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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Latest news stories:

Criticism that Government’s Heathrow leaflet was “mere propaganda” justified, says judge

The comms team at the DfT has been criticised over a promotional leaflet extolling the virtues of a 3rd runway at Heathrow, which has been branded as a "hard sell". The retired judge, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, asked to assess and oversee the quality of the DfT consultation said criticisms of propaganda in the DfT's NPS Heathrow consultation leaflet were justified, but the consultation was otherwise well run.  Sir Jeremy was critical of the mass-produced leaflet, which went to about 1.5 million homes. There was inadequate information in the leaflet about consultation events, and it was unduly biased in favour of the runway.  He said that it "fell short" of best practice and criticisms that it was "mere propaganda" on behalf of Heathrow were justified. "The headline points, as presented in the leaflet, did give the impression of a 'hard sell' for Heathrow." ... "It would have been much better if a more neutral leaflet had been distributed, giving more information about the addresses of the local events." The DfT said they were analysing over 70,000 responses, which "will be fully considered" before the NPS is presented to Parliament for a vote next year.

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Tech & creative sectors the key to London’s future, as well as professional services and FinTech (not Heathrow)

According to the latest CBI/CBRE London Business Survey the majority of respondents said that the tech and creative sectors were the principal sectors for the capital’s economic growth over the next five years. That is followed by professional services and FinTech (financial technology). About 90% considered London a good or great place to do business. Around 75% of firms surveyed wanted the Government to push ahead with Crossrail 2 whilst over half wanted Heathrow’s 3rd runway to be a priority project. With the overwhelming majority of London businesses employing staff from the EU, Brexit is having a significant impact on the capital’s companies. Almost 75% of firms view uncertainty over the UK’s role in Europe as their top concern, whilst a similar number have developed, or are developing, a contingency plan for when the UK leaves the EU. About a quarter are planning to move part of their operations overseas, and two thirds have, or are developing, a strategy to address skill shortages that could be incurred if restrictions are placed on EU nationals working in the UK. The CBI London Director said London is a great place to do business, and the CBRE said the unrivalled cultural and social benefits the capital provides are important.

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Consultation on flight path changes at Leeds Bradford airport – ends 6th October

A public consultation (ends 5th November) is under way into air space changes around Leeds Bradford Airport. The departure routes will not change, but aircraft will climb quicker, reducing plane noise to some of those under the flight paths. The airport says that to provide improved spacing between arriving and departing aircraft and greater efficiency of operation, the new procedures require additional airspace within which to manoeuvre aircraft. Some new areas would be overflown. After the consultation, the airport will submit its application to the CAA, which has 17 weeks to reply. Once approval is achieved, LBA will complete controller training with the changes set to be implemented from autumn next year.  The proposals affect Class G airspace, and would significantly concentrate flight paths – so some local residents will be blighted with considerably more noise then they experience today whilst others may benefit.  The documentation claims that the change in airspace proposed will not automatically mean an increase in air passenger numbers and aircraft movements but then refers readers to the airports development plan published elsewhere which clearly states their ambition to grow passenger numbers to 7 million per year by 2030 (from around 3.5 million now).

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Heathrow wants Chancellor to scrap APD on domestic flights – which would help make some routes viable

Heathrow is urging the Government to scrap Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights. It has written to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, before the Budget on 22nd November, arguing for this.. Air Passenger Duty is £13 per person (aged over 18) per flight leaving a UK airport.  Therefore while a passenger on  a return flight to a European airport only pays £13, on a domestic return flight they pay £26.  Heathrow says if APD on domestic fights was scrapped, it would result in a £24m "annual saving" for those flying from that airport. [That means a £24 million loss to the Treasury].  Domestic air tickets tend already to be cheaper than rail for the same journey, and this would make them even cheaper.  Consultancy Frontier Economics reckons removing APD on domestic flights would increase GDP growth and boost tax receipts to offset the loss to the Treasury from the abolition of the tax. That would mean there would have to be a lot more domestic passengers. Heathrow has promised there will be more domestic links, if it gets a 3rd runway. Many of those would need to be subsidised. Removing APD could make these domestic links viable, without costing Heathrow anything.  That results in the taxpayer losing tax, and Heathrow saving itself money.

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Plane Justice Ltd -v- CAA: Gatwick Route 4 Court Case passes its first big test  

In the High Court Mrs Justice Lang DBE granted permission for Plane Justice’s Judicial Review case against the Civil Aviation Authority to proceed to a full trial hearing on all grounds.In granting permission, Mrs Justice Lang said Plane Justice’s grounds of claim merited full consideration.  Gaining permission to proceed is a vital first step that all JR cases have to go through, and only a minority of JR cases achieve it.  Plane Justice is trying to get changes to Gatwick\s Route 4 departure route, which was altered in May 2016 and now overflies (or in some cases vectors over) new populations to the north of the airport in Newdigate, Capel, Leigh, Norwood Hill, Sidlow, Salfords, Outwood and Horley. The route was changed to avoid overflying other areas, and a different group, Plane Wrong, fought hard to get the route change that badly affected them in 2013 altered. Plane Justice wants the route to revert to how it was before 2013. The case is now likely to be listed for a full hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in the new year.  Salfords & Sidlow Parish Council, affected by Route 4, has made a substantial donation towards the legal costs, and Plane Justice has to date raised 82% of its budget to fund the High Court action.

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City ramps up pressure on politicians to push ahead with Heathrow runway, after likelihood of delays

The City of London Corporation has taken the opportunity of the Lib Dem Party Conference to urge the party “to not stand in the way of Heathrow expansion”.  The Corporation’s policy chair Catherine McGuinness, said: “Increased airport capacity at Heathrow is near the top of the list when we speak to firms about what can do to help them trade more, create jobs and invest for the future.”  (Many other surveys of businesses over the years do not show this - but it depends on which firms are sampled). Speaking at the party conference yesterday, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable (a long term opponent of the runway) said: “I want our party to remain where we were, which is opposed to Heathrow expansion, strong on the environment, protective of our climate change obligations, but committed to support business, but in a practical way that rebalances the UK.”  The Labour party is also known to be very divided on the issue of Heathrow, with a lot of opposition.  Some Labour MPs have been misled by inaccurate forecasts of jobs that the runway might create.  Big business tends to stand with its colleague, Heathrow. The CBI wants progress on the runway quickly, and the Institute of Directors said after waiting years, they want to see "spades in the ground" at Heathrow. 

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Offsets can play limited role in reducing aviation CO2 – but there’s poor understanding of their limitations

With the growth in air travel demand forecast to outstrip fuel efficiency improvements, the only hope for the aviation industry’s CO2 emissions goals is if they could be achieved through the purchase of carbon offsets. However, says a new study, there is considerable misunderstanding about offsetting and the difference between scientific and policy perspectives. Offsets are merely a way to cancel out aviation carbon, by nominally assisting other sectors to make actual reductions in carbon emissions. Offsets are just a way of concealing the problem, and giving the impression that aviation is not just adding to global carbon emissions.  The study says offsets do not "make emissions ‘go away’ in some miraculous manner" and there is a low level of understanding about the limitations of offsets in reducing global CO2. For example, the influence on the global climate system of additional atmospheric CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels is not neutralised by offsets in the land sector.  As it does not reduce atmospheric concentrations of CO2, carbon offsetting should be seen as a second or even third best option behind technological advances or demand reduction efforts to make the necessary deep cuts in aviation emissions over the long term.

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MEPs place limits on aviation ETS exemption and put airlines on intra-EU flights CO2 reduction path

MEPs have voted to limit the exemption from the EU ETS of flights to and from Europe until 2021, pending further information regarding ICAO's offsetting measure ‘CORSIA’ (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation). It would be much more effective, in limiting aviation CO2 emissions by flights using European airports to have them all included. However, only flights between EU airports are now included in the ETS.  But sustainable transport group Transport & Environment (T&E) welcomes this vote saying an indefinite exemption of flights to and from Europe would have been a blank cheque to ICAO. It would have been reckless, as it is not yet known how the CORSIA scheme will operate or how effective it will be.  There is still no clarity on CORSIA rules on offset quality and enforcement, for future aviation carbon emissions.  "Europe now has a leverage to make aviation contribute to our collective climate efforts as proportionally as other sectors of the EU economy should the global measure fail.”   For intra-EU flights, MEPs have also voted to start reducing the cap in CO2 allowances from 2021, thus bringing aviation into line with other sectors covered by the EU ETS scheme. This is an important shift in the EU’s approach to aviation’s climate impact. They are also to look at aviation's non-CO2 impacts, so far ignored.

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Local MP says RAF Northolt is becoming a commercial airport ‘in all but name’

Labour MP Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) says military base, Northolt Airport, in west London near Heathrow is hosting 10,000 passenger flights a year and this number could quintuple. It is used by many VIP passenger flights and by the royal family. It is not supposed to be a commercial airport, but it seems to have become one "by stealth" and it is “increasingly apparent that it is a commercial airport in all but name”, with military status used “as a smokescreen”.  While it is a military airfield, the number of commercial flights has dramatically increased in recent years. The number of passenger journeys, mostly involving VIP jets, dwarfs the 3,800 military flights.  In a report commissioned by the Ministry of Defence, consultants suggested increasing the number of commercial flights to 50,000 a year, with the regional airline Flybe among those campaigning for commercial passenger flights to start operating there. Local residents had not been consulted over further changes including the proposed increase to 50,000. Some enthusiasts for Northolt hope it could become “an alternative to London City airport” for regional flights with up to 100 seats and a “key access airport” for Heathrow. It is unsuitable for larger planes. Gareth Thomas said the number of flights was already having a major impact on local people’s quality of life, including noise pollution, poor air quality and concerns about safety.

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BA flight to Athens returns to Heathrow (flying across London) after engine fire soon after take off

A British Airways flight was forced to turn back to Heathrow on Weds 6th September after witnesses reported seeing flames coming out of the engine. The Boeing 777, bound for Athens, headed back to Heathrow within minutes of taking off.  Flight tracking website FlightRadar24, showed a graphic of the aircraft departing from Heathrow, circling around Maidstone in Kent and then returning. The plane had the engine on fire closed down, so flew right over London in order to land (landing from the east towards the west). Airlive tweeted: “British Airways Boeing 777 (reg. G-VIIH) returning to Heathrow with engine #2 shut down.The flight departed as scheduled at 1.44 this afternoon but was forced to declare an emergency and return to British Airways London hub." British Airways had not confirmed the fire but said they were looking into the incident. Speaking to The Independent a British Airways spokesperson said: “The flight landed safely ​after returning to the airport, and our highly trained engineers are investigating what happened."  This is a reminder that is it very far from ideal for planes limping, damaged, back to Heathrow - across miles of densely populated London. This should remind people of the safety issues of the location of Heathrow - with the risk even higher with a 3rd runway.

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Privately funded rail link project from Windsor to Heathrow T5 – making a “rail M25”

Plans have been published for a new railway connecting the Great Western Main Line with Heathrow and Waterloo - via Windsor, which could be a link creating a future ‘M25 rail route’ encircling Greater London.  It is considered to be feasible.  Most of the rest of such a route either exists or is already being built, such as East West Rail between Oxford and Bedford. The Windsor project includes a new railway in tunnel connecting the two existing stations at Windsor, with Riverside being replaced by a new central station and transport interchange. A new railway would be built connecting the present Windsor Riverside line with Heathrow Terminal 5, with several possible routes identified. The cost is being put at £375 million, to be funded by the private sector. Investors would also bear the risk of any cost overruns. Promoters of the Windsor Link Railway have published a strategic case, and a formal feasibility study – a ‘GRIP 2’ report – has now been submitted to Network Rail.  The Windsor Link report was prepared by engineering consultants Pell Frischmann in collaboration with Network Rail, with support from Skanska Infrastructure Development. This scheme is separate from the other privately funded scheme called - Heathrow Southern Railway - which like the Windsor Link would use the two vacant platforms at Terminal 5 station.

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Newcastle Chronicle asks: “Could Heathrow expansion hurt the North East and Newcastle Airport?”

Because Heathrow hopes to get support from the Newcastle area for its hoped-for 3rd runway, it held one of its "business summits" there. The airport has elaborate projections, based on extremely weak and shaky premises, of the economic benefit - and the jobs - that its runway would bring to the north east.  However, the No 3rd Runway Coalition has pointed out (which came as news to the local press, that has been starved on the real facts) just how few jobs the runway would probably bring, and how Heathrow has used unreliable estimates based on out of date, discredited, numbers. While Heathrow takes one figure (all the UK over 60 years) of economic benefit of £147 billion, the DfT downgraded this figure in 2016 to £61 billion. Even that is hugely inaccurate, with the actual number taking all costs into account, more like £1 - 2 billion at most. Heathrow implies (based on the incorrect £147 bn) that the north east region would get some 5,000 jobs  The other harsh reality is that a 3rd runway is unlikely to do much to increase domestic links to Heathrow, as these are only maintained if subsidised. What is much more likely to happen is that Newcastle airport would have fewer long haul flights, with even more of a concentration of these at Heathrow. The Coalition said that for good connections between the north east and international markets, the Government should be working to get direct flights into airports such as Newcastle.

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Gatwick continues to claim it would build a runway even if there is also a 3rd Heathrow runway

The boss of Gatwick, Stewart Wingate (in line for huge bonuses if he can get a 2nd runway approved) is repeating his claim that he will get the runway, and build it instead of - or in addition to - a 3rd runway at Heathrow. Gatwick has managed to considerably grow its passenger numbers this year, as affluent citizens have plenty of spare spending money and flying is so dirt cheap (especially with the oil price being very low). Gatwick is increasingly adding long-haul destinations in the US, Florida and the Caribbean to its tourist customers. Gatwick says it has had an 11% rise in long-haul passengers this summer compared to 2016. Stewart Wingate said:  “Later this year, we’ll be further adding to our more than 60 long-haul connections with routes to Denver, Seattle, Austin, Chicago, Taipei and Singapore  ... As Gatwick continues to grow beyond 45 million annual passengers, we remain ready and willing to build our financeable and deliverable 2nd runway scheme ...."   His comments came as Labour peer Lord Blunkett claimed that the party will support building a 3rd runway at Heathrow because it fears the anger of powerful trade unions if it does not. He said the unions would “not countenance” the parliamentary Labour party being told to vote down the plans due to the sheer number of jobs involved. He has been persuaded by the job numbers put about by Heathrow.

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Holland-Kaye confirms again that Heathrow will need to build its runway etc in phases to spread costs

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, has again said the airport may need to build its 3rd runway and associated airport infrastructure in phases, to spread the massive £17 billion cost over many years. It will be interesting to see the latest government air travel demand forecasts when they are finally published later this year. It is likely they will show more demand at Gatwick than the Airports Commission had assumed, when it pressed for a 3rd Heathrow runway. There may be less strong demand for Heathrow than originally suggested, with impacts on Heathrow's finances.  Holland-Kaye says he is not in favour of the cheaper runway plan by hotel tycoon Surinder Arora, which could be some £7 billion cheaper than Heathrow's own. Not otherwise very bothered about the extra noise caused by his 3rd runway, Holland-Kay says ..."I’m most concerned about the idea that the runway might move closer to London – that means more homes lost, more people hit by aircraft noise."  He says: ‘We can expand the airport with fewer new buildings. We can do the construction on a phased basis so we can smooth out the price. Originally we were going to expand Terminal 2 early on which would have given us an extra 20 million passengers a year. ...Now we’re going to do that in phases, adding enough for 5 million at a time."

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Excellent AEF analysis: Why Heathrow’s sustainability strategy “Heathrow 2.0” doesn’t quite cut it

Heathrow produced a plan it calls "Heathrow 2.0" in an attempt to persuade MPs that its hoped for 3rd runway would be environmentally "sustainable" and its carbon emissions would all be offset, producing a "carbon neutral" runway. In a masterful rebuttal of the Heathrow 2.0 document, the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) sets out clearly why this plan falls very far short of its ambition. It is likely that Heathrow hopes its document will be enough to give MPs who are poorly informed on UK carbon emissions the assurance they need, to vote for a 3rd runway. However, AEF points out that even if the airport itself tries to be "zero carbon", that is only around 3% of the total carbon emitted by all Heathrow flights - so a sideshow. AEF explains how offsetting CO2 emissions by Heathrow planes is not an acceptable way or effective way to deal with the problem. Indeed, this is the advice given consistently by the government's climate advisors, the CCC.  Offsets will just not be available in future decades. The Heathrow 2.0 document pins its hopes on the UK plan, CORSIA, but this does not achieve actual cuts in aviation carbon and Heathrow has no plans to do anything practical to cut emissions. The key problem is that the UK has no strategy for limiting aviation emissions to a level consistent with our obligations on climate change, though the CCC and the EAC have repeatedly asked for one. 

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Heathrow promises of thousands of jobs to the North East are based on flawed projections

On the day of Heathrow's Business Summit in Newcastle, the No 3rd Runway Coalition has revealed that far from bringing the economic benefits that the airport claim, the actual benefits of Heathrow expansion are likely to be negligible. While the figure of £147 billion benefit of the runway to the UK (over 60 years), by the Airports Commission, using one future scenario was seized upon by Heathrow to claim huge regional job figures, even the DfT admitted by October 2016  that the £147 was far too high. The DfT's own analysis, taking into account costs and not just adding up putative benefits, indicates very low benefits indeed to the UK - more like under £6 billion (for all the UK, over 60 years). So the inflated, exaggerated promises Heathrow had repeatedly made to the regions, of huge economic benefits and thousands of jobs, based on the £147 billion figure, are utterly spurious. The No 3rd Runway Coalition says the actual benefit per UK person per year might be of the order of £1.50. That is a very paltry paltry benefit and would not "play a major role in boosting jobs and growth" in the North East, or any other region. The runway will also probably reduce - not increase - the number of domestic routes to Heathrow, and these would only be kept open by public subsidy, as they would not be financially viable without being propped up by the taxpayer.

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SHE – taking the fight against Heathrow expansion to the TUC at the Brighton seaside

At the start of the TUC conference in Brighton, there was a small gathering outside the meeting by opponents of a 3rd Heathrow runway, from local group SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion). A coach full of runway opponents, many from the villages near Heathrow like Harmondsworth that would be obliterated by the runway - or made virtually impossible to live in - went down to Brighton, to ensure TUC delegates were reminded of the situation.  With the Trade Unions split on whether to oppose or support a Third Runway at Heathrow, the residents and campaigners were determined to put their side of the story and convince the Unions that opposition is the best course of action. The group was joined for a briefing on the latest developments by Hayes & Harlington MP John McDonnell, who posed with the team from SHE for photos. Many unions are keenly aware of climate change issues, and the need to reduce the UK's emissions. They are aware that building new high carbon infrastructure is contrary to that. However, some unions (such as Unite) hope that expansion would bring jobs, at least to some parts of the country, and that hope overrides carbon responsibilities. Benefits from a 3rd runway to the rest of the country, in terms of jobs - other than near Heathrow - are tenuous and uncertain.

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Chris Grayling publishes Sir Jeremy Sullivan’s NPS bland consultation review report

Chris Grayling appointed the former Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Jeremy Sullivan, to provide "independent oversight of the consultation process."  Apart from the fact Sir Jeremy says he does not use a computer, and has never been involved in a large consultation exercise, he has come out - predictably - finding very little to criticise.  He presumes those opposed to the runway will find fault with the consultation.  He does say that because of the purdah period before the 8th June election, some of the consultation was curtailed, the government will need to make up for this with more consultation. He acknowledges that the leaflet by the DfT, sent to 1.5 million people, was a bit biased in favour of Heathrow. He says:  "...in my view the headline points, as presented in the leaflet, did give the impression of a “hard sell” for Heathrow.  It would have been much better if a more neutral leaflet had been distributed ...". But he says (to paraphrase) people should jolly well know that the DfT favours Heathrow, and not be surprised. And they should already know the arguments against the runway, so cannot expect them all to be in the leaflet. ... That does not appear to be an acceptable attitude, for someone overseeing the consultation. Chris Grayling has announced that Sir Jeremy "has agreed to oversee the period of further consultation."

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Chris Grayling announces the launch of a further consultation in the Airports National Policy Statement process, later this year

Transport Minister, Chris Grayling, has announced that there will be a further short period of consultation on the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS), about a Heathrow 3rd runway. The date of the consultation is not known, but it will be this year. The initial consultation on the NPS was between 2 February and 25 May this year. Some 70,000 responses were received, which the DfT is plodding through. Now there is further evidence on air  pollution and the DfT feels it necessary to consult on this. There is also more evidence on air travel demand forecasts, which the DfT had said it would release months ago, but has not yet done so. Grayling says the new consultation is partly as documents could not be publicised during the purdah period in the run-up to the June election (that was disastrous for the Tories). In his statement Grayling says "This government remains committed to realising the benefits that airport expansion could bring, [note, could not would] and I can confirm that we do not expect this additional period of consultation to impact on the timetable for parliamentary scrutiny of the NPS." The Times considers this added need to consult, and the potential embarrassment of the air travel forecasts, could put the Heathrow process back by a year - with the vote on the NPS in the Commons not taking place till 2019. But this is merely speculation.

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GACC Chairman – Brendon Sewill – to retire after 27 successful years in the role

Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, is to retire on 15 October.  He has been chairman since 1990, and has masterminded successful campaigns against a second Gatwick runway in 1993, in 2003 and again in 2013-16. Brendon says: ‘Campaigning to protect the environment around Gatwick for so many years has been exciting and immensely worthwhile.  I have been fortunate to have had such strong support from our committee, from all our GACC members, from local councils and from our local MPs.’  Brendon is now 88 and feels that is a suitable age at which to reduce his commitments.  He will be sorely missed by his colleagues, for his untiring and hugely expert campaigning over more than 27 years.  His connection with Gatwick goes back a long way.  As a child he attended the 1936 opening of Gatwick – with grass runways and biplanes.  As a young man he was a member of the Gatwick Protest Committee which in 1952-54 opposed the construction of the existing airport. Brendon Sewill CBE has had a distinguished career with numerous high level and responsible positions, including being an advisor to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on economics.

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Heathrow spent almost £1.25 million advertising on TfL properly in the year to June 2017

Figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show Heathrow Airport spent over £1million advertising on TfL property in the year leading up to the June 2017 general election. Details obtained by campaign group Friends of the Earth reveal that in the 12 months up to 8th June, Heathrow spending on TfL property was £1,244,434. Gatwick Airport spent a total of £255,342 in the same period.  The No 3rd Runway Coalition say that whilst the Government announced its own preference for the Heathrow scheme in October 2016, the amount spent by the airport over the period reinforces the view that Heathrow still has some way to go to convince parliament to support its proposals for a 3rd runway. A vote in parliament on the Airports National Policy Statement (for the 3rd runway) is expected in the first half of 2018. Heathrow is uncertain about whether it really can persuade MPs that its deeply environmentally damaging, and economically doubtful, runway plan can succeed - hence the need for so much advertising spend. Rob Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “If Heathrow have spent over a million pounds with one organisation, I wonder how much money has been spent across the board. It is alarming that a company the size of Heathrow can buy support in this way.”

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“Heathrow Southern Railway”: The new £1.2 billion train line which could link Heathrow with Guildford and Waterloo

Plans have been unveiled for a new £1.2bn railway line which could finally link Heathrow Airport with trains from Guildford, Farnborough, Woking and London Waterloo. The Heathrow Southern Railway (HSR) proposal aims to greatly improve rail access to the airport. It is not part of Heathrow Ltd.  A new route could see trains from Woking go direct to Heathrow at the same fares to those if you were going to Waterloo.  The project could also see direct access to the airport from towns such as Weybridge, Egham, Guildford, Woking and Farnborough too. Though still in its extremely early stages, the HSR team have given some consideration thought to how the project could be achieved. Easier rail travel to and from Heathrow for those to the south and in Surrey has been needed for a long time. The proposal includes an additional 8 miles of rail to be constructed along the M25.  The HSR scheme hopes to deliver fast, direct and frequent rail access to Heathrow from the south and south west where services are not offered by rail. Also frequent service to Waterloo via Richmond and Putney and links to south London, Sussex and Kent through Clapham Junction and Waterloo East. It could also provide direct trains to Paddington from the south and south west via Heathrow creating an alternative London terminal to Waterloo and with Elizabeth Line providing connections to the West End, the City and Docklands.

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Labour opposition could try to block Heathrow 3rd runway in the Commons

Labour could vote against plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, in a move that could see the plan blocked by Parliament. Senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn told the Financial Times that he and colleagues are almost certain to oppose the 3rd runway in a Commons vote - on environmental grounds. This means the plans for the £16.5billion runway are at significant risk, because as many as 60 Tory MPs are also opposed to the expansion of Heathrow. It could leave PM Theresa May dependent on the support of the Scottish National Party and rebel MPs, as she tries to push the plans through Parliament.  Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, have been given a free vote on the issue (the vote may be some time after June 2018) because of their long standing fierce opposition to the runway. John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, is a vociferous opponent of the scheme. The position of Labour is that the runway would have to pass four rather vague tests - and unless the bar for each is set ludicrously low, the Heathrow runway cannot pass any of them in any satisfactory manner. The issue of the high levels of air pollution, damaging the health of thousands of people near Heathrow, is a serious one for Labour. There are also probably insuperable problems of plane noise, and increased CO2 emissions.

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How Heathrow’s new runway would be funded, (higher landing costs, more costs to taxpayer) – all unclear

Heathrow's plans for a 3rd runway, and associated building, are due to cost the airport at least £18 billion (not including unexpected over-runs and engineering problems etc). Heathrow now wants the right to make airlines and passengers contribute to any unexpected higher costs. The CAA controls the amount Heathrow can charge airlines. Heathrow has asked the CAA to factor in a huge array of risks from building the 3,500 metre runway across the M25 into the charges it is allowed to claw back from carriers. Heathrow keeps insisting its landing charges would remain close to current levels, aviation experts said there are few credible alternatives to charging users more. IAG believes the huge construction costs will lead to charges doubling to landing charges per passenger, from about £40 now to £80 for a return ticket. Heathrow is mainly owned by overseas investors. As well as higher than expected costs of construction, there are risks such as lack of interest from airlines in taking up the new landing slots; financial markets turning against the airport, leading to a downgrade of its credit rating; higher debt costs; and politics. There is real fear that if the Heathrow expansion project was allowed, the costs - many £ billion - might fall on the taxpayer - if the enterprise becomes a bit of a white elephant. The Airports Commission and DfT have said little about this massive risk to the public finances.

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Algal biofuel production is neither environmentally nor commercially sustainable – blow to aviation hopes

Modern biofuels have been touted as a greener alternative to petrol and diesel since the early 1900s. Professor Kevin Flynn, of Swansea University, says though it seems like a good idea on paper, and they do work – their use and production doesn’t come without problems. The first generation of biofuels – mainly ethanol made from plant crops – and second generation, derived from plant and animal waste streams, both led to concerns about competition for land and nutrients between biofuels production and food production. It was with a lot of hope, and hype, that production of the third generation of biofuels was started. Unlike their predecessors, these biofuels are derived from algae, and so in theory the food vs fuel dilemma of crop-based biofuels would be solved. Huge sums of money have been spent trying to get the algal marvel to work, refining the engineering process, electrically lighting the crop – which grows in a liquid suspension – harvesting and draining it. However the hype has been misplaced.  Research has found that the production of algal biofuels is neither commercially nor environmentally sustainable. The attainable production levels are a fraction of those that were claimed. The algae cannot produce enough oil, without vast areas, or vast input of fertilisers etc. The process cannot be scaled up adequately.

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Planes are flying too low, say residents – but Bournemouth Airport say flight path hasn’t changed

Bournemouth Airport says its flight paths are ‘set in stone’ and have not changed in any way,. But some West Parley residents complained of low flying aircraft, and believe the planes flying over their homes are lower than they were before. People have complained to local officials about ‘changed flight paths’ at the airport, also believe noisier aircraft are flying late at night. The airport's managing director said there are no changes to the ILS for landings, or the times planes fly and "The last commercial aircraft comes in around 2300, sometimes a little bit later, but that is it." A local councillor said: “Some of these planes are operating on the red eye flights and late at night, and one or two of the planes, in particular, are considered to be considerably noisier than normal flights. If this is the case, then it is quite antisocial for people living nearby.”  At other airports there has been a problem of terminology. Airports and the air traffic control services have their own definitions of what "change" is. That does not include changes to flight mix, changes to times of day, heights, or how accurately planes follow a flight path.  What residents who are overflown consider change is often not considered significant by the industry.

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Luton Airport plans further growth to 25 million passengers (not just 18 million) within 10 years

Luton Airport is planning to expand to 25 million passengers, in a move campaign groups are arguing could increase noise pollution above Hertfordshire. Luton is planning significant expansion, while NATS says the skies over south east England are overcrowded and close to saturation. Neil McArthur of local group, Harpenden Sky, submitted a Freedom of Information Request which revealed that the LLAL planning strategy is for steady growth to 25 million passengers within 10 years. This represents nearly a 40% increase over the current planning limit of 18 million passengers, which was agreed by Luton borough council.  Residents who live under flight paths in St Albans, Harpenden and elsewhere in Hertfordshire have made multiple complaints to the airport about plane noise, due to a new routing system which has narrowed the flight paths and concentrated the noise over a smaller area. Over the past year, noise complaints have increased from 191 in the first quarter of 2016, to 1,849 in the first quarter of 2017. Neil said the airport is not being properly managed, and changes are being rushed through too fast. Andrew Lambourne, from campaign group LADACAN (Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) said the airport's focus is entirely on growth for airlines, giving no mention of making the :airport a better neighbour to local communities.

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IATA says global air freight rose more in first half of 2017 than any time since financial crisis

IATA says global air freight traffic rose 10.4% during the first half of 2017, making it the largest growth in half a year for 7 years.  Global air freight capacity for the first half of 2017 grew 3.6% compared to the same period in 2016, resulting in a freight load factor of 44.8%. “Demand growth continues to significantly outstrip capacity growth, which is positive for yields,” IATA said.  In June, air freight traffic grew 11% year-over-year, down from 12.7% in May, but much more than the 3.9% five-year average pace.  But IATA senior economist David Oxley reaffirmed that the “best of the cyclical upturn in air freight may now have passed … while business surveys still indicate growing export orders, the new export orders component of the global manufacturing PMI [purchasing managers’ index] has broadly tracked sideways since March.” Unless global manufacturers’ export orders increase, a moderation in year on year air freight growth will likely materialize toward the end of the year."  IATA said carriers in Asia-Pacific and Europe were responsible for two-thirds of the annual increase in traffic during the first half of the year.  IATA said air cargo demand "is growing at a faster pace than at any time since the global financial crisis."

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Edinburgh Airport flight path plans altered slightly after public consultation with negative responses

Edinburgh Airport said it has modified its proposals for changes to its flight paths following its latest public consultation. It has submitted these revised airspace change proposals to the CAA. Residents living under the new routes said they were concerned about increased aircraft noise and the impact on their communities.  Campaign group Edinburgh Airport Watch said: "We call on the airport to halt this flawed process now. The CAA must scrutinise this application very carefully, and understand that there is no community support for these changes....We call on our government to intervene and ask serious questions about whose interests are being served by such radical proposals for change to flight paths that will have life-altering consequences for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people across east central Scotland."  The airport said it would only use any new routes when "they are required, and that we should explain very clearly when that is and why". It said it had also restricted the routes to peak hours. Campaigners said the airport had only published "vague information" about the changed plans. The airport's CEO said they will do a phased approach, and the new routes will help the airport handle more planes during the short peak periods. The airport is not busy enough at other times to need them. There have been two public consultations held into the proposals.

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550% increase in complaints to City Airport following introduction of concentrated flight paths

Complaints to London City Airport have gone up by 550% since the introduction of the new concentrated flight paths.  The figures were revealed in the airport’s 2016 Annual Performance Report, just published.  Last year there were nearly 400 complaints, up from 95 in 2015.  In its report, London City admits the increase is down to the concentrated flight paths which were introduced on 4th February 2016, as part of the implementation of Phase 1a of the London Airspace Management Plan (LAMP).  The release of the complaint figures comes a week after the London Mayor Sadiq Khan called for an end to the concentrated flight paths.  In an answer to a question from Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell, he said, “It is clear that the concentrated flight paths introduced by London City Airport are not working.  We will continue to raise the issue with London City Airport.  We also continue to make the case to the CAA that there must be a fairer distribution of flight paths that will address the severe noise impacts."  At present the CAA is assessing a report from London City into the operation of the concentrated flight paths.  It is expected to make its recommendations in the next month or two.

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Blog by Cait Hewitt (AEF): Is global aviation climate policy heading in the right direction?

Cait Hewitt, Deputy Director of the Aviation Environment Federation looks at aviation emissions and whether we’re on course to tackle them.  Nobody knows yet whether the ICAO agreement to implement a Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) beginning in 2020 will be at all effective in limiting aviation CO2 emissions. It depends on the unsatisfactory process of "offsetting" emissions from planes, using real CO2 cuts made by other sectors. At present, CORSIA is far less ambitious than the 2015 Paris Agreement. Cait asks:  "...does carbon offsetting offer an effective response to the global climate challenge, as its advocates argue, or is it merely a way of putting off difficult decisions?"  The UK’s statutory advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has advised that market based measures should be seen as only a short to medium term solution for tackling aviation emissions, arguing that the sector should be preparing for deep cuts in its own emissions.  Analysis suggests that achieving the Paris Agreement will require our economies to be zero emissions by 2070. However the UK government plans a huge expansion of the aviation sector, with Heathrow's claimed economic benefits calculated over 60 years. The does not seem compatible with zero carbon by 2070. Cait: "We have yet to have a public or political conversation about what that could mean for the role of flying in our economies and our lives."

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Stansted had 25m passengers this year – finally well above levels in 2007 after years of declines

Stansted airport had 25 million passengers in the past year, its highest number ever. Numbers of passengers using Stansted have been growing rapidly in recent years following its acquisition in 2013 from the former BAA group by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) - and the end of the recession that started in 2008. There are now some new operators, as well as increased activity by established airlines, including Ryanair. Stansted says it now has 190 destinations, and a growing route network. They are now having their busiest summer ever, and hope to get to 26.5 million passengers by the end of 2017. Ryanair said that since its first Stansted flight in 1989, it has carried over 230 million passengers through Stansted with over 140 Stansted routes.  The airport has recently given formal notification of its intention to submit a planning application later this year to seek permission to grow to an annual throughput of 44.5 million passengers and 285,000 flights. This compares to last year’s throughput of 24 million passengers and 180,000 flights. Stansted only got back the number of passengers it had in 2007 by 2016 - after years of declines.

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Thousands sign petition for more transport cash for north of England – which gets far less than London

More than 34,600 people have signed a petition calling for more investment in transport in the north of England, after rail electrification plans across the country were scrapped. Chris Grayling gave his backing last week to Crossrail 2, a £30 billion railway that will tunnel under London, days after ditching a scheme to electrify some train lines in Wales, the Midlands and the north.  His suggestion that full electrification may be too complicated raised further doubts over the proposed modernisation of the TransPennine route between Manchester and Leeds, a project seen as critical to the “northern powerhouse”.  The petition, (by IPPR North and 38 Degrees), calls on the transport secretary to give his immediate backing to HS3, a high-speed railway line from east to west across northern England, connecting Liverpool with Hull.  It also asks the government to make an immediate commitment to at least £59bn of “catch-up cash” for the north over the coming decade, and urges the Transport for the North body be given the same powers as Transport for London to raise private finance. But the government is hell-bent on pushing through a 3rd Heathrow runway, and not requiring the airport to pay for surface access infrastructure. That means the taxpayer picking up a bill of at least £15 billion. That is money that will not be going to other transport - such as what is needed for the north and regions.

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University pension scheme, 10% owners of Heathrow, have £17.5 deficit in pension fund

Universities face a new blow to their finances after the main pension fund deficit has risen to £17.5bn. The Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) now has the largest pensions deficit of any UK pension fund after it increased by £9 billion last year.  One expert said student fees may have to rise or be diverted from teaching.  But a USS spokesperson said the pensions were "secure, backed by a solid investment portfolio and the strength of sponsoring employers."  The USS funds pensions for academics who are mostly based in the pre-1992 universities, and has more than 390,000 members.  The pensions deficit has grown rapidly since 2014, when benefits were reduced for new entrants to plug a £5,3bn deficit.  The USS bought an 8% stake in Heathrow in 2014 and has since increased that to 10%. They also bought, in 2013, a nearly 50% stake in the Airlines Group, which owns almost half of air traffic controller, NATS.  USS said:  "USS pensions are secure, backed by a solid investment portfolio and the strength of sponsoring employers."  The owners of Heathrow are expected to put up money for the very expensive Heathrow expansion scheme, and will be needing large returns on their investment if the runway is ever built.  Heathrow is having to cut the costs of its scheme, now saying it will delay a terminal + underground rail link, which it cannot afford.

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Bristol region bidding to become one of 4 construction partners in Heathrow expansion

Heathrow announced in April that it planned to have four construction hubs to allow components of its 3rd runway expansion project. These logistics hubs would pre-assemble components for the proposed building work before transporting them to the airport. Heathrow claims this will make the project cheaper, and provide some jobs and some economic benefits to other parts of the country.  Now Bristol is hoping to be one of these hubs.  The West of England Combined Authority (Weca) – which includes Bristol, B&NES and South Gloucestershire – has placed a bid to be one of the hubs. The announcement was made by Metro Mayor Tim Bowles at a Weca meeting on 26th July where he revealed he had recently met with CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye. The earliest that work on the 3rd runway expansion could start would be 2020, and there are many hurdles for the project to get through first. Bristol hopes it has a good chance of being selected, as it is not too far from London and has strong port, rail and road links. The Metro Mayor is keen for the potential partnership to be about more than just physical materials, he would also like the West of England to contribute to the technological development of the airport.  A shortlist of candidates to be hubs is expected to be published later this year.

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London City Airport campaigners do cake stunt outside CAA offices, as Sadiq Khan backs calls to end concentrated flight paths

On Friday 28th July campaigners against London City Airport’s concentrated flight paths, introduced last year, staged a colourful stunt outside the headquarters of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in Kingsway. The campaigners from HACAN East highlighted the impact the concentrated flight paths are having on local communities. The stunt was timed to coincide with a review the CAA is conducting into the operation of the flight paths.  Campaigners have won the backing of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in their bid to get rid of the concentrated flight paths. In written answer to a question from Green London Assembly member Caroline Russell, he said; “It is clear that the concentrated flight paths introduced by London City Airport are not working. We will continue to raise the issue with London City Airport. We also continue to make the case to the CAA that there must be a fairer distribution of flight paths that will address the severe noise impacts.”  Campaigners from a wide range of places affected by the flight path changes each brought along a cake with the name of their area indicated. A cake was also presented to the CAA, along with a letter. Campaigners want the CAA to require London City Airport to replace concentrated flight paths with multiple routes, rotated, so that each community gets some relief from the noise.

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Aerospace body the ADS says the UK should stay in EU during transition period

ADS is the premier trade organisation for companies in the UK aerospace and defence sector. It has said the UK must remain an EU member during a Brexit transition period from March 2019. ADS said the UK would struggle to sign the necessary agreements with global safety regulators before then, risking disruption to air travel. The government has indicated an "implementation period" may be needed to avoid an abrupt exit from the EU.  But it has yet to outline what that could involve. When or if the UK ceases to be an EU member, it needs to have in place a whole new set of international agreements with, for instance, countries like the US, with Canada and emerging major markets like China, India, Japan. The industry needs a transition period and that the UK remains an EU member.  Such agreements are needed, even if the UK chooses to remain a part of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), which has largely replaced domestic air safety regimes in EU member states over the past 15 years.  ADS was not aware that the UK government had started "detailed work" on these relationships. If the UK leaves the EU without these in place, it would mean "chaos, because we don't have a system to ensure that our products are safe and secure to fly". Remaining part of EASA could prove controversial as the UK would have to pay, and would be subject  to European oversight, ultimately by the European Court of Justice.

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Heathrow plans to cut building costs of its runway plan, to keep fares low, by not adding new terminal

Heathrow has said it will - allegedly - guarantee to effectively freeze passenger landing fees when [if] a 3rd runway is built, by scrapping plans for a new terminal. The cost for the whole planned expansion is about £17.6 billion, and Heathrow knows it will have trouble raising all this and paying for changes to surface access transport. The government does not want air fares to get any more expensive. So Heathrow now says it will knock “several billion” pounds off the cost of its plan by abandoning facilities such as an additional terminal. The terminal would require a huge subsurface baggage handling system and an underground passenger metro system, which was estimated to cost £1 billion alone. They instead suggest extending Terminals 5 and 2 and phasing the expansion work over as long as 20 years, to control costs. The main airline at Heathrow, IAG, is not prepared to pay higher charges to fund inefficient expansion, that is unnecessarily expensive. The amended expansion plans by Heathrow will be put out for a public consultation later in 2017.  The publication of the final Airports National Policy Statement [the consultation on it ended in May 2017] setting out the Government's position, and a subsequent House of Commons vote, are expected in the first half of 2018 with the vote not before June. Heathrow hopes to cut costs in every way it can, and get in the necessary funds by attracting many more passengers, even if paying hardly more than they do now - about £22 landing fee - each.

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RAE report (over) optimistic that 2nd generation transport biofuels will help cut aviation CO2

The Royal Academy of Engineering has produced a report on second generation biofuels, commissioned by the UK’s transport and energy government departments, DfT and BEIS.  It looks at the viability of "sustainable" second generation liquid biofuels, including their use in aviation. The report says the aviation sector, as well as shipping and heavy goods vehicles (which all need a great deal of energy, but cannot use electricity) are considered a priority for the development and use of biofuels. Biofuel is already used in road transport, though it is probably often producing more environmental harm, and more CO2, even than conventional fuels. Little progress has been made on biofuels for aviation and even less for shipping. The industry wants government money to subsidise research into these fuels, to "incentivise the development of second generation biofuels such as those derived from wastes and agricultural, forest and sawmill residues."  Just how genuinely "sustainable" environmentally these fuels might ever be is unknown - the early ones were very environmentally harmful. The government is very keen to grow the aviation sector, though aware the carbon emissions from doing so are likely to mean the Climate Change Act is put at risk. So they are placing faith in these (magical) fuels to solve the problems - but it is likely their faith will prove to be misplaced.

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Campaigners say government’s £3 billion clean air strategy for NO2 does not go “far enough or fast enough”

The government's (DEFRA's) £3bn clean air strategy was released on 26th July.  It suggests ways in which roadside NO2 pollution can be reduced. However, air pollution campaigners say it does not go "far enough or fast enough", and is disappointing. Some of the measures proposed include banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2040 (so there are none on the roads by 2050) and £255m for councils to tackle air pollution locally.  But there is mention of a scrappage scheme for diesel vehicles, or the creation of clean air zones, which environmental groups say are needed. Funding from government of £40 million (raised by a tax on diesel vehicles) will be used to start local schemes rolling, for things like changing road layouts, retrofitting public transport or schemes to encourage people to leave their cars at home.  If those measures do not cut NO2 emissions enough, charging zones for the most polluting vehicles could be the next step.  Greenpeace UK's clean air campaigner said 2040 was "far too late" and called for the UK to "lead the world in clean transport revolution".  ClientEarth - the law firm that took the government to court over pollution levels - said the plans were "underwhelming" and "lacking in urgency". Labour said the government was"shunting the problem on to local authorities" and  "With nearly 40 million people living in areas with illegal levels of air pollution, action is needed now, not in 23 years' time."

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Sadiq Khan backs campaigners HACAN East, fighting concentrated flight paths in east London

Residents fighting the concentrated flight paths to and from London City Airport have welcomed the backing of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. People who have been fighting concentrated flight paths, introduced in February 2016, which have turned their communities into “noise ghettos” with much more traffic over certain areas, badly affecting the homes below. The number of noise complaints rose four-fold since then.  Residents in Leytonstone have been hit particularly hard by the paths, with some saying they are considering selling their houses.  Caroline Russell, Green Party Member of the London Assembly, raised the issue with Sadiq Khan on behalf of residents. Sadiq said: “It is clear that the concentrated flight paths introduced by London City Airport are not working. We will continue to raise the issue with London City Airport. We also continue to make the case to the CAA that there must be a fairer distribution of flight paths that will address the severe noise impacts.” HACAN East will stage a protest outside the CAA headquarters on Friday, July 28th to coincide with a review the authority is conducting into the changed paths.  They will provide cakes, with the names of all the areas affected, and give a suitable cake to the CAA. Protesters want the CAA to make City Airport scrap the new paths and replace them with multiple routes which are rotated to ensure each area gets periods without the noise.

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Anti 3rd runway campaign puts on “Bare necessities” display at Theresa May’s Maidenhead festival

Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE), a local campaign group made up of residents opposing the plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway, attended the Maidenhead Festival 22 and 23 July. They had a fun but serious message – fighting for the ‘bare necessities’ that Heathrow expansion would threaten. The theme of the need for "the bare necessities of life" took centre stage at the group’s pitch to local residents at the annual festival, with essentials including: - the right to a settled home,  - air free from pollution,  - good health,  - quiet time for essential rest,  - a planet safe from climate change.   SHE believes all these would be put at risk with a 3rd runway, and to get the message across, three members wore distinctive bear costumes for the day - to highlight the ‘bare necessities’ theme.  The extra 260,000 planes per year that would use an expanded Heathrow would serious noise problems for tens  of thousands in the area, worse air pollution, and huge strain on local housing caused by the displacement of the two villages of Harmondsworth and Longford nearby. The negative impacts on her constituency should be a matter of concern to Theresa May, its MP. The previously opposed the runway, but is now prepared to sacrifice her residents' quality of life, for the slightly desperate attempt by this weakened government to show "Britain is open for business" post-Brexit, by backing a highly dubious, costly, damaging, runway project.

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UK air traffic controllers NATS warn of over-crowded skies – so they must “modernise” systems

The skies in the south east of England are among the most crowded anywhere in the world. And the government wants a new Heathrow runway, and expansion in numbers of flights at all other airports. But NATS, the UK's National Air Traffic Control Service, says their ability to deal with this surge is being stretched to the limit.  The air traffic controllers warn that UK skies are running out of room amid a record number of flights. Friday 21st July is likely to be the busiest day of the year, as Brits take off for their foreign holidays.Air traffic controllers expect to manage a record 770,000 flights in UK airspace over the summer - 40,000 more than last year.  NATS can only deal with the stunning number of flights anticipated if they get drastic modernisation in the way aircraft are guided across UK airspace. Otherwise there would be delays (and the industry does not like delays - they affect profits). The DfT has put out a consultation on how it will expand the UK aviation sector, and has had to mention noise as one of the inevitable consequences of the intended increase in numbers of flights.  NATS needs airspace to be modified, with more concentrated flight paths. But the DfT, the CAA and NATS still have no clear idea (other than platitudes) how to manage the increased noise, without creating noise "ghettos" or noise "sewers" where the amount of aircraft noise is, frankly, above what people should be expected to tolerate.

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Heathrow does not plan to end the Cranford Agreement till it gets 3rd runway go-ahead – bad news for Windsor area

The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is calling on Heathrow not to delay action that could ease the burden of noise on Windsor, Datchet, Wraysbury and Horton. The borough wants Heathrow to press ahead with ending the Cranford Agreement, which was established in the 1950s; it prevents planes from taking off over the village of Cranford at the eastern end of the northern runway, when Heathrow is on easterly operations. It means Cranford is protected from the worst of the take-off noise. But it means areas near Windsor get all the landings on the northern runway, rather than having them shared between runways. Windsor suffers more noise now because of the Cranford agreement. They have always wanted it ended.  At a recent meeting of the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee, Heathrow Airport Ltd said it would now wait until [if] the 3rd runway got final approval before initiating plans to alternate runways on easterly operations - meaning the Cranford Agreement stays. And Windsor continues to get the noise. Windsor's Cllr Bowden said: “The council is extremely concerned with the decision made by Heathrow Airport, without public consultation to further delay runway alternation."  Matters would get even worse for the borough, with a 3rd runway.

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Cross-party MPs form new APPG group to question the case for Heathrow 3rd runway

A new cross-party group of MPs against the expansion of Heathrow Airport has been launched in Westminster. The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) has been set up to bring together politicians opposing a 3rd runway and scrutinise the issues related to proposed expansion.  Reflecting the cross-party opposition, the group is co-chaired by Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park - and Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, with Vince Cable MP for Twickenham as treasurer and Baroness Jenny Jones as vice chair.  Zac Goldsmith says the group will "question the case for a 3rd runway at Heathrow."  He added: "The political support for the campaign against expansion is growing and the delay to the vote on the National Policy Statement (NPS) reflects the concern the government has about the possibility of defeat.”  Ruth Cadbury does not believe expansion is "deliverable" and there are "... far too many unanswered questions on key issues that affect our communities including the complete absence of information about flight paths, the questionable quality of the noise mitigation offer, the costs of the surface access improvements and the financial liabilities that will ultimately be picked up by taxpayers.”  The vote in the House of Commons on the Heathrow NPS will not be until about June 2018, due to the setback for the Tories of the June general election.

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DfT launches consultation on its Aviation Strategy, out to 2050 – closes 13th October

The DfT has launched - for consultation - its plans to develop a new UK Aviation Strategy, "to help shape the future of the aviation industry to 2050 and beyond."  The DfT strategy is to support future growth in the aviation industry (which it claims "directly supports 240,000 jobs and contributes at least £22 billion to the UK economy each year." With no mention of the money it takes out of the UK too ...]  One issue is possible new forms of compensation for noise or designing targets for noise reduction. The document looks at how all airports across the country can make best use of existing capacity, and expand the industry. Chris Grayling said: "Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets out a comprehensive long-term plan for UK aviation. .... [it] also recognises the need to address the impacts of aviation on communities and the environment."  The consultation closes on 13th October.  ie. a large part of it is over the summer holiday period. On environment it just says the strategy "will look at how to achieve the right balance between more flights and ensuring action is taken to tackle carbon emissions, noise and air quality." Consultations on various aspects of the strategy will run throughout 2017 and 2018 and will be followed by the publication of the final aviation strategy by the end of 2018.

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Aviation to be a key priority for UK government in run up to Brexit

Ministers consider aviation as a “top priority” in Brexit negotiations, and the UK government hopes to get new flight rights with 44 countries to replace the EU framework governing where airlines can fly. There will be a new UK aviation strategy (there is currently no proper UK aviation policy, with the government hoping to get a 3rd Heathrow runway first, before working on policy for all UK airports). Access to the aviation markets of the EU countries, the US and Canada, where market access is via EU-negotiated agreements. The aviation industry is very concerned about what agreements on aviation will be made, post-Brexit, on where airlines can fly etc. They face huge risks to their businesses and profits.  It has also emerged that UK aviation safety is controlled by EASA, a European body under the jurisdiction of the European Court. The government said its aviation strategy will consider the [alleged] need for further growth beyond expansion at Heathrow, and noted that “a number of airports have plans to invest further” to cater for air passenger growth. The DfT wants more intensive use of existing capacity at all UK airports, and says airports with planning restrictions hoping to take forward plans to develop beyond those restrictions will need to submit a planning application, with environmental issues such as noise and air quality taken into account.

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Time to upgrade Europe’s aviation pollution rules – it should not be allowed to risk the Paris agreement

The European Parliament’s environment committee (ENVI) has voted on how the aviation sector should be treated under the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), in response to a decision by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to set up a global offsetting mechanism. The ongoing revision of Europe’s carbon market rules for aviation is a critical opportunity to ensure that one of the biggest global polluters starts to contribute its fair share to EU climate action. While the term ‘sustainable aviation’ seems to be spreading, the reality is that the sector’s emissions are growing unsustainably and will continue to do so. Even if the global aviation deal is fully implemented and enforced, it will not curb the industry’s rising emissions. Though just intra-EU flights are included in the EU ETS, unlike other sectors – aviation is not expected to annually reduce its emissions. Add the fact that the industry is exempt from fuel taxes, VAT or legally-binding fuel efficiency requirements, and it becomes clear aviation enjoys very special treatment. While greenhouse gas emissions from all other sectors in the EU carbon market fell in 2016, those from aviation grew by 8%. This risks putting the goals of the Paris climate agreement out of reach. With no quick solutions in sight, the sector needs to pay a real price for its pollution. A high enough carbon price would help.

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Stop Stansted Expansion says the new night flight rules are a missed opportunity

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) says the new night flight rules, set out by the DfT, do not go far enough to tackle the impact at Stansted on sleep disturbance for residents. They say the night flight restrictions, which are set to be introduced in October, and last for 5 years, are a missed opportunity to bring relief to thousands who suffer from broken sleep due to overflying aircraft.  Martin Peachey, SSE’s noise adviser, said the new rules will not lessen the impacts of aircraft noise at night for residents. Though the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is well aware of the impact of night flight noise on health and well-being, the new rules won’t actually lessen the impacts that people will experience, or improve the quality of their sleep between 11.30pm and 6am. The DfT has chosen to prioritise the economic benefits of night flights over quality of life for those affected by the noise. One small improvement is that some 1,700 previously “exempt” aircraft will now be recognised and added into the overall night time quota. The movement limit for Stansted up to 2017 was 5,000 in winter (the dates as for British summer Time) and 7,000 for summer. Now up to 2022 the movement limit will be 5,600 and 8,100 - both much higher. The Quota Count till 2017 was 3,310 in winter and 4,540 in summer. Up to 2022 this will be the same, unchanged.

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Newly-built homes in Yorkshire face destruction, as Government reveals HS2 routes

Chris Grayling has announced that sixteen brand new homes in Mexborough, in South Yorkshire, will be demolished to make way for the new HS2 railway line. This comes as the Government unveiled the route for the section phase of the project. The eastern section of the HS2 line, linking Birmingham and Leeds via Sheffield, will go through a newly-built housing estate.  South Yorkshire "won't get a proper stop" on the line. The compensation from the government, for the compulsory purchase, is not generous. The government website says there is a cash offer of a lump-sum payment of 10% of the un-blighted open market value of the property (from a minimum of £30,000 to a maximum of £100,000). The government will cover your legal fees up to £500 (plus VAT) if the application is successful. If a householder qualifies, the government will pay 100% of the un-blighted open market value, as assessed by 2 independent valuers. The government will not cover additional costs, for example legal fees or removal costs. ...... and there is a lot more detail on the website   The money offered is not likely to be enough to enable them to buy equivalent homes nearby. People facing compulsory purchase and demolition of their homes for a Heathrow runway are very much in sympathy with those affected by HS2.

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easyJet setting up a separate airline, based in Vienna, so it can continue to fly in EU after Brexit

Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, has announced its post-Brexit EU base: Vienna. Although the airline has always been UK based, it has a vast network of international and domestic flights on the continent.  With the shape of a future UK-EU aviation agreement still uncertain, it is setting up a separate company, easyJet Europe, in Austria. Around 100 planes will be assigned to the subsidiary, which will allow the airline to continue to fly as at present. None of the Airbus jets will be based in Vienna. The new subsidiary will be owned by easyJet plc, which already owns the UK-based airline and the Swiss operation, easyJet Switzerland. The majority of easyJet aircraft will remain as part of the UK operation. They say no jobs at Luton will be lost, but there will be some new jobs in Austria.  European rules are that airlines must be majority-owned by EU shareholders. EasyJet is already almost 50%, and can get over the 50% in the next couple of years. From a passenger’s perspective, there should be no discernible difference in booking flights or the travelling after the split. Michael O'Leary recently said Brexit is "going to be one of the greatest suicide notes in history. It’s a shambles.” He warned Ryanair planes would start moving to other EU countries from September 2018 unless an aviation agreement is in place.

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Heathrow night flights to continue unchanged despite protests from Richmond & Wandsworth Councils

The government has announced that night flights will continue at Heathrow airport until the airport is expanded, with a 3rd runway. The DfT document says there will be no change to the number of flights allowed between 11.30pm and 6am, until October 2022.  The current regime ends in October 2017. Richmond and Wandsworth councils say the government has chosen to gamble with the health of Londoners, rather than challenge the airline industry to change. Richmond Council leader, councillor Paul Hodgins said: “Put plain and simply, the Government consultation was pointless. They were proposing virtually no changes to begin with and it looks like they haven’t listened to people’s feedback at all.”  There is increasing scientific evidence that night flights impact adversely on human health, leading to a variety of conditions. Cllr Hodgins says "Heathrow already steps over the [WHO guidance] line when it comes to night noise .... The number of planes that depart and arrive from the airport at night is unacceptable, to protect people’s ears and sleep we need an all-out ban.” Wandsworth Council leader, Cllr Ravi Govindia said: “The Government’s consultation on night flights has been exposed as a sham. Heathrow’s vested interests have been protected while the health and well-being of Londoners living under the flights paths has been sacrificed.”

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DfT confirms numbers of night flights – till 2022 – at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will not be cut

Changes to the night flights regime, at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted have been delayed for several years. The DfT has now produced its Decision Document on the issue. Anyone expecting meaningful cuts in night flights, or noise from night flights will be disappointed. There is no change in numbers, and just some tinkering with noise categories.  The DfT says night flights from Heathrow will continue until (if) the airport is expanded, and it just hopes airlines will be using slightly less noisy planes. Pretty much, effectively, "business as usual." Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, said he had to "strike a balance between the economic benefits of flying and the impact on local residents." The DfT objective is to: "encourage the use of quieter aircraft to limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise at night, while maintaining the existing benefits of night flights". But it says: "Many industry responses welcomed the recognition by government of the benefits night flights offer and highlighted the importance of night flights to the business models of airlines, for instance by allowing low-cost airlines to operate the necessary minimum amount of rotations a day, or the benefits to the time-sensitive freight sector through enabling next day deliveries. " 

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GACC finds the DfT’s night flight decision – to make no cuts in Gatwick flights – disappointing

The Government’s long-delayed decision on the night flight rules for the next 5 years - to 2022 - has at last been published. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign (GACC) finds it disappointing that there is to be no reduction in the number of night flights. Brendon Sewill, GACC chairman, commented: ‘Many of our members want to see a total ban on all night flights at Gatwick, as has been promised for Heathrow, and we proposed that at least there should be a gradual reduction towards that target. It is alarming that there is to be no change in the number (at Gatwick) permitted in winter [winter/summer is based on when the clocks change] which (since the current quota is not fully used) could permit a 60% increase in the actual number of night flights in winter." GACC welcomes the reduction in the summer noise quotas which will ensure no increase in noise during summer months. GACC had been hoping for a gradual year-by-year reduction in noise quotas. That would put pressure on airlines to buy and use quieter (= slightly less noisy) aircraft. But this has been abandoned - as a result of lobbying by the airlines.  GACC says it is "wicked" that the noise quota for the winter will also permit a 60% increase in noise levels at night in the winter. That appears to contradict the Government claim that the aim is to “'Limit or reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise at night…”

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Vote on Heathrow 3rd runway delayed (due to election that went so wrong for the Tories) till probably June 2018 – not end of 2017

A vote by MPs on the 3rd Heathrow runway has been postponed until 2018, due to the disruption caused by the snap General Election in June. Transport secretary Chris Grayling said the publication of the final Airport's National Policy Statement (NPS) setting out the position of the government and the ensuing House of Commons vote will not take place until 2018.  The original intention had been to get the vote in December, or perhaps January 2018. Grayling said:  "The timing of the election, in particular the need to re-start a select committee inquiry into the draft Airports NPS means we now expect to lay any final NPS in Parliament in the first half of 2018, for a vote in the House of Commons." He added that a further update would be provided following the House of Commons summer recess.  The Co-ordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Rob Barnstone, representing MPs, local authorities and campaign groups opposed to Heathrow expansion said: "Postponing this decision once again shows that the government are worried not only about losing a parliamentary vote, but also that their aviation strategy will simply be in tatters. As the weeks and months go on, we're seeing even greater support for our campaign against Heathrow expansion. By the time this vote comes before Parliament, if at all, we are confident that MPs will vote it down. Heathrow expansion is not deliverable."

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Birmingham flights to New York scrapped as United Airlines pulls out … Brexit to blame

Birmingham Airport flights to New York with United Airlines have been scrapped, from 5th October, as they do not make money.  United will no longer operate flights from Birmingham to New York.  Last year, American Airlines also discontinued its service to John F Kennedy Airport, New York. A spokesperson for United said it was down to poor take up on the flights. But it is also understood that the fall of the pound against the dollar after Brexit has played a part.  Talks have begun with 3 United staff working out of Birmingham Airport, on severance payments and opportunities for redeployment.  Anyone from the Midlands who wants to fly United to the US would now have to travel to Manchester or London.  There still seems to be a flight to New York from Birmingham, with Lufthansa.

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Calculator by T&E helps show how a reformed aviation ETS could work better (and raise climate finance)

Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a new calculator which aims to show how the inclusion of aviation into the EU ETC could be helpful. (Only flights between EU countries are included at present, not others). T&E says if all flights were included, and paying a reasonable price for their carbon allowances, this would not only help reduce the sector’s major and growing climate impact, but it would also help Europe to raise climate finance it needs. T&E says European decision-makers should seize this opportunity offered by the ongoing reform of aviation provisions in the EU ETS. The aviation sector made up 4.5% of EU carbon emissions in 2015, and they rose by 8% in 2016. Though tiny improvements are made in fuel efficiency, operational changes etc, these are dwarfed by the huge annual growth in numbers of flights. The industry expects to continue to grow by about 4.7% per year. There are no realistic measures in place, or in the pipeline, to rein in aviation CO2 in the EU. But the aviation provisions in the EU ETS are currently being amended in response to the ICAO CORSIA deal to establish a global offsetting scheme from 2021 onwards. The new T&E calculator enables different components to be varied, to see the effect on CO2, and on raising climate finance.

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Edinburgh airport unveils plan for major new home and business complex

Edinburgh Airport has unveiled plans for a massive (over 100 acres) business, industrial and housing complex to be built on part of the airport. They are describing it as "one of the best-connected developments in Scotland."  The buildings would extend from south-east of the passenger terminal to nearly as far as the Gogar roundabout. Chief executive Gordon Dewar said an adjacent development area south of the airport which had sought to attract major companies had failed to get off the ground because of the lack of such key infrastructure. He agreed the airport’s plans would provide “a degree of competition” with the proposed International Business Gateway scheme, where he said “nothing has happened” for years. The site will occupy much of the crosswind runway, which the airport said was rarely used. It runs south-east to north-west and cannot be used at the same time as the adjacent main south-west to north-east runway.  However, the crosswind runway is used during runway maintenance and resurfacing. Mr Dewar admitted: “It will make it harder to avoid disruption, but we believe we have solutions that will address it.” Land for a planned 2nd runway, which the airport hopes would be needed around 2050, has already been reserved to the north of and parallel with the main runway.

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Massive underground warehouse at Heathrow (with park above – under very low planes) to increase air cargo volumes (+ air pollution)

An underground warehousing project near Heathrow has been approved by Hounslow councillors. It is proposed by a company called "Formal Investments."  The 44 hectare site, just to the north-eastern corner of the airport, the Rectory Farm.  It is directly under the northern runway approach path (on westerlies) so would be horrendously noisy with planes not more than 500 feet or so above. Above the subterranean warehouse would be a new park, with sports pitches, using extracted minerals from underneath the currently "disused" land. The site, alongside The Parkway (A312) and Bath Road (A4)could deliver Hounslow’s share of minerals, required by the London Plan. The first areas underground may be available in 2022  if work starts in 2019 - the whole thing could take 15 years to finish. Heathrow wants more warehousing space, as it hopes to increase the amount of air cargo - especially if allowed a 3rd runway. That increase in freight, arriving and departing in lorries, is a huge problem for local air pollution. That pollution (NO2 and particulates) is an almost insuperable barrier to a 3rd runway - especially with ever more freight. Estate agents Savills, said: “Rectory Farm offers a pioneering and innovative solution to the shortage of industrial space inside the M25."

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Teddington Action Group (TAG) comment on Arora Group’s “cheaper” plan for a runway – and Heathrow’s highly uncertain finances

On Sunday, 9th July, it was widely reported that hotel tycoon, Surinder Arora, has proposed a cheaper plan to expand Heathrow airport which includes changing the airport's terminal and taxiway layout, occupying less land, and not impacting on the M25 and M4 motorways which hem it in. Speaking for Teddington Action Group (TAG), Paul McGuinness said:  "With Heathrow's current expansion plans being an un-financeable non-starter, and even Heathrow looking to cut the cost of its plans, it's hardly surprising that an alternative should pop up to salvage any prospect of the airport's expansion. But no alternative plan can change the fundamentals. Heathrow is already known as the "world's most disruptive airport" - being positioned, as it is, bang slap in the middle of the UK's most densely populated residential region, and with flight paths over the capital city. And from the perspectives of noise, environment and safety, it is expanding Heathrow's activities by over a half again that will always remain the real non-starter". TAG have produced a damning assessment of the financial difficulties of Heathrow, in attempting to raise the finance needed for its expansion from its various shareholders. It lists the serious problems Heathrow would have, its degree of indebtedness, and the risk to the UK taxpayer of having to bail out the airport, once construction began, and the airport ran out of money. 

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Arora’s plan for a cheaper 3rd Heathrow runway means putting it further east. ie. more noise for London

Surinder Arora, a hotel magnate, wants to get the 3rd Heathrow runway built quickly, and has made some suggestions of how it could be done more easily - and at least £5-6 billion more cheaply. But his scheme, for a shorter northern runway, means there would be even more noise pollution over London than from Heathrow's own £17.6bn proposal. Heathrow airport did not, apparently, know of his plans till he went public with them.  If the new runway was shorter (3.2km not 3.5km) and moved a bit east, to Sipson, there would be cost savings. But this could mean noisier flights over London as aircraft may have to fly slightly lower over London by something like 300 feet or so (at a guess). One of Heathrow's reasons for its own location for the runway was to get this 300 ft or so height gain, claiming it would make all the difference to noise levels.  The 2009 scheme, by Heathrow, for a much shorter 2.2km runway failed in part because of noise concerns, as did a plan for a 2.8km runway rejected by the Airports Commission. Willie Walsh of IAG, and Craig Keeper of Virgin Atlantic, want the cheapest scheme possible, to keep their costs down, and avoid having to increase the cost of their air fares. Amusingly, the Heathrow airport runway plan involves demolishing one of Mr Arora’s 5 hotels at the airport, two of which are under construction. Mr Arora says he was not informed by Heathrow (Willie Walsh claimed the same, for his head office building).

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Another massive summer rally against the proposed new Nantes airport – opponents now optimistic

Some 10,000 people took part in the annual gathering of opponents of the proposed new Nantes airport, at Notre Dame des Landes, over the weekend of Saturday and Sunday 8th and 9th July.  People came, as every summer, from all over France - to express their opposition to this project, which has become a huge political issue in France, and "the mother of all battles."  Part of the site is still occupied by the Zadistes, who have taken up residence there to protect and defend it. Things are looking more positive for the airport opponents. The recent presidential and legislative elections have changed the story of this airport soap opera. Emmanuel Macron's En Marche! movement does not have a history of supporting the airport plan, and indeed there are even deputies in the movement who, at one time, expressed their opposition to the project, particularly in Pays de la Loire and Brittany."  Now there is to be yet another conciliation mission to the airport opponents, but this time it seems more reassuring than earlier attempts at forcing the airport through.  Opponents hope there will be better listening by the government team, and it will be easier for them - than the last government - to abandon it. The presence of Nicolas Hulot at the head of the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition is also seen as a favourable sign, against the airport.

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Airport hotel tycoon, Surinder Arora, wants Heathrow runway built soon – but a bit cheaper

A wealthy hotel tycoon, Surinder Arora, has submitted plans for a 3rd Heathrow. He has been a long time backer of a runway, and says his plan would be £5 billion cheaper than what Heathrow is offering (costing £17.5 billion). He has put his proposal to the government's public consultation on Heathrow (the NPS consultation actually closed on 25th May.) Heathrow has been trying to find ways to make their runway + terminal scheme cheaper, as the airlines are not keen on paying the higher charges that would be needed. Ticket prices would rise. (ie. lower airline profit). The Arora Group's proposals include altering the design of terminal buildings and taxiways, and reducing the amount of land to be built on.  They know the alterations to roads, including the M25 and the junction of the M25 and the M4, are massive problems and "threaten deliverability" of the runway project. They therefore want to "shift the runway". Where to?  All this shows how very uncertain the runway plan has become, and the immense doubts - especially on money. Heathrow said they would welcome views on various options  "in the public consultation later this year." The plans must first be assessed by the Commons transport committee, be amended by the DfT and then voted on in Parliament .... it is not a quick process.

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Heathrow plans to charge motorists £15 to enter ‘congestion cordon’ around airport to tackle toxic air

Heathrow knows it has an insuperable problem with air pollution if it was allowed a 3rd runway. Levels of NO2 are already often illegal, in many places. Now Heathrow is considering imposing a new “H-charge” on motorists who arrive or leave the airport by car. This is intended to reduce air pollution, and get more passengers to travel by rail (already pretty crowded). The idea is for a charge of £10 - 15 for everyone, including taxis and public hire vehicles, for each trip.  Not surprisingly, avid backers of the Heathrow runway like Sir Howard Davies and Lord Adonis think the charge is a great idea. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling is understood to believe that some form of low emission zone around the airport will be needed. The government has made (rather hard to believe) assurances that a 3rd runway would only be allowed to operate if it can do so within air quality limits. (Which it cannot). Most of the NO2 and particulate pollution in the area is from road vehicles; a high proportion of those are Heathrow associated; a proportion comes from planes. The exact proportions are not known - yet. Heathrow likes to give the impression hardly any is from planes (not true). Heathrow airport says it will consult on the proposals for charging, and details of how it might work  - but it is seen as a “last resort” to tackle its air pollution problems. It would be very, very unpopular with travellers and taxi/Uber drivers.

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Stop Stansted Expansion warn people not to be fooled by deceptive displays about airport’s growth plans

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has issued a warning to residents across the region not to be hoodwinked by Stansted Airport's smoke-and-mirror exhibition and biased consultation survey on its further expansion plans. Both appear designed to trick people into thinking that further Stansted expansion in passenger number will be painless and sustainable. They make these claims, even before the environmental impacts have been assessed. The displays are deliberately misleading, and SSE says people should be very sceptical. Brian Ross, SSE's deputy chairman, said the displays are all about spinning the positives and saying nothing about the negatives." People attending the exhibitions need to ask searching questions, like explanations about the proposed increase in flight lights compared to today. And passenger movements compared to the position today.  This, say SSE, reveals a very different picture from the one being put forward by Stansted's bosses who have been making the false claim that the extra passenger numbers will only lead to "approximately two extra flights an hour".  In reality the proposal would mean an extra 2,000 flights a week compared to today's levels - 285 per day.  That means an increase from on average of a plane every 2¼ minutes, to a plane every 85 seconds.  Stansted current has permission for 35 million passengers per year, while it currently has about 25 million. But the airport says it 'urgently' needs the cap to be raised to 44.5 million. 

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Solicitor General says law on drones needs review, after Gatwick runway closed briefly over safety fears

The Solicitor General, Robert Buckland, has said the law on drones should be reviewed, after the runway at Gatwick was closed and flights delayed and diverted, due to a drone. The runway had to be closed twice, once for 9 minutes and then for 5 minutes. Pilots have warned there could be a "disaster" unless there is more effective regulation of drones. The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) wants compulsory registration of drone users, so police can trace people flying them irresponsibly. The current legislation is old, and does not properly take into account the current drone issue. As well as airports and planes, drones are causing problem such as getting drugs etc into prisons. They are cheap to buy, and fun to fly, but many drone owners do not know or understand the regulations, and others do not care. A drone collision with a helicopter rotor would be more dangerous than with a plane, and could be catastrophic.  It would be useful if all drones had to transmit data, so that police could locate the operator.  The current rules say drones should not be flown higher than 400 feet but the data indicates the highest near miss so far was one at 12,500 feet, near Heathrow in February 2016. Drones should not get closer than 50 metres to anyone or anything.

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71% of votes in the election, in constituencies affected by Heathrow, were for anti- 3rd runway candidates

Analysis of the 8th June general election results, done by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, in constituencies affected by Heathrow, found that over 70% of votes were cast for anti-3rd runway candidates. The analysis also confirms that 68% of votes cast for the Conservatives, and 65% for Labour, were for candidates who oppose the Heathrow runway.  Plans for the runway have been thrown into serious doubt since Theresa May failed to win a majority she was expecting. The breakdown of the election results underlines just how unpopular Heathrow expansion really is - not just by a large number of Mrs May's own Tory MPs but by the majority of voters too. Two key Cabinet ministers — Boris Johnson and Justine Greening — are fiercely opposed to expansion plans, as are most Conservative MPs in London seats. With the majorities of both Boris Johnson and Justine Greening severely slashed at this election, these new figures suggest both Cabinet Ministers could lose their seats next time if Theresa May were to press ahead with Heathrow expansion. Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston, is one of the most vocal campaigners against a 3rd runway. His seat was the only Conservative gain in London at this election - narrowly winning with just 45 votes. Were the Government to press ahead with Heathrow expansion, his would be another seat that the Conservatives could very likely lose.

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Letter sent by ChATR (Chiswick) to all new Cabinet members on Tory backing for 3rd runway

ChATR, Chiswick Against the Third Runway, have written to all the new Cabinet ministers since the election, to express their grave concern at the Conservative manifesto promise to build a Third Runway at Heathrow - and to urge them not to support these proposals. They ask: "How can this government lend support to a development that knowingly harms public health? There is a weight of evidence against the Third Runway showing the adverse effects of noise, pollution and sleep deprivation. It seems utterly bizarre to us that this government has endorsed a scheme that benefits foreign shareholders at the expense of millions of Londoners who will suffer these very serious and well documented health consequences." ... They say:  "Poorer communities nearer the airport and working families under new & existing flight paths, trapped by debt, mortgages, stamp duty costs or other reasons will suffer the most. It seems quite wrong that the inequalities and injustices of airport expansion, which have been repeatedly raised by the affected communities, are being simply brushed aside for an, as yet unproven, marginal economic gain."  And the DfT now acknowledge that the economic benefit (without including the carbon costs) of Heathrow is only about £6-7 billion over 60 years. Read the whole letter.

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Aviation Environment Federation responds to CAA airspace design consultation – with some damning and trenchant comments

The CAA has just closed a 3 month consultation on their guidance to support their new airspace change decision-making process. The consultation is, frankly, impossible for most laypeople to understand or respond to. The AEF  has submitted their expert, 8 page, comments. They say, among other things:  "The consultation questions focus on the transparency and clarity of the guidance material, rather than on the substance of the proposals." ...but there are gaps left in the regulation of noise management: Some of these are: "... there is no apparent means of redress if people feel that the communication has been inadequate, or if they doubt the accuracy of the information provided." ... "the guidance .... is too complex for use by local communities, who need clear and simple guidance on how to engage with a local airport about noise, how to find out whether an airport has recently implemented airspace changes, and how to participate in the airspace change process if it is ongoing." ... "For as long as the CAA considers its primary duty to be about facilitating aviation growth, it will be unable to make impartial judgments about airspace change that balance the public interest with that of airports and airlines". ... And "The current process is seriously flawed in that it leaves no systematic opportunity for operational restrictions (such as limits on number of aircraft movements) to be imposed if the noise impact of a given airspace change becomes intolerable".

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Lord Martin Callanan replaces Lord Ahmad as Aviation Minister – usual bland pro-aviation first speech

Lord Martin Callanan has replaced, since the June 2017 general election, Lord Ahmad as Aviation Minister at the DfT. His first public speech was at an ABTA gathering of the aviation industry, where he said the usual things aviation ministers always say to the industry. Some of his comments are below, but it is to be noted that there are few details and his words hide a lot of uncertainty on Heathrow. He said: "This government will remain a pro-aviation, pro-travel government."... "None of us like to see our airports being overtaken by competitors. But that’s what has increasingly happened in recent years. Unless we get this runway built, that slide could continue. Yet when built, [the Heathrow 3rd runway] could increase passenger choice, lower fares, and give the UK room to grow our travel links for decades to come."...  More on the few domestic links Heathrow says it will provide:  "So it’s good news that Heathrow Airport has promised 14 domestic routes, and that’s what we’ll make sure the airport delivers — for the good of the whole United Kingdom. I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who responded to our consultation on the draft airports national policy. We’re making good progress analysing those responses and will set out the next steps as soon as possible."   ie. all a bit uncertain ....?  And Gatwick is lobbying again to get a 2nd runway, seeing the problems this government faces on Heathrow.  Round we go again ....

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“Grow Heathrow” runway protest community given 14 days to leave site in Sipson

"Grow Heathrow" is a community project that has been living in Sipson since 2010, as a protest against a 3rd Heathrow runway.  They have been fighting eviction for many years. Now Grow Heathrow has been given 14 days to leave, by the High Court. They had taken over a derelict site and turned it into a partly self sufficient community, growing a lot of their own food and acting as a community centre. On 29th June Judge Dight granted a possession order to the landlords of the site, Lewdown Holdings. The judge acknowledged the hardship and logistical difficulties which will be caused by the effect of the order - which requires the eviction of an entire settled community, but granted Lewdown the possession order. The judge said the owner had no need to justify his alleged failure to use the land for any purpose, though it had been derelict. Lewdown Holdings have had their planning permission for the site rejected, so nothing is planned on it. Grow Heathrow say they will appeal, and they do not intend to leave. They are being given pro bono legal help from Leigh Day. One of the activists living at Grow Heathrow said: “We are completely committed to continuing support for the local community. Airport expansion will make their homes uninhabitable." They have a lot of support from local residents, one of whom commented: "They took over a piece of neglected land which they skilfully rejuvenated to provide a vibrant hub for like-minded people.”

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What’s wrong with infrastructure decision making? – report shows why decisions like Heathrow can be badly flawed

In a very interesting new study, entitled "What’s wrong with infrastructure decision making? Conclusions from six UK case studies" by the Institute for Government, some useful problems are shown up.  In the case of the Heathrow runway, the study says - as with other bad infrastructure approvals - "poor investment decisions could lock the economy into inappropriate infrastructure systems for many years, with significant harmful effects on future prosperity." ... "Bad investments can result in white elephants – projects that waste public money and fail to deliver the promised economic benefits." The report says there is a serious problem in that government does not always identify the best investments. They say some of the reasons why government can make bad choices (eg. on Heathrow) are that there is no national strategy for infrastructure investment (no UK aviation policy); the more ambitious the forecast, the more questionable the model (seriously the case with crazy forecasts of alleged economic benefit for the runway); Ministers and senior civil servants can fail to understand project risk; Government finds it difficult to make decisions which create ‘concentrated losers’ (which is an immense problem for Heathrow with local impacts like air pollution, congestion etc, and noise impacts over hundreds of square miles); and no method to properly compensate people for the costs the runway would impose on them.

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Gatwick continues to press for 2nd runway, taking advantage of government weakness on Heathrow runway

Gatwick is again saying it wants a 2nd runway, after it has increased its annual number of passengers to over 44 million. Gatwick hopes to exploit possible indecision by government over the Heathrow 3rd runway, continuing to claim (very dubiously) that its 2nd runway would be “financeable and deliverable”. Gatwick said its number of passengers has risen, so far this year, by 7.7% compared to the same time last year. The vast majority of Gatwick travellers are on short haul leisure trips to Europe, but it hopes to get more long haul holiday travellers to the USA and the middle east or far east. It remains largely a “bucket and spade” airport. Gatwick wants to persuade government that its 2nd runway would be a useful alternative to Heathrow, which is used by most business travellers to destinations in the Far East and the Middle East. Since the June 2017 election and the loss of a proper Tory majority, the government will have increasing problems pushing through an unpopular Heathrow runway, with opponents such as Boris Johnson - and Jeremy Corbyn. Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, says he can build long haul routes and they can see future passenger demand and "we stand ready to deliver should the government give us the go-ahead.” In reality, Gatwick is in the wrong place, and has surface access transport far below the standard that would be needed for a 2 runway airport.

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Ever increasing numbers of city-breaks and short holidays ruining cities – and the climate

With rising affluence in much of the world, and flying being unrealistically cheap (as it pays no fuel duty, and almost no other taxes) people want as many short holidays and city breaks as they can get. This is starting to have very negative impacts on some of the cities most visited, eg. Barcelona. Growth is relentless. The UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) even speaks about tourism as a right for all citizens, and their forecasts suggest increases from 1 billion international travellers today, to 1.8 billion by 2030.  But there is a huge price to pay in carbon emissions from all these trips and holidays, most of which is the flights.  Short breaks therefore, pollute more per night than longer breaks. And  you can fit more into your year. "The marketing department might prefer a Japanese tourist to Barcelona because on average they will spend €40 more than a French tourist – according to unpublished data from the Barcelona Tourist Board – but the carbon footprint we collectively pay for is not taken into account." People are being persuaded by advertising and marketing, and a change in ethos of society, to take more short holidays - not one longer one.  A report in 2010 suggested that makes people the happiest. More trips = more carbon emissions.

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Lord Adonis: Hard Brexit could halt Heathrow runway plans, as investors won’t risk the money in UK

National Infrastructure Commission chairman, Lord Adonis, says UK must maintain ties with EU to save key projects such as Heathrow 3rd runway and HS2.  He said a hard Brexit would spell the end for the 3rd Heathrow runway. Heathrow airport was keen, before the referendum in 2016, for the UK to remain in the EU. While Heathrow, since the referendum, has argued that Brexit makes its 3rd runway ever more important, Andrew Adonis said private investment in infrastructure would be off the table unless Britain could maintain ties with the EU. He said that a host of major projects including HS2, Crossrail 2 and HS3 rail links between northern cities, as well as universal broadband and mobile services, would be under threat but particularly those that rely on private funding.  “These decisions on Brexit have a crucial bearing on infrastructure. Business will not invest for the long term if they think Britain is going down the tube. It’s as simple as that." And "If we were to go for a hard Brexit which severs Britain’s trading ties with the continent I think we could be heading for a calamity as a country.”  The cost of the expansion at Heathrow would be about £17.5 billion (with Heathrow only paying about £1 billion towards surface access). They are trying to find cost savings. The money needs to come from its range of foreign investors, the biggest two of which are a Spanish Ferrovial (25%) consortium and Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund (20%).

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Theresa May’s DUP deal offers tax breaks for Northern Ireland airports – detailed report to be commissioned

The details of the deal struck between the DUP and the Conservatives say: "A detailed consultative report will be commissioned into the impact of VAT and APD on tourism in Northern Ireland to recommend how best to build upon the growing success of that sector." DUP sources told the Guardian that the abolition or radical cut to the air passenger duty (APD) for Northern Ireland’s three airports, which is not included in the initial deal, would be a “post-Brexit ask”. The DUP and the Tories both agreed that they would review APD, the abolition of which the airline industry in Northern Ireland claims would create thousands of new jobs and enable the region to compete with airports in the Irish republic, where the tax has been ditched. DUP sources said it would be opportune to demand APD’s abolition in the region once Brexit had happened and the UK was no longer bound by EU-imposed rules on airline taxation. But having no APD in Northern Ireland has implications for other UK regional airports. MPs from the North East want a fair deal for their airports, as there would be more competition from Northern Ireland. This comes after the Scottish government, which has control over its APD, announced plans to cut the duty by 50% in 2018 at airports such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. Other regions of the UK need investment, and not only Northern Ireland.

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Andrew Adonis, Chair of National Infrastructure Commission, urges government to get on with Heathrow runway

Lord Andrew Adonis, chair of the UK National Infrastructure Commission, has urged the government to show it is committed to getting a 3rd Heathrow runway built.   He wants to reassure backers of the runway that the current woeful political instability in government will not delay the project. The FT says Lord Adonis (a long time backer of the runway) considers it “essential” - but though it was in the Tory election manifesto, it was not mentioned in the (watered-down) Queen's Speech. The Airports National Policy Statement is due to be considered by the Transport Select Committee (when it is re-convened) and then voted on in the House of Commons - perhaps early 2018. Andrew Adonis has urged Theresa May to get the vote as early as possible; that would be May 2018 "to send out a positive signal to business"... that "Britain is open for business.”  He considers (with the problems on Hinckley Point C power station) that getting the runway built would be "the “acid test” of the government’s commitment to infrastructure investment."  But the parliamentary vote is far less certain that before the election, and Theresa May is not likely to remain Prime Minister for long. If Boris Johnson became PM, he has always been vehemently opposed to the runway. There remains huge uncertainty about the whole scheme.

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Leaked report indicates raised risk of air accidents after CAA cost-cutting without enough staff

Cost-cutting and an overstretched workforce at the Civil Aviation Authority have increased the risk of air accidents in Britain, according to a leaked internal report. This was drafted by the CAA but never released. It criticised failings, including in monitoring of flight training and licensing of pilots - and said the CAA did not have the resources to do their job properly.  The provisional report – produced by the CAA’s head of strategy and safety assurance at the request of senior directors (Mark Swan)– warned that the problems it identified were “those most likely to feature as contributory causal factors in aircraft accidents”.  A survey showed that fewer than 10% of employees believed their colleagues had time to undertake important safety activities to an acceptable standard. Fewer than 20% of staff agreed that all of the organisation’s important safety functions were adequately covered. It said: “Significant staff reductions … have led in some cases to insufficient access to expertise.” .... “in all areas reviewed, there is evidence that the resources available … are at minimum levels. There is a general lack of resilience.”  The CAA had failed on all the safety inspections and checks there should have been before the Shoreham air show disaster. The CAA is now having to deal with difficult public relations, in making changes to flight paths that can cause serious negative impacts on those overflown intensively.

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Liverpool airport wants to extend runway for some long-haul and transatlantic flights

Liverpool John Lennon Airport wants to extend its runway by 314 metres, so it can attract direct transatlantic flights, to try to more than double its passenger numbers. It has published another Master Plan (these are more wish lists to impress investors, rather than firm future plans!). The Plan is out to 2050 and has all sorts of optimistic aspirations. The airport wants to grow passengers numbers from 4.8 million per year today, to 11 million by 2050. To do that, they want to get direct links to many new destinations. The current runway is too short for even the newer smaller long-haul aircraft. The runway extension would take it to 2,600m length. They hope not only to have European flights, as now, but also flights to the USA and to the Middle East. There are the usual bits of hype about the number of jobs this would create and the economic benefits to the area.  The reality is that most of the passengers would probably be going on holidays abroad, taking their holiday/leisure money out of the country.  Liverpool hopes it can attract passengers who currently use Manchester, Heathrow, Gatwick and Birmingham airports. And Liverpool airport also wants to increase the amount of cargo it handles, which has been falling.

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MSPs back new Scottish air departure tax (not APD)… but Greens warn SNP not to cut charges

Scottish Ministers will set out the rates and bands for a new tax to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland.  It paves the way for the Scottish Government to fulfil their commitment to halve the tax on departing air passengers, by the end of this Parliament. The Bill to create air departure tax was approved by 108 votes to 11, and it will come into force from April 2018.  Ministers will set out the rates and bands for the new charge in the autumn. These will also have to be approved by MSPs. Though Scottish Labour backed the law, they don’t want the tax to be cut. The Greens and Lib Dems voted against any cut and against the change from APD.  The Scottish Greens said they may snub budget talks with SNP ministers next year unless the SNP rethinks their plan to cut the air tax. The minority SNP administration relied on Green votes to pass this year’s budget.  The Scottish economy cannot afford to lose the income from an air departure tax - public services are already short of funds. It makes even less sense, when the main beneficiaries of cutting the air tax are those rich enough to fly a lot.  Not the poor.  Edinburgh airport claimed it had a record year in 2016 - demonstrating that APD.is not deterring passengers. Cutting the tax would mean more incentive to fly, which would cause higher carbon emissions - at a time when we should be cutting them.

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