if it harms the environment.” 70% disagreed, 9% strongly. Of the 28% who agreed, only 3% agreed strongly. The exact question details, phrasing etc, are not known. See graphic from ONS survey below. AirportWatch].
Let Britain Fly press release (cont):
The business leaders, including the heads of Harrods, international manufacturer Kesslers, construction giant Mace, property firm SEGRO, and global law firm Linklaters, urged the British public to speak out on the issue, which they say is crucial to supporting future jobs and growth in the UK.
The Let Britain Fly Pledge aims to put pressure on the leaders of the UK’s political parties,
calling on them to:
1. Make a public pledge to build more runway capacity and commit to this in their 2015 election manifestos 2. Ensure a Parliamentary vote on airports expansion in 2016 at the latest.
Using email and social media in the run-up to the election, the campaign aims to engage
hundreds of thousands of people across the country ahead of the release of the Airports
Commission’s final recommendations next summer.
In the coming months the campaign will also criss-cross the country, staging a roadshow of events in, Newcastle, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Liverpool and will have a high-profile presence at the forthcoming party political conferences in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Gavin Hayes, Director, Let Britain Fly, said:
“It’s not just a short-list of options we need, but the political will to do something – without
cross party commitment none of these proposals will get past the drawing board, that’s why we are urging the public to speak out on the need for vital new runways.
“Often in the public debate on airports expansion we hear loudly the concerns of those
people who are against; Let Britain Fly now wants to create the space and opportunity for
the ‘silent majority’ of people who are in favour of expansion to also have their say.
“The evidence suggests that a majority supports airports expansion, and understands the
need to support jobs and growth across the country. Today we are giving them a chance to
speak out on this important issue by signing the Let Britain Fly Pledge and demonstrating to politicians that voters think this issue is of national importance.”
Michael Ward, Managing Director of Harrods, said:
“Harrods attracts visitors from around the world. But changes in the global economy mean
we need to reach out to new markets which complement our existing links. That’s why we
have been vocal in the debate over airport expansion.
“But this is not a decision for British business. The Government should be listening to the
public, and the evidence suggests that a silent majority support airport expansion. We urge
those people to ensure their voice is heard on this vital issue and sign the Let Britain Fly
George Kessler, Director of Kesslers International, said:
“My competitors in Germany, France and Holland have a huge advantage in being able to
get to China (where face to face contact is an essential part of doing business) at short
notice and more easily than I. (sic) In addition they suffer from fewer delays. The issues with second rate air connectivity are stymying the growth potential of our economy. The need for new runways is urgent and our politicians need to show clear leadership on this issue and not hide behind the genuine difficulties of making a decision.
“The British public need to take their opportunity to have their say on this issue which will
seriously affect the availability of employment and jobs for both them and their children.”
Mark Reynolds, Chief Executive, Mace, said:
“If the UK and particularly London is to meet our growth challenges and remain a leading
world city, our airports must have the capacity to meet these demands. The construction
industry has the capacity to deliver infrastructure projects much quicker. Together with
government assistance, and the airport owners and operators, we can meet the demands
ahead of the current envisaged schedule and stimulate the economy by increasing
employment and investment in to the UK.”
David Sleath, Chief Executive Officer, SEGRO, said:
“Global connectivity is vital to the success of the British economy. Many of our customers
operate internationally, moving people and products around the world by air. That is why we
urgently need politicians to deliver new runways [Note: they never say one runway, which is what the Commission is looking at. There is no question, for decades, of more than one runway] to allow businesses to directly access new and emerging overseas markets.
“With better international connectivity, the UK will attract further investment that will
safeguard and create new jobs. Additional runway capacity really matters, because
fundamentally it’s about UK jobs and economic prosperity. [Note: these comments disregard the inconvenient fact that most air travel is for leisure purposes, and expansion will be used for increasing numbers of cheap holidays].
“In the run-up to the election more people should join with us in speaking out and ensuring
their voice is heard.”
Robert Elliott, Chairman and Senior Partner, Linklaters, said:
“Britain has been a powerhouse of global trade for centuries, not least due to the UK’s
connectivity with international business and financial centres. Global firms such as Linklaters which serve clients throughout the world benefit from good airport connections, and these play a key role in helping to maintain London’s status as arguably the world’s leading legal centre
“As other countries continue to build major airport hubs, competition for London is
intensifying, underscoring the pressing need for a comprehensive and actionable UK
aviation strategy to assure the UK’s future competitiveness within the global economy. With
airport capacity saturation just around the corner now is the time to seek the widest possible input and make decisions built on the widest possible consensus.”
FOR FURTHER COMMENT / TO ARRANGE MEDIA INTERVIEWS PLEASE CALL:
GAVIN HAYES – 07900 195591 Notes – Text of the Let Britain Fly Pledge (also available at letbritainfly.com):
“Let Britain Fly is campaigning for politicians of all parties to make a public commitment to build vital new runways. For years, politicians have failed to make a decision, leaving British businesses and passengers grounded, while other countries are taking off. A positive, bold decision to build more runways would support British trade and tourism, giving everyone the opportunity to travel the world, whilst generating future jobs and growth.
The leaders of the UK’s main political parties must: 1.Make a public pledge to build more runway capacity and commit to this in their 2015 election manifestos 2. Ensure a parliamentary vote on airports expansion in 2016 at the latest.
I call on my Member of Parliament to sign this Pledge and to ask Ministers to do the same.”
– Let Britain Fly is an independent campaign coalition whose founding statement has already attracted support from more than 100 senior business leaders from Britain’s top companies, trade and professional associations, unions and educational institutions, along with organisations including the British Chambers of Commerce, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, London First, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Hospitality Association.
– ‘Public experiences of and attitudes towards air travel 2014’ taken from the Office for National Statistics ‘Opinions and Lifestyle Survey’ can be downloaded in full from:
With Heathrow already having about 15 Airbus A380 planes using the airport each day,there has now been time to see how they fit in. An article in Aviation Week & Space Technology sets out some of the problems caused by the A380 on account of its size, and the consequent limitations on proximity of planes following it, due to increased turbulence. Aviation Week says senior NATS air traffic controllers say the biggest impact comes from the spacing requirement for the aircraft, which is in the “super” wake vortex category. As an A380 departs, it requires up to 3 minutes of spacing between it and the next aircraft if it is a smaller narrow-body type, such as an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737. Greater distances between traffic are also required on approach, with minimum separation for a “heavy” category aircraft such as a Boeing 747 behind an A380 of 6 nautical miles, while medium-size aircraft up to the Boeing 757 have to keep a 7 nm. separation and smaller aircraft 8 nm. There are also problems as the A380 has a relatively high runway occupancy time, and while a Boeing 747 can take 45 seconds, A380s are taking around 65 seconds on the runway. And so on.
A380 Continues To Pose Challenges For Heathrow
The A380 was tapped to help capacity-strapped airports, but could it end up hurting them?
If Airbus chief salesman John Leahy had to pick one airport to demonstrate the need for a large aircraft such as the A380, he would certainly pick London Heathrow: dense, high-yield traffic flows and severe capacity limitations. But increasing A380 operations at Heathrow also show more operational challenges that could emerge at other legacy airports, too.
Some 15 A380s operate into Heathrow daily. Emirates flies A380s on all five of its daily London-Dubai rotations, while Singapore Airlines uses the type on three of its four daily flights. And the number looks set to rise, with British Airways taking delivery of more A380s in the coming months, to be joined by Qatar Airways and Etihad in October and December, respectively.
Operations at capacity-constrained Heathrow Airport were considered a key market for the Airbus A380, but its increasing use may be affecting airport efficiency. Credit: Heathrow Airport LTD
But ever-increasing A380 operations at Heathrow could also potentially have a negative impact on what is the world’s busiest two-runway international airport, suggest officials from the U.K.’s air navigation service provider, NATS.
Senior NATS air traffic controllers say the biggest impact comes from the spacing requirement for the aircraft, which is in the “super” wake vortex category. As an A380 departs, it requires up to 3 min. of spacing between it and the next aircraft if—as it often is at Heathrow—it is a smaller narrowbody type, such as an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737.
Because the airport routinely operates at around 99% of its runway capacity, the 3-min. hold time before the aircraft behind the A380 can depart can have a significant impact on the number of aircraft that can use the runway per hour.
Greater distances between traffic are also required on approach. According to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) guidelines, minimum separation for a “heavy” category aircraft such as a Boeing 747 behind an A380 is 6 nm., two more than behind another 747. The restrictions only apply below 10,000 ft. Medium-size aircraft up to the Boeing 757 have to keep a 7 nm. separation and smaller aircraft eight.
Heathrow aims for around 42-44 movements or departures per hour and runway, but if that figure dips below 36, operations managers may not be able to fit the day’s schedule into one day, affecting the airport’s hub operations.
Significant impacts are also felt with the A380’s relatively high runway occupancy time (ROT)—for landing run and taxi-off—as well as line-up (for takeoff) times (LUT).
According to Jon Proudlove, NATS general manager at Heathrow, Boeing 747s can take around 45 sec. to taxi onto the runway and line up ready for departure, but A380s are taking around 65 sec. A Heathrow report on A380 operations states that on one occasion, it took an A380 as long as 111 sec. to line up on runway 27L.
“Heathrow operates on a knife edge,” says Proudlove. “The impact of these aircraft nibbles away at runway capacity. “By 2030 we expect to handle up to 60 A380s a day, but there is no plan for that, we can’t plan for that,” he says.
With 104 weekly A380 flights, Heathrow handles the second-most A380 flights worldwide. Because Emirates’ fleet of 50 A380s is based in Dubai, that airport is the busiest for the type, with 297 weekly departures. Dubai is exceptional, as a lot of the latest airport infrastructure investments have been planned around A380 operations—Emirates even operates into an A380-dedicated terminal. The airport also underwent runway and taxiway upgrades this year that allowed smoother operations, but they were not directly linked to A380 services.
What Heathrow is facing today could well look like a glimpse into some of the future issues faced at other airports seeing increasing numbers of A380s. Singapore has 104 and Paris Charles de Gaulle 94 weekly flights; Frankfurt has 76 (and Emirates is adding a daily roundtrip this week); Seoul Incheon 75 and Los Angeles International 70. Sydney has 47 weekly A380 flights. The level of current issues is different at these locations, however. Charles de Gaulle generally has ample runway capacity and continues to add terminal space. Frankfurt opened a fourth runway and therefore has more capacity than it currently needs, its limits are dictated by passenger terminal constraints. And A380 operations have already been taken into account in Seoul Incheon’s planning process.
Mainly because of its space constraints, Los Angeles International (LAX) is probably another really challenging case and could prove to become even more difficult in the future.
There are several approaches to mitigating the A380’s impact. In theory, with more A380s operating into Heathrow, the aircraft could be grouped on departure, allowing an A380 to leave after another A380 within a minute or so, but opportunities to do this are few and far between.
NATS and the airport authorities have been working with the airlines on reducing the ROT and LUT times and NATS says performance is significantly enhanced by the use of Airbus’s Brake To Vacate (BTV) system.
According to Airbus, nine of the current 11 A380 operators have picked BTV comparable with smaller narrowbody types. Airbus Test Pilot Jean-Michel Roy says airlines that have chosen BTV routinely use it, but runway occupancy times for Heathrow landings suggest that pilots may not consistently apply it. And only three of the five A380 operators flying to Heathrow have BTV installed.
The system functions when the aircraft is in autoland mode. BTV tells the pilots on the primary flight display where the earliest possible position on the runway will be during dry or wet conditions, and with a preselected deceleration rate in place. The crew can then select an exit after that position and BTV will automatically decelerate the aircraft in the most efficient way to a taxi speed of 10 kt., at which point pilots will take full manual control again. According to Roy, airlines can therefore reduce runway occupancy time from around 90 to 60 sec.
Once pilots prepare BTV during the approach, the computer will tell them the expected ROT. The crew can therefore tell air traffic control in advance how much time it expects will be needed until the aircraft has left the runway again. Airbus argues this will make it easier for ATC to plan spacing in the arrival pattern.
Airbus also has been working with ICAO to re-address the minimum separation criteria put in place for the A380. The latest round of flight tests—involving several smaller aircraft types flying behind A380s at various angles, speeds and other changing conditions—took place in 2010, and working groups are still assessing the data. Airbus has been trying to persuade authorities to move the A380 back into the “heavy” category from its own “super-heavy” definition. The outcome of those talks and the timing of any conclusions is still unclear.
A380 Product Marketing Director Thomas Burger claims that if air traffic control manages to group A380 arrivals, even under the current ICAO regulations A380s increase runway capacity because the restrictions do not apply when one A380 follows another and because of their high passenger capacity.
Space and taxiway limitations can make ground operations more difficult for the aircraft. At Heathrow a major issue is that significant sections of the taxiway system linking Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 on the north side of the airport is not ICAO Code F-compliant, making it unavailable for use by the A380 because of its 79.75- meter (261-ft.) wingspan.
As a result, A380s landing on the northern runways—09L or 27R—can only vacate the runway at two intersections, forcing ground controllers to take the aircraft on lengthy routes around the airfield to reach their stands. Use of the northern taxiways will only be possible once Terminal 1 and its associated piers have been demolished to make way for the new Heathrow East development, part of which is already complete with the construction of the new Terminal 2.
For operators using Terminal 4 on the south side of the airport, such as Malaysian Airlines, A380 operations are complicated by the fact that only a small triangle of the taxiway which links the front of the terminal to the southern runway is currently Code F-compliant.
“The aircraft arrives on one of the world’s busiest runways and then has to cross it again in order to get to Terminal 4,” says Proudlove. On departure, these aircraft have to cross back over the runway again.
He adds that Qatar Airways and Etihad will face a similar issue when they begin A380 operations, as both airlines also use Terminal 4. The airport is making more parking stands A380 compatible as more are used into the airport.
In Los Angeles, similar restrictions apply for A380 ground operations. Not all taxiways and runway exits can be used and the aircraft generally have to be accompanied by ground vehicles during taxi to ensure no obstacles are hit. Even so, there have been several minor collisions. Airbus says it plans to use ADS-B data to monitor other aircraft traffic during taxi and show taxi clearances on the primary flight display in the future.
The CBI has produced a report, putting pressure on the Airports Commission (don’t they all…) to “deliver recommendations to solve the UK’s shortage of runway capacity and spark new connections with the export markets of tomorrow.” They want a huge hub airport with plenty of spare capacity to grow further, which allegedly is needed for economic growth. Part of the report’s title is “The Hub is the Nub.” They want a new runway soon, with spades in the ground by 2020. They then want a second new runway well before 2050. The report looks entirely, from a very narrow perspective, on growth of the economy. It looks only at business. The words tourism, leisure travel, holiday, carbon emissions, and climate change do not feature at all. Nor noise. It is written with heavy blinkers to realities outside business and continuous growth perspectives. Heathrow has interpreted it as backing their runway. The report does not in fact specify which airport they want; they just want two more runways, and what the hell with any other impacts or consequences. Perhaps they are not aware that the vast majority of UK flights are low cost, for holidays, leisure of visiting friends and family. By airlines that make little profit.
CBI press release about their report:
The UK must prioritise a single hub airport with spare capacity to support trade
Decision must support UK’s emerging market air links. Having a single UK hub with spare capacity to add new routes is critical to the UK’s long-term sustainable growth, according to a new CBI report.
With future export opportunities increasingly in emerging, high-growth economies, the CBI urges the Airports Commission to deliver recommendations to solve the UK’s shortage of runway capacity and spark new connections with the export markets of tomorrow.
Building on 2013 findings that demonstrate that eight new routes to emerging markets alone would generate as much as £1bn a year in trade, the report highlights that by drawing on both transfer passengers and local populations, hub airports are best placed to act as a catalyst for these new routes. Research by Steer Davies Gleave, for the CBI, shows that from a sample of 15 emerging markets, hub airports serve on average nearly three times as many destinations as point-to-point airports (27 to 8 destinations), while also delivering almost twice as many flights on the routes that are served – 1.5 daily flights from hubs on average, compared to 0.8 from point-to-point.
With the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets. The report highlights that by drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors with their own unconstrained capacity are creating connections to new destinations within the BRICS such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.
Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:
“The Chancellor has set businesses ambitious targets for increasing the UK’s exports, and there is simply no way of achieving these goals without upping our game in emerging markets.
“Our analysis last year demonstrated that connectivity is the lifeblood of trade, but it also highlighted that the UK is already falling behind, so every day we delay making a decision, makes matters worse.
“First and foremost, UK business wants action. There can be no more excuses – we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.
“But this research shows that while all airports have a role to play in growing the UK’s connectivity, not all airports play the same role.
“While no-one can predict the future of air travel, the track record shows that it tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need.
“With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity.”
The research demonstrates that spare capacity is important because where a hub becomes constrained, airlines tend to focus on strengthening routes to markets that are already popular, rather than using transfer passengers to spark new routes.
This explains why the UK has done particularly well in growing new routes to emerging markets like India: with around 1.45 million people of Indian descent living in the UK, ground passenger demand is high. It also explains why the UK’s track record with China, Brazil and Russia has been much less impressive, with the UK ranking in 4th or 5th place when it comes to capturing a share of EU flights to these markets in the last 20 years.
Ms Hall said:
“Transfer passengers are the key ingredient that help make new routes thrive, but without spare capacity, they tend to get squeezed out.
“There is little appetite from business users to land at one airport in the south-east, collect baggage, clear customs and then travel to a dedicated long-haul airport.
“This means that if we are to spark new connections that drive trade, we need a solution that creates spare capacity at a single-site hub.”
The report warns however that the Airports Commission cannot afford to ignore the UK’s wider network of airports in its recommendations if maximum connectivity is to be achieved. As well as expanding the range of direct connections on offer across the UK, the report demonstrates that where competition exists on routes, airfares are significantly reduced. Using transatlantic flights as an example, the research shows that routes that are served by multiple airports at each side tend to be as much as £500 cheaper than those served by just one destination at each end.
As a result, the report warns that the Airports Commission must deliver a solution that injects competition for routes wherever possible, urging the Commission to deliver an action plan that boosts ground access infrastructure to airports across the UK, as well as kick-starting the process of deciding where a second new runway in the south-east might be required by 2050.
Ms Hall said:
“It’s not a case of either / or when it comes to improving hub capacity in the south-east or point-to-point connectivity across the UK.
“While a hub is key to getting new routes started, at that point where emerging market opportunity turns into established trading partner, we need the means to move quickly to win new business.
“A thriving network of point-to-point airports will deliver another major plus for business users – affordability. Where demand exists, we need to take action to support the development of direct links, injecting competition wherever possible.
“Figures show that if people can’t easily get to an airport, they won’t use it, so sometimes our infrastructure on the ground is the missing link to the new air connections we need.
“We also can’t ignore the next capacity crunch which looms on the horizon by 2050. If we are to avoid yet another damaging investment hiatus that put a brake on competition in the south-east, it’s important we think ahead now.”
The CBI is calling on the Airports Commission to deliver recommendations that:
1. make a strong political and economic case for action in the next Parliament, with a clear schedule that delivers spades in the ground by 2020.
2. set out clearly the type of capacity required to maximise the UK’s connections with the rest of the world. The CBI recommends hub capacity at a single location as the best way of boosting connectivity with new markets.
3. set out a compelling narrative for how to bolster competition by maximising links across the UK, developing an action plan to make the best use of our existing capacity by improving surface access.
4. give politicians a clear timetable for the consideration of additional capacity beyond 2030 to prevent another capacity crunch in the future.
The call from Britain’s leading business organisation attracted controversy after other airports received a press release that appeared to have been sent to Heathrow and back to the CBI before being issued to other parties, including the London mayor’s office, which favours the Thames estuary option, and Gatwick.
The report argues that hub airports are best placed to act as a catalyst for new routes, serving on average nearly three times as many destinations as point-to-point airports and having a higher frequency of flights.
Katja Hall of the CBI said: “UK business wants action. There can be no more excuses – we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery.”
She said that while all airports could help develop UK connectivity, not all the airports played the same role. “While no one can predict the future of air travel, the track record shows that it tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need.”
Hall said Heathrow was full and research showed that when a hub became constrained airlines strengthened popular routes rather than investigating emerging markets.
“If we are to spark new connections that drive trade, we need a solution that creates spare capacity at a single-site hub,” she added.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow airport, said: “This recommendation by the CBI essentially shows that British business is backing Heathrow as the UK’s only hub airport to connect the country to global growth.”
The mayor’s aviation adviser, Daniel Moylan, said the Heathrow option was too constrained and too environmentally damaging for extra growth. “A third runway there, on its own, would not offer the spare capacity the CBI rightly calls for,” he said. “And a second runway at Gatwick would of course mean that Britain had given up on having a hub airport altogether. So we need to find a new site for Heathrow, where it can grow. That should be to the east of the capital.”
A spokeswoman for Gatwick said the most important consideration for the commission was a solution that was both speedy and deliverable.
She said: “A new runway at Gatwick would liberate capacity for more hub traffic at Heathrow and provide UK with two world-class airports, able to address all travel markets and airline models.
“Once you take into account existing developments in aircraft technology and current aviation trends, it is clear that Gatwick is the best and obvious solution. We are surprised that in forming a view of the future of aviation policy, the CBI has chosen not to address the future of the industry itself.
“It is hard not to question the impartiality of a report that arrives in your inbox with Heathrow’s email disclaimer attached to it.”
Asked why some material had gone via Heathrow and back to the CBI before reaching Gatwick, the CBI said it had been an administrative error. A spokesman said the CBI decided to give five member companies “advanced sighting” and while Heathrow was first, Gatwick was sent the report a little over an hour later, when the sender copied and pasted over the information from the earlier email.
Heathrow said it first received the report on Friday morning, and had issued its own public response soon afterwards, shortly before Gatwick saw the report.
John Stewart, the chair of the Heathrow opposition group Hacan (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), said: “It’s clear that the CBI has plumped for Heathrow without giving any consideration whether a third runway is politically deliverable in the real world. Although branded as an independent report it would not surprise me at all if Heathrow had not used its influence within the CBI to get this result.”
Head of CBI backs Heathrow 3rd runway while CBI wants all parties to sign up to Commission’s recommendations in advance
20.7.2013Sir Mike Rake, the new president of the CBI, thinks building a 3rd runway at Heathrow is a “no-brainer” and that the Government should get on with increasing aviation capacity immediately. The CBI has always backed massive aviation expansion, rather predictably. He said: “Despite the fact I live near there, I think we should have started a third runway several years ago and I think other projects should follow from that.” He admitted that Heathrow is not the only option and also called for a 2nd runway to be built at Gatwick. “We need to decide quickly and get on with it,” he said. His personal views appear to be slightly at odds with the CBI itself. On Thursday, the CBI released its response to the Airports Commission into airport capacity, stressing that it was open to whatever solution could gain cross-party support and lead to speedy growth. They said all three major parties must sign up to Commission’s recommendations in advance, to avoid going back to square one in 2015. The CBI remains the only business group that does not unequivocally back an enlarged Heathrow as the way to deliver the alleged economic growth.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=3881
Warren Buffett, an extremely rich American investor whose opinions on investment are widely well regarded. He has commented that airlines are too risky an investment for the ordinary investor. At the 2013 AGM of his company, Berkshire Hathaway he said: “Investors have poured their money into airlines for 100 years with terrible results ….It’s been a death trap for investors.” But over the past few years, shares in IAG, and easyJet have increased in value. However, things have now changed and during the past 6 months, their shares have lose value and there are uncertainties about their future profits. Making a profit in the airline industry is notoriously difficult. Sustaining profitability is even harder. IATA says the global airline industry in 2013 had a 1.8% profit margin. That means globally airlines made a profit on average of just $4.13 (£2.49) for each passenger they carry. Strange industry; so much environmental harm, so much fuel burned, for so little profit. Profits of Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are down. Airlines say there is overcapacity on trans-Atlantic routes, which cuts their profits. Some established European airlines are facing middle East competition, and legacy airlines are setting up low fares versions. Airlines continue to be risky investments.
Airline shares are still too turbulent despite recent gains
Legendary investor Warren Buffett has made his views on airlines clear. “Investors have poured their money into airlines for 100 years with terrible results,” Mr Buffett said
Shares in British Airways and Iberia owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) tripled in value between September 2012 and March 2014Photo: PA
The commercial airline industry was born on New Year’s Day 1914, when a single passenger paid for a 23-minute flight across Tampa Bay in Florida. One hundred years later, the industry is now global, but profitability remains on a knife edge. Are airlines simply too risky for the average investor?
Warren Buffett certainly thinks so. At the annual meeting of his Berkshire Hathaway company in 2013 the investment guru was pretty clear about his feelings. “Investors have poured their money into airlines for 100 years with terrible results,” Mr Buffett said. “It’s been a death trap for investors.”
So, perhaps unusually, airline investors have been well rewarded over the past few years. Shares in British Airways and Iberia owner International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) tripled in value between September 2012 and March 2014, with easyJet shares leapfrogging into the FTSE 100, gaining about 500pc between October 2011 and March this year. But things have now changed.
The market value of major airlines has been sliding since March, as the industry faces a number of headwinds. Shares in both easyJet and IAG are down by about a quarter, amid worries over future margins.
Making a profit in the airline industry is notoriously difficult. Sustaining profitability is even harder.
Figures compiled by International Air Transport Association (IATA), the industry’s trade body, demonstrate just how much is at stake if management makes even a slight misstep.
In 2013, the airline industry made a collective profit of $12.9bn (£7.8bn) on revenues of $708bn (£427bn), IATA calculated. That is a 1.8 per cent net profit margin. To put it another way, airlines made a profit on average of just $4.13 (£2.49) for each passenger they carry.
Last month, Air France-KLM issued a profit warning, blaming overcapacity on traffic to North America and Asia reducing air fares. It has since launched a five-year restructuring plan to drive down costs. Significantly for easyJet, part of this plan involves launching a new low-cost carrier as it increases its focus on short-haul markets.
Germany’s Lufthansa has also raised the idea of launching a low-cost airline, as it tries to deal with competition on long-haul routes from Middle Eastern carriers such as Etihad. It issued a profit warning in June that sent its shares falling 20pc in one day, blaming overcapacity on trans-Atlantic routes. In June, Air Lingus also warned that its annual profits could be a fifth lower than expected because of strike action.
The shooting down of MH17 over Ukraine and the mysterious loss of another Malaysian Airlines jet earlier this year added to the gloomy sentiment surrounding the industry.
Airlines had a further wobble earlier this month following a report that Russia was planning to restrict its airspace to European airlines in reaction to Western sanctions over Ukraine. This would results in long detours, with a consequent rise in costs that could wipe out delicate profit margins.
However, such a move would also hit Russian state-owned group Aeroflot hard, as the company receives about $300m (£181m) in fees each year from European airlines crossing Russian territory, so perhaps the fears are overdone.
In short, the industry is grappling with overcapacity, increased competition from new upstarts such as the Gulf airlines and a slowdown in passenger numbers, while some airlines are suffering their own unique problems.
Despite this backdrop, interim numbers from IAG, released on August 1, were pretty good. Operating profits in the second quarter beat City expectations, coming in at €380m (£303m) compared with a consensus view of about €355m (£283m). It also reiterated full-year guidance of an improvement in operating profit of €500m (£399m). This follows an improvement at its troubled Iberia operation which was losing €1.7m (£1.4m) a day a couple of years ago.
The most recent statement from easyJet, however, was disappointing. Management told investors the pre-tax profits in the year to September 30 would be between £545m and £570m – lower than the City had been expecting.
Positively for IAG, it also has an accident of geography acting in its favour. Many flag carriers have been suffering from competition from upstart Gulf airlines, but these companies are unable to compete on British Airways key trans-Atlantic routes.
However, it is clear that there are capacity issues on these routes. The Latin American economy, another important destination for British Airways, is also suffering from numerous problems that could keep demand low, including a sovereign debt default issue in Argentina.
For easyJet, the next few years could see an increase in rivals such as Norwegian grabbing market share – and the number of new carriers trying to eat its lunch could increase. There is also a resurgent Ryanair to deal with. In its favour, the company appears to have become adept at managing capacity.
Another risk is the fact that airlines and passengers are soft targets for taxes. Gouging airline passengers may provide short-term relief for governments with stretched budgets.
Aviation is a glamorous industry but don’t let the romance blind you. Airlines remain risky investments to own, despite impressive gains over the past few years.
Warren Buffett is an American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is widely considered the most successful investor of the 20th century. Buffett is the chairman, CEO and largest shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway and consistently ranked among the world’s wealthiest people. He was ranked as the world’s wealthiest person in 2008 and as the3rd wealthiest person in 2011. In 2012, American magazine Time named Buffett one of the most influential people in the world.
Buffett is also a notable philanthropist, having pledged to give away 99% of his fortune to philanthropic causes, primarily via the Gates Foundation.
Profits of about 1 – 2%. Maybe 1.9% in 2010. Slightly higher for organic and gourmet foods, at about 3.5 – 6%.
ie. on a £100 shop, a profit (on regular items, not organic etc) a profit of about £2.
This American article from 2011 says:
” …. among the most profitable were jewellry, luggage, and leather goods stores, followed by clothing stores and specialty food stores. Interestingly, those product categories are typically popular during the gift-giving holidays. ….among the least profitable categories were stores selling office supplies, stationery and gifts ….had some of the lowest profit margins.”
US conservation groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its perceived failure and unreasonable delay in addressing aviation’s growing emissions. The dispute goes back over 6 years to when the groups first petitioned EPA to carry out a mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to determine whether aircraft emissions cause or contribute to air pollution “that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare”. The mandate was upheld in a court ruling in July 2011, and in 2012 EPA acknowledged its obligation to conduct an endangerment finding and indicated it would begin work. However it has not yet done anything. EPA said it would “review and respond accordingly” to the notice but that it was currently working through ICAO on an international CO2 efficiency standard for new aircraft types. But green NGOs are sceptical of this process, and its chance of making any significant cut in overall emissions. The move was supported by European group, T& E who commented that the amount of aviation emissions in the US is huge and “their effective regulation is long overdue.”
US conservation groups to sue EPA over delays in finding aviation emissions an endangerment to health
Thurs 21 Aug 2014 (Green Air online)
Conservation groups have filed a notice of intent to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a perceived failure and unreasonable delay by the government agency in addressing aviation’s growing aviation emissions. The dispute goes back over six years to when the groups first petitioned EPA to carry out a mandatory duty under the Clean Air Act to determine whether greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from aircraft engines cause or contribute to air pollution “that may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare”. The mandate was upheld in a court ruling in July 2011, and in 2012 EPA acknowledged its obligation to conduct an endangerment finding and indicated it would begin work, but has yet to take any steps in the rulemaking process. EPA said it would “review and respond accordingly” to the notice but that it was currently working through ICAO on an international CO2 efficiency standard for new type aircraft.
The 180-day notice was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, which is being represented by Earthjustice. In their letter of notice to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the organisations point out EPA has found GHG emissions do indeed endanger public health and welfare, and had taken action to regulate them from other sources, including motor vehicles.
They add aviation is one of the fastest-growing sources of CO2 pollution, accounting for around 11% of CO2 emissions from the US transportation sector and rising at three to five per cent a year. “Because of the significant role that aircraft play in global climate change, and in light of the exponential growth projected in air travel, the United States must lead the way in regulating global warming pollutants from these sources,” said the letter.
Commented Martin Wagner, an Earthjustice managing attorney: “There is a real opportunity to curb global warming pollution from the airline industry. But the industry won’t do it on its own. EPA must act now to ensure that the airline industry operates more efficiently to play its part in protecting our families, our communities and the environment from the devastating effects of climate change.”
The move was supported by European NGO Transport & Environment (T&E). “We welcome this action by US civil society,” said its Aviation Programme Manager, Bill Hemmings. “North American domestic aviation CO2 emissions alone exceed all the rest of the world’s domestic emissions combined, so their effective regulation is long overdue.”
A spokesperson for EPA told GreenAir: “As the suit is received, EPA will review and respond accordingly.”
She added in a statement: “EPA has been publicly working on the development of international CO2 standards for four years at ICAO, which are expected to be finalised in early 2016. If these international standards were to be incorporated domestically, EPA would first need to propose an endangerment finding for aircraft GHGs under the Clean Air Act.
“Right now, the Agency is taking action on climate change by implementing the President’s Climate Action Plan and taking on the largest sources of carbon pollution first. We have already put in place light duty vehicle standards for GHG emissions and now are working on a second round of standards for heavy duty vehicles. We are also in the process of finalising standards for power plants, the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States.”
Work towards approval of a CO2 certification standard for new types of aircraft is ongoing in ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which is currently preparing a cost-effectiveness analysis of various levels of stringency. It is expected to reach a recommendation that will be approved at the February 2016 CAEP meeting, before consideration and adoption by the governing ICAO Council.
“We are pleased that EPA and the Federal Aviation Administration are actively participating in the ICAO work,” a spokesperson for US airline association Airlines for America (A4A) told GreenAir. “In light of US airlines’ strong record of fuel efficiency and carbon emissions reduction, and EPA’s direct role in the ICAO work, threats to sue EPA to force additional regulatory action are unnecessary.
“Our global coalition supports agreement at ICAO to develop a CO2 certification standard for new type aircraft to be approved in 2016 and to work on a potential global market-based measure to serve as a ‘gap-filler’ should we not be able to achieve carbon neutral growth from 2020 through concerted industry and government investments in technology, operations and infrastructure.”
Environmental NGOs also support the development of an international CO2 standard but have been critical of the process so far. T&E’s Hemmings said the standard had little prospect of reducing emissions beyond what would have been achieved without regulation. “This is because ICAO intends to limit the standard’s stringency to 2016 technologies operational in 2020, which will largely have been overtaken by the time the standard takes effect,” he maintained. “Efficiency standards have played an important role in reducing emissions in other transport sectors and their role is even more important in aviation.”
Against an ICAO annual global efficiency improvement goal of 2% – the industry has committed to a lower 1.5% target through until 2020 – T&E claims the historical industry trend of aircraft efficiency improvement is showing a declining rate and is currently around 0.6% per year.
A4A points out US airlines improved their fuel efficiency by 120% between 1978 and 2013, saving in the process 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2, and in 2013 carried 17% more passengers and cargo than in 2000 while emitting 8% less CO2.
Dan Rutherford of US-headquartered environmental research non-profit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) agrees – up to a point. “The fuel efficiency of US domestic operations improved strongly from 1990 to 2008 – an average of 3% per year – due to improvements in new aircraft efficiency and rising load factors.”
However, he added in a blog posted in May: “In recent years, gains from new aircraft in the United States have fallen, raising the risk that efficiency improvements will stall completely as the marginal gains of filling every available seat drop off.
“We first identified the trend of falling improvement for new equipment back in 2009. It’s driven by a lack of new types and by prioritisation of aircraft performance, notably range and speed, over fuel burn improvements. Due to the time lag between new aircraft delivery and penetration into the in-use fleet, this slowdown is now evident at the airline level.
“Since that 2009 report, new aircraft types like the 787-8 have been brought into service, and manufacturers have announced a number of project aircraft – for example the A320neo, 737 MAX and 777X – that may eventually start to reverse this trend.”
Friends of the Earth analyst John Kaltenstein said: “As time runs out to head off global warming’s worst effects, President Obama has to push the aviation industry to cut carbon pollution. Airlines can clearly operate much more efficiently but federal rules are critical to reducing their dangerous emissions.
The issue of bird strikes for planes is an emotive one. Some collisions do little damage to planes, but hitting a large bird can disable an engine, or worse. While birds and planes co-exist, some strikes are inevitable. Rose Bridger has been looking into this subject for years. She says shortly after the Hudson incident in 2009, New York’s 3 main airports began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds and gassed with CO2 in a nearby buiding. In fact, the geese that downed the plane were not locals, but migrants from northern Canada. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometre area. After a non-fatal (for the plane) collision with a flock of geese at Schiphol in 2010, 5,000 were gassed in 2012. The area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 geese were gassed between January and July 2013. In January, the New York Port Authority announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans. And there are many, many other examples. Airports should not be built in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
Airports’ global bird slaughter – 100,000s gassed, shot, poisoned
By Rose Bridger
18th August 2014
Airports around the world are waging a war on birds, writes Rose Bridger. It’s meant to prevent aircraft bird strikes. But in fact, fatal (for people) collisions are rare – and even killing thousands of birds does little to reduce the number of strikes. Best fly less, and keep airports away from birds!
The most effective way of minimising bird strikes, aside from constraining aviation growth so that skies are not so crowded, is not to build airports in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
Aircraft share airspace with birds, so collisions, or ‘bird strikes’ as they’re known in the trade, are inevitable. A bird strike in New York, the ‘Hudson Miracle‘, seared the threat to aviation safety into the consciousness of air crew and passengers alike.
On 15th January 2009, Canada geese were sucked into both engines of a US Airways Airbus 320 shortly after take-off from New York’s La Guardia Airport. The speed of the aircraft magnifies the force of impact of the collision and both engines lost power.
Disaster was narrowly averted by the pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, who saved the lives of all on board by successfully ditching the plane in the Hudson River.
Collisions with aircraft are almost always fatal for birds. When they are sucked into and minced up in engines the species might only be identified by DNA sequencing analysis of remains. When birds collide with the nose, wings or fuselage of a plane they leave blood smeared dents. Birds can smash through the windshield of small aircraft, leaving pilots spattered with blood.
Shortly after the Hudson incident New York’s three main airports – JFK, La Guardia and Newark – began culling Canada geese. This escaped public attention until June 2010, when wildlife officials rounded up nearly 400 birds in Prospect Park and took them to a nearby building, where they were gassed with carbon dioxide at a lethal concentration.
Residents’ shock the following day, when they found the park devoid of geese, triggered the establishment of GoosewatchNYC, a lively campaign for co-existence with urban wildlife and humane alternatives to culling.
Campaigners pointed out the futility of killing the geese. DNA testing revealed that the geese in the Hudson bird strike were not resident birds, but a migratory species which had flown south from northern Canada.
GoosewatchNYC drew attention to the carnage that would be necessary should authorities attempt to eliminate the risk of aircraft collisions with migratory birds: “In order to guarantee preventing a repeat occurrence would essentially require killing every bird on the eastern seaboard.”
While not adopting such an extreme policy, authorities increased culling. By autumn 2013 geese were being rounded up from municipal properties within a 160 square kilometrearea.
On 6th June 2010, a collision with geese brought down another plane. A Boeing 737 departing from Schiphol Airport, carrying six crew and 156 passengers, was seriously damaged when it struck a flock of geese. The pilot struggled with the controls when the left engine lost power and caught fire, but managed to land the safely back at Schiphol.
Investigators discovered the mangled carcasses of 24 geese in the landing gear and the electronics compartment. Seven more were found dead on the runway. Geese are attracted to agricultural land around the airport, and, in 2012, 5,000 were gassed.
Bird protection groups suggested planting crops that would not attract geese, but the area where geese are deemed a hazard to aircraft was extended to cover a 20 kilometre radius around the airport, and a further 10,000 were gassed between January and July 2013.
Airport kill lists
Community opposition to bird culling in New York intensified in December 2013 when snowy owls were added to the kill list. After five bird strikes at JFK involving snowy owls, in the space of just two weeks, three were shot.
In response to an online petition urging a cease fire, that quickly garnered 63,000 signatures, the Port Authority stopped killing snowy owls and committed to adopting non-lethal alternative methods. Now, snowy owls will be trapped and relocated, the most humane option, but only feasible for managing small numbers of birds.
The first ever snowy owl to be spotted near Honolulu Airport’s runways was not so lucky. Attempts to frighten it away with flares and catch it in a net failed, so a wildlife official shot it.
New York Port Authority’s reprieve for snowy owls was not extended to other species. In January, it announced plans to eliminate the entire population of 2,200 wild mute swans, aside from a few to be held in captivity.
Conveniently for the airports, landowners and authorities concurred in the view that the mute swans are ‘pests’ – and promulgated the view that, in addition to posing a risk to airliners, the birds attack people, destroy vegetation and pollute water because their droppings contain E-coli.
GooseWatchNYC founder David Karopkin pointed out that the swans had been living in the state for almost 200 years and demanded that the ‘outrageous’ plan be scrapped. Within a few weeks 50,000 people had commented on the plan and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that it would be revised.
But airports’ culling practices have exacted a heavy toll on many species of birds. In May 2014 records showed that, over a five year period, JFK Airport wildlife control officers hadshot 26,000 birds.
More than 1,600 of these were from 18 protected species that airports did not have permission to kill including red-winged blackbirds, snowy egrets and American kestrels. In spite of the slaughter, the number of collisions has not declined.
To the south, in New Jersey, the picture is similar. 6,000 animals, mainly birds, have been killed in the name of air safety. Here too, the number of collisions with aircraft has not declined.
Over on the west coast, five airports in the San Francisco Bay area shot 3,000 birds in a two-year period up to May 2013, including 57 red-tailed hawks. Medium-sized birds such as gulls, ducks and hawks, and even small birds including starlings and blackbirds are also targetted, as dense flocks can being down a plane.
Worcester Airport in Massachusetts shoots small birds including swallows, horned larks and snow bunting. Sea-Tac (Seattle-Tacoma) Airport’s wildlife hazard management programme involves killing ‘invasive’ species, including 2,000 starlings per year.
Between 1990 and 2012 bird strike investigations throughout the US identified the remains of no less than 482 species, including loons, starlings, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, egrets, vultures, hawks, eagles, cranes, sandpipers, pigeons, owls, turkeys and blackbirds.
But the number of bird strikes has continued to rise since the Hudson incident, reaching 9,000 in 2012. The real level is probably double this amount because airlines are not required to report minor incidences. The continued rise in bird strikes gives credence to the opinion of a number of experts, who argue that culling is ineffective, creating vacant habitats that are rapidly populated by other birds.
In the aftermath of the Hudson incident airports around the world adopted a hard-line approach to birds.
Lishe Airport, on China’s east coast, which had previously dealt with migrating egrets, stopping to feed on nearby grassland, with gunshot sounds and capturing them in nets began spraying rat poison on the birds’ food sources and shooting them.
Changi responded to the post-Hudson panic by inviting the local gun club to shoot birds including white-bellied sea eagles. Following a public outcry Changi stopped shooting birds and stepped up its efforts to keep them away, by eradicating their food sources, covering up water sources and installing ‘anti-perching devices’ slopes and spikes on top of buildings, and dispersing them with lasers.
Yet airport artwork appropriates avian imagery; 1,216 bronze droplets connected to motors form the world’s largest ‘kinetic sculpture‘, moving to create a hot air balloon, a kite, a flock of birds and other flight related shapes.
Outdoor artwork at Auckland Airport includes five albatross sculptures crafted from cast iron. This whimsical installation belies the airport’s brutal approach to birdlife.
When the airport conducted its first black swan cull this July, 788 were shot from a helicopter. The swans had moved to the area because their habitat – lakes several kilometres away – was destroyed. Intensive agriculture, especially dairy herds, removed aquatic vegetation which served as their food source.
In Britain, red kites, distinctive birds of prey with angled wings and a forked tail were reintroduced to the Chiltern hills after being hunted almost to extinction. Sometimes they wander onto RAF Benson airfield, where a ‘considerable programme of non-lethal measures’ failed to prevent four collisions over the last two years. The airfield has been issued with a license to shoot red kites if there is a risk of collision with aircraft.
At least shooting kills the majority of birds quickly. At Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport, in Houston, United Airlines poisoned hundreds of birds by laying out corn kernels laced with a toxin. The poison, a nerve agent, was not fast-acting; birds took up to an hour to die. Videos taken by airport employees showed pigeons and great-tailed grackles suffering convulsions.
Perhaps the cruellest method of destroying birdlife is the enlistment of another species, by the Beijing Air Force. Two monkeys were trained to remove birds’ nests, because of concerns over millions of migratory birds flying northwards during spring. Each monkey can remove between six and eight nests a day; by May, they had removed a total of about 180.
For the most part, airports use a variety of methods to make sites inhospitable to birds and frighten them, only resorting to culling should these measures fail to keep them away. Fruit trees, grasses and other plants that attract insects and small mammals that birds feed on are removed.
Sometimes vegetation is simply replaced with asphalt. Detention ponds, built to protect the airport from flooding, are covered with netting or hollow plastic balls, have steeply sloped sides and are surrounded by quarry ‘spalls’ – sharp edged stones that are painful for birds to walk on. Beyond the airport boundary, water sources that birds need for drinking and food might be filled in or covered up.
After a plane collided with two peacocks Sri Lanka’s new Mattala Airport in January, authorities began destroying habitats – removing vegetation and closing water holes, having recognised that culling would be met with protests. Yet, like many airports, Mattala is adorned with artwork suggesting an affinity with birdlife; on the approach road there is a giant metal sculpture of peacock.
Vancouver Airport’s wildlife control programme comprises predatory falcons trained to chase them away, bright lights, strings of tinsel, patrol boats and pyrotechnic noise makers. But the airport still uses shotguns. In 2010, 1,987 birds were shot, more than double the average over the previous five years. Yet the number of bird strikes for the year, 217, was higher than the average of 189 over the previous five years.
Biotechnologists in New Zealand have come up with a more comprehensive approach to habitat management. A grass that repels birds has a ‘symbiotic fungus’ growing within it, which reduces the population of insects that attract birds, and makes birds sick if they ingest it, so they don’t return.
Test plots at Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton airports have reduced the number of birds by 95%, so this must surely be considered a success. However this also demonstrates that such approaches to reduce the risk of bird strikes will also impact on wider biodiversity.
A growing number of airports use avian radar to detect birds. It is effective at distances of up to 9.5 kilometres and can even identify species. But it tends to be used in conjunction with deterrence measures.
For example, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport also uses propane cannons, pyrotechnic shells fired from a handgun with a range of sounds to target different species and falcons. However this arsenal of dispersal methods is of limited effectiveness – last year planes collided with 333 birds, the main victims being doves.
Few fatalities from bird strikes
The manner in which airports are stepping up the slaughter would suggest that bird strikes are a major cause of serious air accidents. In fact, the vast majority of afflicted planes land safely. About 5,000 collisions with birds occur every year, but airliners are built to withstand the impact.
The Hudson bird strike, so alarming because an emergency landing on a runway was not possible, was a highly unusual occurrence of birds being sucked into both engines.
Furthermore, only a small proportion of bird strikes result in fatalities. Since 1988, wildlife strikes, predominantly birds but also animals wandering onto runways, have destroyed about 229 planes worldwide. More than 250 people were killed, but this is a small proportion of deaths caused by air accidents.
In 2013 alone there were 265 air crash fatalities, and that was the safest year on record. Over the last ten years the annual average was 720 fatalities. The majority of serious air accidents are caused by mechanical failure, bad weather, pilot error, or a chain of events involving one or more of these factors. More human lives could be saved by increasing efforts to address these aspects of air safety.
Keep airports away from birds!
And the most effective way of minimising bird strikes, aside from constraining aviation growth so that skies are not so crowded, is not to build airports in or near important bird habitats and migratory flightpaths.
The threat to birds and air safety is a key reason for opposing any new airports, or airport expansions, in areas important for birds. One such is Istanbul’s third airport, which has already commenced on wetlands and forests to the north of the city.
Another – still at an early stage where it may be successfully combatted – is the proposed new hub airport for the UK in the Thames estuary, widely known as ‘Boris Island’ thanks to the strong support given to it by London Mayor Boris Johnson.
As highlighted by RSPB, which is “vehemently opposed to the construction of an airport in the Thames Estuary and that includes any and all of the latest proposals that have come forward”, the proposed airport would devastate valuable – and highly protected – habitat that supports hundreds of thousands of year-round and migratory birds.
Good short video (2 mins 30 seconds) about a proposed airport at Nakuru, in Kenya, stopped in 2012 because of the remarkable and unique local birdlife on the lake, that attracts a lot of tourists. The bird life (malibou storks, flamingoes etc) would have been completely incompatible with an airport.
Here is some additional information, with videos, to accompany my latest article for The Ecologist, (see above) about collisions between aircraft and birds (bird strikes).
Since a serious air accident was narrowly averted in New York on 15 January 2009, when the pilot landed a plane in the Hudson River after geese were sucked into both engines on departure from La Guardia Airport, awareness of the risk to air safety has been heightened. The video below shows the moments immediately after it landed in the river, note the remarkable speed of the evacuation as the plane filled with water.
Yet for all the furore over the problem of bird strikes the fate of birds is rarely mentioned. Many thousands are killed every year, when they are sucked into planes’ engines and leave blood smeared dents when they hit the nose, wings or fuselage of an aircraft. Birds can also be injured and killed by the jet blast from aircraft, as at Tribhuvan Airport in Kathmandu, where the carcasses of two black kites and a spotted owl were discovered in March. These are just two of the 39 species of birds flying around the airport, at which there were 22 bird strikes in 2013 alone, and a fatal incident in 2012. Nineteen people were killed when a bird strike caused engine failure on a plane departing for the Mount Everest region. There have been many instances of large birds crashing through the windshield of small aircraft, splattering the pilots with blood. This harrowing video shows the moment when a Canada goose crashes through the windshield of a Cessna plane shortly after take-off from a small airfield in Illinois. Fortunately the pilot made a safe emergency landing and he and the co-pilot were unharmed.
Airports around the world have stepped up efforts to keep birds away from planes, deploying a bewildering array of methods: habitat management to make vegetation and water bodies unattractive to birds, and deterrence programmes such as loud noises, lasers and predatory falcons trained to frighten them away. But when these methods fail, or are inadequately implemented, airports frequently resort to culling birds. In the aftermath of the ‘Hudson miracle’ geese are culled over a wide radius around New York’s main airports. The geese are shot or gassed. Another approach, preferred by many bird advocacy groups, is to coat goose eggs with vegetable oil to stop them hatching, undertaken at many airports including Winnipeg and Vancouver.
A non-lethal bird control method is to trap and relocate them. But this is only used for small bird populations, typically rare species which have been afforded legal protection. Since 2001, Sea-Tac Airport has successfully trapped and relocated 400 young raptors to an appropriate habitat in northern Washington. Boston Logan Airport traps and relocated snowy owls, and New Yorks’s main airports were persuaded to adopt this approach in the light of a campaign against an announcement that wildlife officials would begin shooting snowy owls, after three bird strikes involving this species.
Another method used by some airports to kill birds is poisoning; An employee at New Plymouth Airport in New Zealand was appalled when he discovered that corn chips laced with poison were being laid out to kill birds considered a risk to planes, including sparrows. Video evidence of birds being poisoned emerged recently, when members of staff at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston witnessed the effects of United Airlines’ poisoning pigeons and great-tailed grackles, in cooperation with Houston Airport System. Birds are shown suffered convulsions and it took up to an hour for them to die. The poisoning at Bush Airport was not a one-off, it takes place on an annual basis.
Smaller birds can also endanger flights. The video below was taken at Manchester Airport in 2007, at the start you can see a bird, a crow, being sucked into the engine. The plane made a safe landing but it appears that the airport began to take a more hostile approach to birdlife. In 2009 Manchester Airport informed that National Trust of its intention to shoot 800 rooks nesting in nearby woodlands, but announced a reprieve in response to a petition from local residents.
In May, the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) made an unsuccessful attempt to stop BAE Systems culling 1,100 black-backed gulls on the Ribble estuary, on the north west cost of England, in order to allay safety fears at nearby Warton Aerodrome. A judge ruled against an appeal, permission to kill the birds, almost one-fifth of the breeding population, was granted in addition to existing consents to cull 200 pairs of the same species of gull and 500 pairs of herring gulls. UK military airfields’ attitude to birds may harden further in the light of investigators’ confirmation that a fatal US Air Force helicopter accident on 7th January 2014 was due to a multiple bird strike. The helicopter crashed into saltmarshes in Norfolk, killing all four crew members. At least three geese crashed through the windscreen and another struck the nose of the plane.
New habitat management and deterrence methods only promise partial solutions to bird strikes. A system using low-frequency sounds, below the range of human hearing, to deter birds, has proved effective in tests. Hopefully,this will prove effective within airport sites, but it is unlikely to be feasible over the far larger areas where birds pose a risk to aircraft, on the take-off and landing flightpaths. 3-D printed robotic replicas of birds of prey – eagles and falcons – to frighten away target species. Again, this will only be effective in the immediate vicinity of runways.
It is clear that new airports must not be located near major bird habitats and migratory routes. Devastation of birdlife is a key factor in vigorous opposition to proposals for a new airport in London’s Thames Estuary and on forested land to the north of Istanbul, where construction has commenced and a recent protest was met by riot police. In other instances, sanity has prevailed. The Georgian government has abandoned plans for an airport on marshlands in Poti and, construction of an airport in Nakuru, Kenya, has been stalled in recognition of the risk to air safety and birdlife including storks, pelicans and flamingos, as shown in the video below.
Birds do pose a risk to air safety, but, as explained in the article, the war that is being waged against them by airports is an over-reaction. The vast majority of stricken planes land safely and only a small proportion of serious air accidents are due to bird strikes. Airports should make every effort to keep birds away through habitat modification and deterrence, before resorting to culling, and more air accidents can be prevented by focussing on programmes to address the mechanical failures and human errors which lead to a far greater number of accidents and fatalities.
Report for Airports Commission on environmental impact sinks Boris’s estuary airport plans
Date added: July 8, 2014
Boris Johnson’s dreams of a massive airport in the Thames Estuary have had a major setback, from the new report produced for the Airports Commission, looking at the environmental impacts. The study shows it would cause huge environmental, financial and safety risks and would cause “large scale direct habitat loss” to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds. The cost of creating replacement habitats could exceed £2 billion and may not even be possible. Even if replacement habitat could be found, planes using the airport would still be at a “high risk” of lethal bird strike. In order to counter this risk, even larger areas of habitat would need to be destroyed to secure the airport. The report also found huge regulatory hurdles to any potential estuary airport going ahead. Under environmental regulations,the airport’s backers would have to prove there were “imperative reasons of overriding public interest (IROPI)” for placing the airport in such an environmentally sensitive area. Even if that could be proven, they would also need to demonstrate that all of the habitat displaced by the airport could be placed elsewhere. The report found that while this was “technically possible,” it was highly uncertain, as such a large scale displacement had never been attempted before.
Belfast boy wants alternative home for geese facing cull for safety of Belfast City Airport planes
Date added: May 14, 2014
A 10-year-old boy – Jack McCormick – has appealed to Belfast’s Lord Mayor to have geese, considered to be posing a threat to low-flying aircraft, moved to another park. The Lord Mayor has promised to raise the issues in a meeting with George Best Belfast City Airport. “I am an animal lover and would hate to think of anything bad happening to the grey geese at the park,” Jack wrote: “My papa takes me to a great park in Gilnahirk …. It is big, but it has no geese or any animals. Why not move some of your geese from Victoria Park to the park at Gilnahirk? I would make sure that they were well-looked after. If you can’t move them to Gilnahirk, could you not move them to other parks around Belfast?” The authorities prick the eggs so they don’t develop. Jack said (children aren’t stupid!): “Last year I noticed that there wasn’t that many goslings but this year I’m hoping there will be an increase,” he said. “I don’t want any of them to die just because of being near an airport. To be fair, the geese were there first, and then the airport was built there.”
Daily Mail claim of sharp rise in birdstrikes not borne out by the facts from CAA
Date added: September 2, 2013
The Daily Mail, it being the “silly season” with no news, had done an article on an alleged increase in the number air birdstrikes by aircraft between 2009 and 2012. However, the data published by the CAA up to March 2013 do not bear out the Mail’s claims of a doubling in three years. The CAA produces data on reported birdstrikes, and on confirmed strikes – the latter being a much lower number than the former. For instance, in 2012 there were 2215 reported birdstrikes, and 1404 confirmed strikes. Some of the increase in reporting may be due to changed reporting requirements of incidents to the CAA. The species hit most often in recent years have been various species of gulls (together the largest group), then swallows, skylarks, swifts and woodpigeons, then pigeons and kestrels. The number of birdstrikes rose significantly after 2008, when the CAA introduced a new system through which all strikes can easily be reported online. It has been mandatory for all strikes to be reported since 2004.
Airports using a biotech high alkaloid endophytic form of grass to deter insects and birds
Date added: March 21, 2013
A form of grass – with the trade name Avanex – has been developed by a firm in New Zealand, Grasslanz Technology and commercialised by PGG Wrightson Turf. It has been designed to be endophytic, which means it incorporates a form of fungus that produces a high amount of alkaloids. This makes the grass distasteful to insects, and so the areas sown with this grass have no or few insects, and consequently few birds. The grass can be toxic to animals and comes with health warnings about livestock eating it. However, airports are enthusiastic to use the grass in order to deter birds and hence the risk of bird strike. The grass has so far been trialled in New Zealand airports since 2010 and found to cut bird numbers by large amounts, making airports very sterile areas, which is what the airport operators want. However, the blurb says “The grass could also be used at sports stadiums, golf courses and even domestic lawns,” so the company wants to use its biodiversity-destroying product even more widely.
CAA data shows 1529 birdstrikes in 2011, up from 1278 in 2009
Date added: October 15, 2012
The CAA reports that bird strikes are on the increase throughout the UK, with 1529 reported last year – up from 1278 in 2009. For Scotland the CAA has said bird strikes have risen at Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness airports over the past 2 years, with an increase in wild flocks and air traffic blamed. Bird strikes have been blamed for bringing down huge aircraft in the past, including the incident in 2009 where an Airbus A320 was forced to ditch in the Hudson river in New York. Glasgow Airport reported 8 strikes this year involving large birds, up from the usual annual average of 3. The Herald Scotland gives information about increases at Scottish airports.
“More geese may have to be culled” at Leeds-Bradford Airport
Date added: February 16, 2012
The airport’s operations director says more geese may be culled to ensure the safety of planes. He said urgent action was needed from time to time, and recently met with residents protesting against the killing of geese at Yeadon Tarn last year. He said measures such as egg picking were already in place – but sometimes it was necessary to react quickly to a particular problem. The airport already used scaring tactics to deflect the geese but had a duty to ensure safety. “We have got to be prepared if suddenly a flock of geese descend and set up a roost somewhere in the locality, and then decide to fly across the airport. We have got to be able to deal with that.”
Leeds Bradford Airport bosses vow to change Canada Geese cull
Date added: February 7, 2012
Airport chiefs, who ordered a cull of 10 Canada Geese at a Leeds beauty spot, YeadonTarn, have said they find other ways to control the population. There was no local consultation about the cull beforehand.Food and Environment Research Agency officers shot the flock, which was deemed “a significant risk to aircraft”, in September by closing the green space to dog walkers in the early hours. Plans for an £11million expansion of the airport, which could be completed by this summer, had sparked further fears of culls. A meeting took place recently between the airport and angry local residents.
Birds of prey and robot bird being used to keep birds away from airports
Date added: August 24, 2010
East Midlands airport is to use the assistance of an eagle owl, owned by GB Pest Control, to help keep pigeons away from flight paths. They see traditional methods as equally effective as chemical based pest control or shooting, and far better for the environment. In the Netherlands, a company has produced a remarkably life-like flying robot bird, the Ro-Bird, which flaps realistically and is apparently effective in chasing off birds.