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Latest news stories:

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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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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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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No 10 admits Tories lack votes to push Heathrow runway through, after it is left out of Queen’s Speech

The Queen’s Speech made no mention of proposals to build new Heathrow runway. Indeed there was no mention of aviation at all.  The Queen's Speech was intended to set out the programme of the government for two years, and was hugely weaker than it would have been, if the Conservatives had won a majority in the June general election. If they had, they would have pushed the manifesto intention of getting the runway built. Downing Street later said Theresa May remained committed to holding a Commons vote on the Heathrow NPS, but there is now serious doubt they could push it through without a majority.  Now the most controversial Tory plans have had to be dropped, in Mrs May’s bid to get her legislative programme through the Commons. Tory whips have warned that as many as 40 Tory MPs could vote against Heathrow runway plans over concerns about noise and the environmental impact on their constituencies. The vote on the Heathrow NPS was likely to be a free vote, due to the known opposition of senior ministers, Boris Johnson and Justine Greening. Labour’s position on Heathrow is unclear, but John McDonnell and London Mayor Sadiq Khan are strongly opposed to it. Jeremy Corbyn is himself opposed, and it is likely that Labour will now oppose the runway plans, to force an embarrassing defeat on the Government.

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Mayor of London publishes draft Transport strategy for consultation – not in favour of Heathrow runway

The Mayor of London has published his draft Transport strategy for consultation.  It states: "A three-runway Heathrow, however, would have severe noise and air quality impacts and put undue strain on the local public transport and road networks, and alternative airport expansion options should be considered. London’s growth is important, and it must be made to work for all of the city’s current and future residents."  And  Policy 20: "The Mayor will continue to oppose expansion of Heathrow airport unless it can be shown that no new noise or air quality harm would result and the benefits of future regulatory and technology improvements would be fairly shared with affected communities. Any such expansion must also demonstrate how the surface access networks will be invested in to accommodate the resultant additional demand alongside background growth."  Also Proposal 96: "The Mayor will seek a commitment from Government to fund and deliver within an appropriate timescale the extensive transport measures required to support the expansion of Heathrow."   The consultation closes on 2nd October 2017.  It can be found here.  People responding do not have to answer every question, but can say if they agree or disagree, and whether the Mayor should consider other aspects. 

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Stop Stansted Expansion brands airport expansion plans as premature and opportunistic

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has condemned Stansted Airport for insulting the intelligence of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and the community at large by claiming that its latest expansion proposals will have "no significant adverse environmental effects".   SSE's Chairman Peter Sanders has further stressed the need for the council not to be hoodwinked by the airport's spurious claim and to ensure a comprehensive, honest and thorough assessment of all the environmental impacts that would result from major expansion.  The statement comes following the airport's 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.  If approved, this would mean an extra 20 million passengers and an extra 104,000 flights every year blighting the lives of thousands across the region. Stansted hasn't even started to make use of its 2008 permission to grow from 25mppa to 35mppa.  Even by its own projections, the airport doesn't expect to reach 35mppa until 2024 although the credibility of its forecasts is questionable given its wildly inaccurate record on this front.

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New report shows Scot Gov plan to cut aviation tax will damage Scotland and mainly benefit frequent fliers

A new report published by Scottish Green MSPs shows that the Scottish Government's plan to cut aviation tax will cost the Scottish public purse hundreds of millions of pounds and put £47.3million into the pockets of businesses.  It also shows wealthy frequent fliers stand to gain hugely more from the tax cut than regular travellers.  This week the Scottish Greens will make a final attempt to amend the Air Departure Tax Bill at Holyrood so that instead of rewarding wealthy households and corporations and a highly-polluting industry, any new tax regime encourages a reduction in aviation and a shift towards cleaner forms of transport. The report finds that much of the benefit of the planned cut will accrue to those living in Scotland’s central belt; only 6% of all international flights by UK residents are taken by children, so the SNP's claim that this policy will help "families" is highly misleading; such a generous tax subsidy for business flights within the UK will harm rail travel by incentivising a shift towards air travel; and reducing the cost of air travel will lower the cost of taking holidays outside of Scotland relative to holidays within Scotland, "cannibalising" holidaymakers from Scotland’s domestic tourism industry and worsening the deficit between what we spend abroad and what visitors spend here.

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Campaigners point out that cutting Scottish air tax benefits rich households and corporations the most

Plans by the Scottish Government to reduce and then abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland are “predominantly a tax giveaway for Scotland’s wealthiest households and corporations”, according to a new report. The study by the Fellow Travellers campaign group against high carbon emitting air travel found 70% of Scotland’s richest households stand to benefit from the proposed cut, compared to 30% of the poorest.  A Scottish air departure tax is set to come into force from April 2018 if passed by parliament, replacing APD. The SNP wants the tax cut by half by the end of this parliamentary term, with the charge to be scrapped when resources allow, claiming it will improve connectivity and create economic benefits. However, the Fellow Travellers report found that, based on official figures, halving the tax would lead to £189 million in lost revenue for Scotland by 2021/22.  It says:  “The SNP’s commitment has fired the starting gun for a race to the bottom on air passenger taxes in Great Britain. Any competitive advantage conferred on Scotland’s airports from a reduction in these taxes will be short-lived.” .... “This is predominantly a tax giveaway for Scotland’s wealthiest households and corporations.”  APD currently brings in about £300 million per year. That could pay to employ 11,500 nurses. Or fund a year of childcare for 54,000 children. Or convert every bus in Edinburgh to being fully electric.

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easyJet puts first slightly less noisy A320-neo into service at Luton – campaigners hope for more

Campaigners fighting to stop aircraft noise pollution above St Albans and Harpenden are calling for targets to be set for the introduction of quieter planes.  easyJet, based at Luton, has introduced their first neo-engined A320 aircraft, which are a bit quieter than standard planes, and the Luton and District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (LADACAN) is calling on airport operators to expand their roll-out of these aircraft to decrease noise pollution. LADACAN spokesman Andrew Lambourne said: “We welcome this long-awaited step, but let’s remember that we were promised quieter aircraft hand-in-hand with significant expansion. We’ve had much faster than anticipated expansion, so now we’re asking for an accelerated roll-out of these quieter aircraft, instead of continuing to add more of the noisiest types to the mix.  Let’s hear details of proactive measures to attract quieter planes to Luton by way of reducing landing fees for quieter types and increasing fees for noisier types. Meanwhile we are still calling on the airport operators to tighten their noise controls and raise the penalties for noisy flights as an added incentive to change.” While easyJet makes nice-sounding statements about reducing CO2 and noise impacts per flight, they plan to increase the number of flights as much as possible - negating any improvements.

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Tory MPs say Heathrow runway ‘not going to happen’ following hung parliament

Conservative MPs have warned that a manifesto pledge to expand Heathrow will not go ahead, following Theresa May's failure to secure a majority in the election.  As many as 40 of the Prime Minister's own MPs are against the building of a 3rd runway.  Labour are divided on the issue and their election manifesto only committed the party to expand Britain’s airport capacity, with four conditions; the proposed Heathrow runway cannot meet those conditions. Zac Goldsmith, the Tory MP for Richmond - re-elected in June - tweeted: " Heathrow expansion... not going to happen."  He told The Sun: "Heathrow expansion already faced huge obstacles, not least a very strong legal challenge by Local Authorities and appalling air pollution implications.” Both Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, are ardent opponents of a Heathrow third runway. The campaign, No 3rd Runway, canvassed candidates before the election and found 31 out of London's 73 MPs were opposed to the runway, many posing for photos endorsing their pledge to oppose it.  The number of opponents would far outweigh Mrs May’s waver thin Commons majority potentially provided by the DUP.The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is opposed to it. The new Minister for London, Greg Hands, is opposed to it.

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Northern Powerhouse minister, and CEO of Rail for the North, both resign

The concept of the Northern Powerhouse was encouraged by George Osborne. He became the Chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership in September 2016. While Heathrow likes to claim its 3rd runway would help the growth of the Northern Powerhouse, the reality is that profitable long haul flights from airports in the north would be negatively impacted by Heathrow getting a greater monopoly of them. The huge sums of public money that would need to be spent on Heathrow surface infrastructure would also possibly mean less money available to be spent in the north and the regions. The Conservative Manifesto said: "We will continue our programme of strategic national investments, including High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport". However, now the Northern Powerhouse minister, Andrew Percy, has resigned from the job and decided to return to the backbenches. The Manchester Evening News says: "Questions have been raised about the Conservative's commitment to former Chancellor's George Osborne’s creation, a project to encourage economic growth in the north." The Chief Executive of Transport for the North of England, David Brown, has also left his job, to work for Arriva.

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With Saudi-Qatar diplomatic ties cut, and airspace closed, Qatar Airways asks ICAO to step in

In early June, a longstanding war of words between Saudi Arabia and its oil and gas-rich neighbour Qatar has got worse.  Saudi Arabia and three of its biggest allies — Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain — all announced that they were severing diplomatic ties with Qatar, as well as suspending air, land, and sea travel to and from the country. The move came after Riyadh accused Qatar of backing radical Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Since then, Libya, Yemen, and the Maldives have also joined the diplomatic boycott. Qatar owns 20% of Heathrow, and its funding would be needed to pay for the 3rd runway.  Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries on earth, but it’s going to feel the pain all the same because it relies heavily on its neighbours for trade and travel in and out of the region. The peninsular nation imports most of its food through its land border with Saudi, which is now closed. Now Qatar Airways CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has called on ICAO to step in to the diplomatic rift that has closed Saudi airspace, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt airspace to Qatar Airways. This has not only halted air traffic between Qatar and the four Gulf states, but also is forcing Qatar Airways to fly longer distances on some long-haul routes.

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Heathrow overtaken by Schiphol as Europe’s top airport for direct connectivity

London Heathrow has been toppled from its ranking as the number one airport in Europe for direct connectivity, according to a new report (not available to the public) from Airports Council International (ACI) Europe.  Amsterdam's Schiphol airport now has the top ranking, with Frankfurt third, and Paris Charles de Gaulle fourth and Istanbul Ataturk fifth - on level of "direct connectivity." Schiphol has risen up the ranks fast since 2007, and about 20% + of its flights are low cost. The ACI Europe's airport industry connectivity report found that for the 2nd year in a row, direct connectivity is growing at a faster rate than indirect and hub connectivity. ACI Europe said this reflected the expansion of low-cost carriers on both short- and medium-haul markets and "the relative retrenchment of network carriers".  Frankfurt is still the highest-ranked airport for hub connectivity in the world, with Amsterdam in second, then Dallas-Fort Worth, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Atlanta.  ACI noted that over the past 10 years, 99% of the growth in passenger traffic of the top 20 European airports was due to low-cost airlines. Low-cost carriers have moved into larger airports and hubs, and they are now making inroads into the long-haul market.

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Follow up study over decade indicates aircraft noise increases risk of heart disease

A study published in the online journal BMJ Occupational & Environmental Medicine indicates that people who live close to an airport and are constantly barraged by the sound of planes are at increased risk of heart disease. A study found that people who were exposed to the highest noise levels, particularly at night, were at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and heart flutter. There is just an association, rather than proof that the aircraft noise was causing health problems, although the scientists took into account socio-economic background and various other predictors of health of the participant. The work builds on a growing body of evidence showing the detrimental health effects of noise exposure. The study followed up, in 2013, the subjects who lived near the Athens International Airport and had participated in the cross-sectional multi-country HYENA study in 2004–2006. In the decade following the study, 71 of the participants were newly diagnosed with high blood pressure and 44 were diagnosed with heart flutter (cardiac arrhythmia). Exposure to aircraft noise, particularly at night, was associated with high blood pressure, with every additional 10dB of night-time aircraft noise translating to a 69% heightened risk of the condition. There was also a link between the risk of heart flutter and night-time aircraft noise.

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Trump administration considering whether to remain in ICAO aviation emissions agreement, CORSIA

US President Donald Trump announcing on June 1 that the US will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. The ICAO aviation emissions agreement is now ‘under review’ by his administration. It has not decided whether the US government will remain committed to the ICAO aviation emissions agreement and is unlikely to make a decision soon. The Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) is set to go into effect in 2021. So far, 70 countries, including the US, have committed to participating in the agreement’s voluntary phases from 2021-2026. The Obama administration committed the US to CORSIA when it was adopted in autumn 2016. A State Department spokesperson said the Paris accord and CORSIA “are separate international agreements with different implications” and Trump’s Paris decision “does not signal the US position on CORSIA.” However, it is thought likely that US commitment to CORSIA is weakened. The global aviation industry, through IATA, back the CORSIA agreement, largely because it is so weak and ineffective that is does very little indeed to prevent continuation of growth and "business as usual." It avoids the industry having problems with stronger regional controls on carbon emissions.

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Grayling continues as Transport Secretary – Gove replaces Leadsom at Environment, including dealing with air pollution

Chris Grayling has kept his job as transport secretary after Theresa May carried out a minor post-election reshuffle, but Michael Gove has returned to the Cabinet as environment secretary, at DEFRA. Most cabinet ministers retained their posts, but Andrea Leadsom has been moved from Environment to Leader of the Commons. Mr Gove will have to tackle the issue of air quality, where the Government was forced to publish a draft national plan to tackle NO2 pollution from vehicles before the election and is facing further legal action. ClientEarth, which brought the High Court case requiring ministers to rewrite their national air quality plan, has already returned to the courts to challenge the new draft plan, even though the consultation on the plan runs until Thursday (15 June). Defra has said it is preparing its final plan for publication by 31 July, ‘in line with the timetable directed by the Courts’. Dr Thérèse Coffey will remain as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at DEFRA with the air quality portfolio.

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Airbus says production ‘could’ move out of Britain unless Brexit demands on free movement etc are met

Airbus says production ‘could’ move out of Britain unless Brexit demands are met, and they want "non-negotiable" demands over the free movement of people. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Theresa May agreeing to begin Brexit talks in the “next couple of weeks” Airbus chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier has set out “minimum” demands on Brexit. As well as the free movement of workers, they want trade tariffs and regulatory conditions. Airbus insists that the Brexit deal must allow staff from all over the world to enter Britain easily, ensure that parts are exempt from trade tariffs and ensure certain regulatory standards are maintained. Otherwise, he said, Britain would risk losing Airbus production in the future, as it is easy to set up plants elsewhere in the world. Airbus builds wings for around 50% of its aircraft at Broughton and has a wing-design facility at Filton, Bristol. The two sites have about 10,000 staff, and Airbus claims it also supports around 100,000 UK supply chain jobs (indirectly). The company has always warned Brexit may see a reduction in investment in the UK and while wing production for the best-selling A320 and A380 would remain at Broughton, Brégier warned the next generation of models could go to other countries.

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Election fallout: will government plan to get 3rd Heathrow runway be hit?

The Conservatives are set to form a minority government, which could affect a range of transport issues from Heathrow expansion to road schemes even if the Conservatives remain in Government. Although Theresa May intends to continue as prime minister, with the support of the DUP, we are now entering a time of uncertainty. Anti-Heathrow expansion campaign group HACAN has done its own research on MPs, showing that 31 of the capital’s 73 MPs are known to oppose the runway. HACAN chair John Stewart said: ‘Once the views of all London’s MPs are known, it is highly likely that a majority will be opposed to Heathrow expansion. Of themselves they may not stop it but they could act as a very awkward bloc to a new runway ever seeing the light of day, particularly given the fact that the new Government doesn’t have a majority of seats in Parliament.’ Rob Barnstone, coordinator for Stop Heathrow Expansion, the group representing residents opposed to the project, claimed the failure of the Conservatives to win a majority in the Commons has created less certainty on issues including the third runway at Heathrow. He said: "The Government were relying on a large parliamentary majority, including many new and loyal backbenchers, to push through a third runway. "Now that Theresa May's gamble has rendered her anything but a conquering hero, the future of the project looks much less certain and potentially in jeopardy."

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Around 42% of London MPs (since the election) oppose a 3rd Heathrow runway

List from John Stewart, Chair of Hacan, (the main residents' group working on Heathrow noise issues) of the MPs known to be, or believed to be, opposed to a 3rd Heathrow runway. So far they number 31 MPs out of the total of 73, and more details may be added when the information is known. In the 2005 election, the Conservatives had 306 seats. In the 2010 election they had 330 seats. Now in the 2017 election, the Conservatives have 318 seats. The party wants to get the 3rd Heathrow runway built. The Conservatives may form an alliance with the Irish DUP, which has 10 MPs and is a firm backer of the 3rd runway. That alliance would take the Tories to 328 MPs, which is 3 above the key number of half the MPs in the Commons (650). The hung parliament will make it harder for the government to force through highly contentious, and widely unpopular polices like the runway.

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Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe to leave in July to work on regional business

Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, Paul Kehoe, will step down as chief executive of Birmingham Airport on 12th July.  He will then focus more on his regional commitments with business bodies. He has been CEO of the airport since October 2008.  Since then the annual number of passengers has risen from 9.5 million to 12 million, the airport is currently undergoing a £100 million programme of works, and is expanded its route network and the number of airlines operating.

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Three dioceses near Heathrow say Brexit and climate change put 3rd runway

The alleged need for the expansion of Heathrow has been challenged by the 3 dioceses most directly affected by proposals for a 3rd runway. In a joint submission to the Government on the draft NPS consultation on building a 3rd runway, the dioceses of London, Oxford, and South­wark suggest that outside factors such as Brexit, international terrorism, and climate change could negate arguments that an in­­crease in air traffic is necessary to sustain the British economy. The dioceses say that, while they stop short of out­right opposition at this stage, they are posing “major questions and challenges on moral, social and environmental aspects”. They say that “from a faith basis, and an ethical perspective" the proposals entail severe social and environmental impacts. Christians believe the environment to be God’s creation, over which we have a duty to take good care — which the Government is committed to doing. "This is a spiritual and a moral question, to which the Government should give very great weight.” And . “[Its] discourse is littered with the clichés of contemporary politics — ‘major step forward’, ‘building a global Britain’, ‘making the big decisions. . .’, ‘to forge a new role’, ‘a clear signal that Britain is open for business’, ‘an economy that works for everyone’. One is tempted to discern in this something of a cargo cult, in which the construction of a smart new runway will some­­how magically deliver the goods.”

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Heathrow now considering (not tunnel or bridge) but cheaper series of “viaducts” over M25

Heathrow has a huge problem in how to get a runway over the busiest, widest stretch of the M25. The original plan was a full 14-lane tunnel about 2,000 feet long. Then there were plans for a sort of bridge over the road. Even those would be prohibitively expensive (Heathrow says it would only pay £1.1 billion on roads etc). Now there are plans, by Phil Wilbraham, who oversaw the construction of Heathrow's terminals 2 and 5, to build a cheaper system. It would be 3 parallel bridges across the M25, with narrow ones for taxiways at the side, and a wider one for the runway in the centre. The plan is for a 2 mile long runway, to take even the largest planes. The main airline at Heathrow, British Airways, suggested a runway about 1,000 feet shorter, that would not need to cross the motorway, but that might not be able to take A380s, and would mess up the flight patterns. The earlier "bridge" concept would have meant the runway would be on a slight slope, to get over the motorway. The cost of moving the thousands of tonnes of earth would be immense, and it is thought Heathrow has had to reconsider. The airlines do not want to have to pay for the building costs of roads etc associated with a 3rd runway. The government does not want to force Heathrow to pay, as this would mean increasing the cost of flying - and reduce demand at Heathrow.

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Another response by Sir Jeremy Sullivan on the NPS, showing his oversight is not satisfactory

ir Jeremy Sullivan was given the task, by the government, of monitoring the DfT consultation on the draft Airports NPS. People can write to him with concerns about the process. Some very unsatisfactory responses have been received. One person wrote to say: "One of the boards at the consultation displays said the following: “Expanding Heathrow is estimated to deliver additional benefits to passengers and the wider economy up to £61 billion over 60 years.” In the absence of explanation, any normal person (one who has not obtained and studied the detailed evidence) would take this to mean that there is an overall economic benefit from Heathrow expansion. In fact this is not the case. The £61bn is GROSS benefits, the benefits without any of the costs being subtracted. If costs are subtracted the NET economic benefit, according to the DFT, is £0.2bn to £6.1bn. That is, 10 to 300 times smaller. .... This is not a matter of content, which you have stated you will not consider. It is a matter of balance, objectivity and not misleading the public in a consultation." And the reply? "Whether statements such as those which you mention in your email are/are not ‘misleading’ is a matter of opinion. This is precisely the kind of point that you can make in response to the consultation." ie. washing his hands of his responsibilities in this task. Nobody else is overseeing his overseeing of this very poor consultation.

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Spanish study shows traffic-related air pollution negatively affects children’s attention in the short term

Research from Barcelona's Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology, by a team of ISGlobal researchers, indicates that on days with high air pollution, there was a marked reduction in the children's ability to focus on problem-solving tasks. The study looked at two traffic-related pollutants—nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and elemental carbon (also known as black carbon). The children who had been exposed to high air pollution on their way to school took longer to respond to questions and found it harder than usual to concentrate. On average, their brain function slowed to the point where attention span was that of someone a month younger. Scientists tracked 2,700 pupils aged 7 to 10, in about 300 classrooms in 39 schools in the city of Barcelona.t They tested their ability to pay attention in class and comparing the results with peaks and troughs in air quality. This shows children's brains work less well when are exposed to high levels of air pollution, especially from diesel. This research suggests that polluted air in Britain's cities is negatively affecting youngsters' brains as well as their lungs. Fine particles in diesel fumes raise our risk of suffering heart damage and an early death. The same team in 2015 found pupils' brain function developed at a slower rate if exposed to high levels of air pollution.

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BA’s owner- IAG – launches new trans-Atlantic budget airline “Level”

"Level" is IAG's low-cost transatlantic service, which will operate from Barcelona. British Airways owner IAG is already looking to expand "Level" across Europe as early as 2018.  It has now launched its inaugural flight from Barcelona to Los Angeles, with 314 passengers onboard. Flights to LA will operate twice weekly, and also three-times weekly service to San Francisco.  Level will operate the service with two new Airbus A330 aircraft, and then airline confirmed it would increase its fleet to five aircraft in 2018.  Level has already sold a lot of tickets, and is hoping to get new passengers, some of whom are flying long-haul for the first time. There will be about 21 premium economy seats.  Level will initially be operated by Iberia’s crew and create up to 250 jobs in Barcelona.  The Oslo-based budget airline Norwegian now has 13 Dreamliners in service with 30 more on order to fly passengers from cities including London and Paris across the Atlantic.   Other airlines are looking at low budget fares long haul to the USA too. Iceland's budget airline WOW will be offering flights from Gatwick, Bristol and Edinburgh to Chicago and Lufthansa's Eurowings will have more cheap flights to Orlando, Florida and Seattle.

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Report finds widespread wildlife trafficking at airports across 114 countries, including Heathrow

In June 2016 officials discovered 142 kg of ivory in six suitcases in Charles de Gaulle Airport. All six bags belonged to one passenger who was traveling from Angola to Vietnam through Paris. A new analysis - by C4ADS - of global airport wildlife seizure and trafficking data reveals that criminals are exploiting air transport to smuggle protected and endangered animals and animal products on commercial flights. The report, “Flying Under the Radar: Wildlife Trafficking in the Air Transport Sector,” analyses airport seizures of ivory, rhino horn, birds and reptiles from January 2009 to August 2016.  Wildlife traffickers moving ivory, rhino horn, reptiles and birds by air tend to rely on large hub airports all over the world. Overall, 114 countries had at least one instance of wildlife trafficking in the air transport sector during the period covered by the report. Some of these, especially of reptiles and birds, involve European airports.  The report says creating awareness among personnel and passengers, training air industry staff, strengthening enforcement seizure protocols and reporting and sharing seizure information, could cut the numbers.  In the UK, Heathrow is the main place that illegally trafficked wildlife products travel through. The illegal trade seriously threatens many species, and is a high profit enterprise.

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Client Earth taking UK government back to court for 3rd time over inadequate air pollution plans

Environmental lawyers who have defeated ministers twice, on UK air pollution improvements, are going back to court to try to remove ‘major flaws’ from government's air quality plans. Environmental lawyers, Client Earth, are taking the government to the high court for a 3rd time. They have inflicted two humiliating defeats on the government over previous plans, which the court ruled did not meet legal requirements. ClientEarth had requested improvements to the latest plan (published on 5th May) from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) but were refused, prompting the new court action. James Thornton, chief executive of Client Earth, said: "The law requires the final plan to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the shortest time possible. These flaws seriously jeopardise that timetable. These are plans for more plans, what we need are plans for action.” Client Earth says the most effective way to reduce NO2 pollution is by discouraging polluting vehicles from entering cities and towns. However, the DEFRA consultation states that charging zones should only be the option of last resort, after measures such as removing speed bumps and encouraging cycling have been tried. However, those measures would have insufficient effect. Government is reluctant to penalise drivers of diesel vehicles, who bought them in good faith.

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Despite Trump, EU and China to back climate deal – to include aviation and shipping

A leaked document shows EU and China are more convinced of climate strategy than ever and willing to ensure aviation and shipping contribute to domestic and international measures. The EU and China are expected to announce plans to reinforce co-operation on delivering a climate deal for shipping at the IMO. This comes after US President Trump confirming that the US is pulling out of the Paris Accord. The EU and China say they “consider climate action and the clean energy transition an imperative more important than ever" and they will “ensure that aviation and shipping contribute to combating climate change, including both through domestic measures and international co-operation.” The 19th bilateral summit between the EU and China is taking place on June 1-2 in Brussels. The aim is to advance on the strategic partnership between the EU and China. Further agreement will be made on the importance of emissions trading schemes as a cost-effective climate policy tool. The statement says the EU and China will reinforce bilateral co-operation activities on emissions trading in the context of reforming the EU ETS and starting a national ETS in China this year. Transport & Environment (T&E) director for transport and aviation Bill Hemmings welcomed the reports on future co-operation on climate change.

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No mention of backing for Heathrow runway in SNP manifesto (despite backing last year)

The SNP manifesto has come out, and despite the party saying last year that it backed the 3rd runway at Heathrow, there is no mention of it this time. There is a whole section on aviation policy, (p. 26 https://www.snp.org/manifesto ) but no mention of the runway. This is significant, coming only 7 months after the memorandum of understanding the SNP signed with Heathrow. (October 2016). The manifesto outlines that the SNP will press the UK Government to commit to the Open Skies Agreement in the Brexit negotiations, expand direct international connectivity, protect existing connections within the UK and press the UK Government to secure an exemption from air passenger duty on flights to and from the Highlands and Islands. On airspace policy, the SNP back the need to reform UK airspace and more community engagement in the formation of flight paths in future. The SNP backing for the Heathrow runway was based on economic forecasts that were wildly exaggerated and misleading, (the "up to £147 billion benefit to all the UK over 60 years" claim )and which even the DfT knows were wrong. The actual benefit to the UK is more likely perhaps £6 billion (over 60 years). The promises of new jobs etc are also now seen to have been inflated and misleading. Why would an independent Scotland want to depend on air freight going via Heathrow?

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Doubt a power surge caused BA’s IT fiasco – bad system, bad planning etc more likely

A massive failure of British Airways' IT system left 300,000 passengers stranded around the world. This will be remembered as a catastrophic event for BA. And there are many questions about what happened. BA said it was due to a “power surge” that was “so strong that it rendered the back-up system ineffective”. But some experts have subsequently publicly expressed their doubt about how true that is, and do not believe a power surge would be able to bring down a data centre, let alone a data centre and its back-up. One said that would mean either bad design of the system, or some other explanation. Normally a data centre would have surge protection, which is there to protect against exactly this problem. There should also be an uninterruptible power supply, and proper earthing systems. The companies supplying the area where BA holds its data say there was no power surge. Experts say much of the problem was the time taken to reboot the system. But the overly-complex IT system is largely outsourced to India - and many of the experts in UK who initially helped to cultivate and develop the network left when the jobs were moved. The extent of the BA problem may be due to poor crisis management planning, an under-trained and under-staffed IT support team and a poor understanding of the wider logistics. The reputational costs to BA could be huge and very significant.

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Leading economists warn that very high carbon tax, starting soon, needed to avoid climate catastrophe

A group of leading economists have warned that the world risks catastrophic global warming in just 13 years unless countries raise taxes on CO2 emissions to as much as $100 (£77) per metric tonne. Experts including Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz and former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern believe governments must impose a tax on CO2 of $40-$80 per tonne by 2020, to limit emissions from high carbon polluting industries. The price needs to rise to $50-$100 by 2030. This would be needed to attempt to prevent global temperature rising above 2C, in line with targets set by the Cop21 Paris Agreement in 2015. In a report by the High Level Commission on Carbon Prices, backed by the World Bank and the IMF, the authors suggest poor countries could aim for a lower tax, as their economies are more vulnerable. Currently though Europe talks the talk on carbon, the EU carbon trading system currently charges major polluters just €6 (£5.20) for every tonne of CO2, which is far too low to have any impact. Stiglitz and Stern say CO2 prices should rise now, to give businesses and governments the necessary incentive to lower CO2 emissions even when fossil fuels are cheap. The rise in the cost of carbon, if the aviation industry was included, would have a significant impact on the cost of air travel, reducing demand slightly.

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British Airways could have to pay £100m compensation bill to passengers due to its huge IT failure

British Airways could face a bill of at least £100 million in compensation for its passengers affected by the cancellations and delays caused by its IT systems failure. The problem, perhaps caused by a loss of electric power, which then lead to most systems not working, resulted in BA flights around the world being unable to take off, passengers unable to check in, even the website not working. The problem affected Heathrow the most in England, as the largest base for BA. Gatwick was also affected. In total about 1,000 flights were affected, with problems likely to last several days more, while systems are fixed and planes get back into the right places. As this computer fault is entirely the fault of BA (and not any sort of "act of God") BA will be liable to pay full compensation, to anyone delayed over 3 hours. The airline was particularly busy as it was the start of the school half term, and also a Bank Holiday weekend, with people flying for weekends away. The GMB union said the problem had been caused in part because BA made many good IT staff redundant in 2016, to save money. They instead outsourced the work to India. Besides the huge cost of compensation (and improving its IT resilience) BA will have suffered serious reputational damage, with many saying they would avoid ever flying with BA again.

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Heathrow loses High Court challenge on charging Crossrail trains using the line it built

Heathrow has lost a High Court challenge over access charges it can can levy on Crossrail trains travelling to the airport. The airport spent £1 billion building a five-mile spur 20 years ago to connect Heathrow to the Great Western track. Legal action was triggered after the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) decided the amount which Heathrow could charge Crossrail, and others, for using the spur could not include any amount connected to the recovery of the spur building costs. Heathrow applied for a judicial review at London's High Court, arguing the decision was irrational and ORR had no power to reach any decision over the access charge at all. Now Mr Justice Ouseley has ruled that the challenge failed on all grounds. He refused permission to appeal, but Heathrow can still ask the Court of Appeal to hear the case. Heathrow is counting on the arrival of Crossrail in May 2018, as part of its plans to increase the airport's rail capacity by 2040. There had been concerns that had the decision gone in favour of Heathrow, Transport for London (TfL) may have opted not to serve the airport at all. Heathrow needs a higher proportion of passengers to arrive by rail, to try to deal with its air pollution problems.

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IAG warns the “costs and complexity” of bridging M25 could be major problem for Heathrow runway plans

British Airways' owner International Airlines Group (IAG) estimates bridging the M25, close to the M4 junction, would cost £2 billion-£3 billion. The Airports Commission suggested the cost could be higher, with £5 billion for local road upgrades, including the tunnel. The Commission said Heathrow should pay for these, as part of the cost of building its runway. The cost and complexity of somehow putting the runway over the busiest, widest section of motorway in the UK are considerable. IAG, as by far the largest airline at Heathrow, does not want to be charged for this work, which would mean putting up the price of its air tickets. IAG says there is no detailed risk and cost analysis of the airport's plans on what to do with the M25, though a bridge is cheaper than a tunnel. Willie Walsh said: “Airlines were never consulted on the runway length and they can operate perfectly well from a slightly shorter runway that doesn’t cross the M25.” He wants Heathrow to build a shorter runway of 3,200m rather than 3,500m that does not require going over the M25. But that would mean the motorway directly at the end of the runway, in the worse danger zone. IAG says: “We will not pay for a runway that threatens both costs and delays spiralling out of control and where critical elements of the project could be undeliverable."

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Eurostar to run direct trains (under 4 hours) from London to Amsterdam by end of 2017

Direct Eurostar services between London and Amsterdam will be operating by the end of the year, sparking a major price war with airlines. Initially there will be 2 trains per day and the journey from St Pancras to Amsterdam city centre will take just under 4 hours. Direct Eurostars between London and Rotterdam are also due to start before long. There is considerable, lucrative, demand due to Christmas markets in Amsterdam. Eurostar is now set to challenge companies including British Airways and easyJet, on price, speed, ease, convenience and quality of service. Eurostar already competes with airlines with low fares, as low as £25 one way, between London and Brussels. Eurostar has bought new e320 trains and refurbished others. The e320 trains have 20% more capacity, and wifi. Part of the route to Amsterdam is with Dutch rail operator NS International, which operates high-speed links to Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris and other destinations. In March Eurostar announced the opening of a new high-speed link to Bordeaux, with an easy connection in Paris (Gare du Nord to Montparnasse) with train times linking up. This trip cuts an hour off the journey time to Bordeaux, and offers an alternative to flying.

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EU study shows most carbon offsets do not work – aviation sector plans depend on them

Carbon offsets are not working, according to a study by the European Commission. The concept of carbon offsets is to allow polluters to pay others to reduce their CO2 emissions, so they can continue to pollute. This is usually considered the cheapest ("most cost effective") way to make token gesture carbon cuts. The EC research found that 85% of the offset projects used by the EU under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) failed to reduce CO2 emissions.  EU member states decided not to allow the use of offsets to meet European climate goals after 2021. The global market-based measure adopted last October by ICAO relies exclusively on offsetting in its attempt at “carbon neutral growth” for aviation from 2020. Yet Europe is now endorsing the approach at ICAO to address international aviation emissions using the same approach that this report so thoroughly discredits. The problem with offsets is that they are often not making the CO2 cuts suggested, or that the cuts would have happened anyway.  To make matters worse, the ICAO agreement so far fails to include important safeguards which would exclude the worst types of offsets eg. forestry credits, or ensuring adequate transparency about the offsets used. With CDM offsets trading for as little as €0.50 a tonne, offsetting will not cut CO2 - nor will it incentivise greater aircraft efficiency.

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Homebuyers vote noise to be the biggest turn off – plane noise very high on the list

Some new research indicates that homebuyers take noise pollution very seriously when buying a house. According to a recent survey, 92% of homeowners say noise levels from a nearby pub would influence their decision to buy, with 55% saying they definitely wouldn’t buy it. Other noise sources that homeowners say would deter them completely from buying their dream property include airports (54%), motorways (48%) an airport flight path (45%), electricity pylons (40%) and a train mainline (36%). And 38% of homeowners say noise levels from an A-road would make them reconsider the purchase. After a nearby noisy pub, airports were a close second on the list of noise pollutants that would affect someone's decision to buy. 91% saying they would be influenced and over half (54%) saying noise levels from an airport would put them off completely. Only 9% of homebuyers said they would look beyond the noise levels and buy anyway. 45% of homebuyers said the noise from flight paths would put them off completely. 30% said they would reconsider buying, while 15% said that they would be willing to offer a lower price for an affected property. The advice given is that with the potential expansion to Heathrow, homebuyers would be wise to look at the new flight path before committing to a new home purchase. But that is not possible, as there are not likely to be flight path maps for several more years ...

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Walsh says Heathrow does not have the ability to ring fence slots to increase domestic flight routes

A row has emerged between British Airways and Heathrow over the airport leading domestic airports to believe they will get air links to Heathrow, if it builds a 3rd runway. Heathrow has written to the government asking it to “ring-fence” a proportion of its take-off and landing slots for domestic flights. But BA has replied that Heathrow does not have any standing to control destinations served by the slots. Willie Walsh, IAG's CEO said: “It’s not in Heathrow’s gift to increase domestic flying from the airport ... Airlines, not airports, decide where to fly based on routes’ profitability.” He wants Heathrow to keep its charges down, so IAG's airlines can keep growing and making more money. Walsh says only with low airport charges would there be many domestic flights, as they are otherwise not profitable. Currently, only 6% of passengers travel on domestic flights from Heathrow. It has links to 8 UK destinations. Heathrow has told several airports that it will pay for a Route Development Fund, for 3 years, to subsidise some routes and get them going. It has not said it would subsidise them indefinitely. European regulations restrict how much flights to small airports can be subsidised, due to competition concerns. Heathrow has depended on backing for its runway plans, from some regional airports, which have been led to believe they will benefit from it.

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Tory manifesto backing for Heathrow runway, during NPS consultation period, turns process into “worthless charade”

Lawyers for HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) will be looking at the Conservative Manifesto pledge to expand Heathrow, despite the public consultation still running. The manifesto states: “We are investing to reduce travel time and cost, increase capacity and attract investment here in the UK. We will continue our programme of strategic national investments, including High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport - and we will ensure that these great projects do as much as possible to develop the skills and careers of British workers.” The current 16 week Department for Transport consultation on the Airports National Policy statement (setting out the policy for the basis of a Heathrow 3rd runway) ends of 25th May. The Manifesto was published on 18th May. Hacan believes the consultation, which is intended to ascertain public opinion about the runway project and conditions that should apply to it, is invalidated by the manifesto pledge. The NPS consultation also has to be assessed by the Transport Select Committee, and then be voted on in parliament, before it is official government policy. But by seeming to pre-empt this process, the Tory manifesto says the party has already made up its mind, which makes the consultation process into a worthless charade.

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Heathrow expansion plans, and ability to reduce road vehicle trips, threatened by Crossrail costs row

Simon Calder, writing in the Independent, says plans to build a 3rd Heathrow runway could be jeopardised by a row between the airport’s owners and Transport for London (TfL). Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4 are expected to be served by the new Crossrail east-west line, which is due to open in May 2018. But Heathrow is demanding very high fees from rail users to pay back the estimated £1 billion cost of the privately funded Heathrow Express spur from the Great Western line - into the airport. That opened in 1998. The Office of Rail and Road said that Heathrow could not recoup the historical costs of building this link. Heathrow challenged this decision, and a legal judgment is expected shortly. If the ruling is in favour of Heathrow, TfL may choose not to serve the airport at all — which would throw into doubt predictions of the proportion of passengers using public transport if a 3rd runway was built. The NPS for the runway requires a higher proportion of passengers and staff to use public transport in future, than now. One of Crossrail’s selling points has been easy access to Heathrow from east London and the City, down to 34 minutes from Liverpool Street to Heathrow. "Without straightforward, low-cost rail links, more airline passengers may opt to go by road to Heathrow — adding to pollution, congestion and noise."

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Green Party Manifesto opposes any UK airport expansion, and wants tough measures on air pollution

The Green Party manifesto says they would ban all airport expansion in the UK. That means no runway at Heathrow, or Gatwick, or Stansted or Manchester - or any other airport. They would "Cancel all airport expansion and end subsidies on airline fuel." They would also "Invest in low traffic neighbourhoods and safe, convenient networks of routes for walking and cycling, including safe places for learning to cycle, so people of all ages and those with disabilities can choose to make local trips on foot, by bike or mobility scooter." And "Help end the public health crisis caused by air pollution by increasing incentives to take diesel vehicles off the roads." The removal of subsidies for aviation, due to the absence of tax on fuel, could raise £13.8 billion for the Treasury. The Green Party is concerned about the levels of air pollution in the UK, and advocate a one-off fine companies that cheated emissions tests - which they believe would raise £8 billion. Jonathan Bartley, who co-leads the party with Caroline Lucas, said: "Airlines currently pay no tax on the fuel they use or VAT, while road users pay 20% VAT on the petrol they buy."

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Enough is enough when it comes to aircraft noise say community groups from across the UK

A large number of community groups, representing hundreds of thousands of UK residents, delivered a statement to Number 10 demanding that the next government takes action to reduce aviation noise and emissions. The groups are seeking a new policy on aircraft noise and tough regulation of the aviation industry that balances the interests of people living near airports and under flight paths with the demands of the industry for more flights. Charles Lloyd of the Aviation Communities Forum said: “Anyone who lives near an airport expects some noise. But the changes caused by new concentrated routes - motorways in the sky - and the growth in flight numbers are having unacceptable affects on people’s lives, up and down the country. ... For far too long the aviation industry has been unaccountable and able to do virtually what it wants in the skies. The industry has little interest in its impact on people on the ground and there’s no proper regulation to hold it to account. The Government’s hands-off attitude needs to change: communities near airports and under flight paths are no longer willing to be ignored. ... Frustration is reaching a boiling point: people can’t sue the industry because its exempt from noise laws, there’s no noise regulator to turn to, the industry plays pass-the-parcel if you try to get things changed and they don’t even have to pay compensation if they destroy your health or the value of your house.” Read the full statement.

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Heathrow and Crossrail in legal dispute over how much TfL would have to pay to use 5 miles of track

Crossrail (the Elizabeth line) is a £15 billion train line designed to cross London from west to east, bringing relief for commuters, but it seems it may not now stop at Heathrow because of a legal row with the airport’s owners over fees. Heathrow has its lucrative Heathrow Express service runs partly on a 5-mile stretch of track, built and paid for (over £1 billion) by the airport. The Crossrail link into Heathrow would run on this section of track. It is an expensive (£25 per ticket) route, and Heathrow's foreign owners want to recoup past spending on the private train line with an “investment recovery charge” of £570 for every train that uses the track, plus extra fees of about £107 per train. But the Elizabeth line, by contrast, will be in line with the fares that apply across the rest of the capital’s transport network. The opening of the new Crossrail service to Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 is expected to throw the financial sustainability of the existing Heathrow Express into question, though Heathrow insists it would continue to run alongside the Elizabeth Line. Heathrow’s owners are now in dispute with the Office of Rail and Road, which sets track access charges, over the amount that TfL, which runs the Elizabeth Line, will need to pay to use the track. The hearings were held earlier this year and a High Court judgment is expected within weeks.

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Inadequate and unsatisfactory replies from Sir Jeremy Sullivan to complaints about the NPS consultation process

Many people have taken part in the DfT's consultation on the draft Airports National Policy Statement (NPS). The NPS is to provide the policy to support a 3rd Heathrow runway. The DfT appointed Sir Jeremy Sullivan, a retired judge, to oversee the consultation and ensure it was carried out adequately. However, it appears Sir Jeremy is only looking at process, and not at content. Responses by Sir Jeremy to letters to him, complaining about the consultation, have received some unsatisfactory responses - and some of these are copied below. Sir Jeremy is unconcerned that the material in the exhibitions by the DfT was biased, and gave only partial information. His view is that as the government is in favour of the runway, it would be expected that the material would reflect this. To all those who complained to him, he merely advises that all comments and points should be sent to the DfT in consultation responses. In response to many people who complained about the absence of flight path detail, he comments that "In my view it is still possible to have a fair consultation upon the basis of indicative flight paths, provided it is made clear that they are only indicative." And on selective quotes from backers of Heathrow (no balance with other comments) he says: "In my view using quotes from business leaders and others which are in support of this position is in keeping with the purpose of the [DfT consultation] events."

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London City Airport’s flights to be controlled from 70 miles away using new system

Manned air traffic control towers at airport may start to be phased out. Technological advances are allowing arrivals and departures to be monitored from miles away using live streams of high-definition video. One of the first to use this technique is London City Airport, where the 50-metre control tower will be populated by a suite of HD cameras instead of people, from 2019. The screens and cameras will link directly to NATS at Swanwick, Hampshire. Controllers there will be able to see in detail all that is going on at London City, and direct planes accordingly. "While staring out of the virtual window at an incoming plane, the controller can see all the identifying flight and radar information in the skies alongside it." The new system enables, at night, the contours of the runway to be highlighted with graphics. In low light, visibility can be improved. And should cameras detect anything that is not authorised traffic, that could be a drone, they can track it. Digital control towers are so far only in operational use in two small airports in Sweden. NATS say the system is no more hackable than current aircraft control, and no less safe. Controllers can expect to be retrained to work at more than one airport, though the Prospect union warned of impacts on the staff if asked to control more than one runway at a time. (Job cuts in future?)

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Boris Johnson says he disagrees with Tory plan to build Heathrow runway – as “very difficult to deliver”

Boris Johnson, who once pledged to lie down in front of the Heathrow bulldozers to block the 3rd runway, has been completely silent on the matter, since being made Foreign Secretary. But he has now made a short comment expressing his opposition to it - the constituency he wants to win back, Uxbridge & South Ruislip, is badly affected by Heathrow flights. He said that the runway would be 'very difficult to deliver' because of noise and pollution concerns. "I don't think it's the right solution. I'll be honest with I think it's very difficult to deliver. I just think noise pollution, the vehicular pollution, the air pollution, these are things that really have to be addressed." The Tory manifesto says they "... will continue with the expansion of Heathrow Airport." He told LBC that "The position is the one I was arguing as Mayor and as Foreign Secretary. That remains unchanged." LBC's Political Editor then asked him: "Has Theresa May got it wrong?" But Mr Johnson was whisked away before he could answer. In October 2016 Theresa May told all Cabinet Ministers “…. no Minister will be permitted to campaign actively against the Government’s position, nor publicly criticise, or call into question the decision-making process itself. Ministers will not be permitted to speak against the Government in the House.”

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Heathrow fares badly in party manifestos – small, limited reference in Tory manifesto

By inserting only a small and limited reference to Heathrow expansion in the Conservative Manifesto (published on 18th May) is interpreted as meaning the Tories are leaving themselves room to drop the proposed runway, if necessary. The manifesto only says: "...We will continue our programme of strategic national investments, including High Speed 2, Northern Powerhouse Rail and the expansion of Heathrow Airport – and we will ensure that these great projects do as much as possible to develop the skills and careers of British workers." The No 3rd Runway Coalition, set up earlier this year, includes over a dozen campaign groups, parliamentary candidates, local authorities and NGOs, working together to oppose Heathrow expansion. The Coalition believes the weak reference could indicate recognition of the insurmountable challenges that expansion at Heathrow faces including poor air quality, climate change, noise reduction, surface access difficulties and costs to the public, and the demolition of thousands of homes. The Labour manifesto only said the party “recognised the need for additional capacity in the south east” and it would “guarantee that any airport expansion “adheres” to Labour's four tests. The LibDems made an explicit commitment not to support a 3rd Heathrow runway, or one at Gatwick or Stansted.

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New group “Plane Hell” set up in Southwark, against Heathrow noise – night flights especially

A local group "Plane Hell" has been formed in Southwark, against the noise of Heathrow planes, which causes a very high level of noise. Often residents get only 5 hours or so of peace from the noise, if the last planes at night are heard at about 11.30pm and the first of the morning is around 4.30am. The local organisation, Southward Can, has set up a petition and a blog on the issue. They want at least 7 hours with no noise, in line with WHO guidelines. And they want a lot better control of noise, with the issue being taken more seriously. In Southwark, there are Heathrow arrivals overhead at around 4,000 feet. The group wants the government's priority to change, so that between 4,000 and 7,000 feet the first priority is cutting noise, rather than airlines cutting fuel bills. The petition has been started by local Camberwell resident Bridget Bell. Bridget and some neighbours believe the noise they endure got worse from July 2016. She said: "I have lived at the same address for 30 years and had you told me that Oval is one of the most densely overflown areas in London I would have looked at you blankly." (There actually have been planes overhead there for many years ...) But she is now very aware of them indeed, and troubled by not getting enough sleep, night after night.

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UK government must not use international climate deal as a “smokescreen” with which to force through Heathrow runway

WWF is urging the next UK Government to come up with a credible climate plan for aviation – not just offsetting. They say the UK should not merely depend on the ICAO deal (very weak) as a “smokescreen” to pave the way for adding a 3rd Heathrow runway. The proposed new runway would make Heathrow the UK’s largest single source of greenhouse gases and increase emissions 15% over the limit for aviation advised by the Government’s independent expert advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC). The UK government hopes the ICAO deal for a global offsetting scheme agreed in Montreal last October – called CORSIA – would allow it to ignore aviation CO2. But the new WWF report Grounded explains ten problems with this approach. These include a weak target well short of the ambition of the Paris climate agreement and ignoring the non-CO2 pollution from planes, which probably almost doubles their overall global warming impact. The ICAO CORSIA scheme is no panacea for limiting the climate change impacts of airports expansion. The CO2 emissions from use of a new runway cannot just be offset. Instead government Ministers need to come up with a credible plan for limiting UK aviation emissions before making any decisions on allowing an extra (intensively used) runway (largely used for long haul flights). Otherwise, with no plan to deal with the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions poses a very real threat to the UK’s legally binding climate change commitments.

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What is in the Labour and LibDem manifestos in relation to aviation

The Labour party has not given more than vague support for a Heathrow runway, merely reiterating their "4 tests" that had been mentioned several years ago. Now their manifesto says: "Labour recognises the need for additional airport capacity in the South East. We welcome the work done by the Airports Commission, and we will guarantee that any airport expansion adheres to our tests that require noise issues to be addressed, air quality to be protected, the UK’s climate change obligations met and growth across the country supported .... We will continue working with our neighbours ... negotiating to retain membership of the Common Aviation Area and Open Skies arrangements." They also say on carbon emissions: "We will reclaim Britain’s leading role in tackling climate change, working hard to preserve the Paris Agreement and deliver on international commitments to reduce emissions while mitigating the impacts of climate change on developing countries." The LibDem manifesto says they will: "Develop a strategic airports policy for the whole of the UK, taking full account of the impacts on climate change and local pollution. We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and any new airport in the Thames Estuary and will focus instead on improving existing regional airports such as Birmingham and Manchester. We will ensure no net increase in runways across the UK."

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