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

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Latest news stories:

SAS raises $75 million from Heathrow slot sale – Virgin uses its slots as collateral

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has sold two pairs of Heathrow slots to an undisclosed buyer, raising $75 million from the transaction. Before the sale, SAS had the 6th largest Heathrow slot portfolio with 19 daily slot pairs. This has now been narrowed to 17 pairs, although under the deal SAS can continue to use the two pairs for up to three years. “The intention is to maintain the seat capacity to/from London Heathrow through the use of larger aircraft on remaining departures.” This is not the first time SAS has sold off part of its Heathrow slot portfolio. In 2015, the airline sold a pair of slots to Turkish Airlines and—in a separate transaction—transferred a pair to an unknown major airline. Whilst the cost of landing at Heathrow is determined by the CAA and Heathrow Airport Holdings, the allocation of landing slots to airlines is carried out by Airport Co-ordination Limited (ACL). IAG, which includes BA, has around 54% of the slots. Virgin has the second highest number (around 3%?) and uses them as collateral, taking the total value of the loan notes it has issued since 2015 against Heathrow slots to £252 million. Many other airlines have small percentages of slots. Details are not readily publicly available, and trading goes on behind closed doors.

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Flybe likely to cancel routes as it prepares for 2017 financial loss – due to weak demand

Flybe has not had a good year, and says a tough aviation market will send it into the red, even without other issues to dent its profits. Its share price is down, at £42.50. Flybe said it has suffered from weak demand recently, "in an uncertain consumer environment, together with price competition arising from overcapacity amongst airlines and sharpened price activity from rail operators. ... Weather related and operational cancellations, as well as industrial action, mainly by French air traffic controllers, also impacted revenue.” Saad Hammad left as Flybe's chief executive in the autumn, and it then announced a 70% fall in pre-tax profits at the half year to £7 million. Flybe will be spending £5 - 10 million on e-commerce and review of its IT. Flybe will be reducing the size of its aircraft fleet - now 85 - and "improve efficiency and stop unprofitable flying.” Flybe announced in December that it would be starting flights between Heathrow and Aberdeen and Edinburgh. It got those slots due to commitments required by the European Commission following the acquisition of BMI by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG). Flybe already has flights from Aberdeen and Edinburgh to London City airport. The airline has been fined £70,000 for sending more than 3.3 million marketing emails to people who had opted out of receiving them.

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MSP motion lodged at Holyrood about Edinburgh Airport flawed flight path consultation

Neil Findlay MSP (Labour Party) is a firm opponent of the changes to flight paths, overflying many areas that were previously unaffected, that Edinburgh airport is planning. He has lodged a motion at Holyrood about the airport’s current consultation on airspace change. If the motion gets sufficient support from MSPs across at least 3 political parties, it becomes eligible to be debated in the Chamber. Neil Findlay was able to lead a previous members’ debate in September 2015 which led to the scrapping of the airport’s TUTUR flight path trial. Neil has now put down a motion in the Scottish Parliament (Motion S5M-04708) saying: "That the Parliament notes what it sees as the growing concerns about Edinburgh Airport’s plan to introduce new flight paths; and asking "Edinburgh Airport scraps what is considered this flawed consultation and begins the process again with up-to-date information and a more robust and credible consultation process." People in Scotland are encouraged, by Edinburgh Airport Watch, to contact their MSP by email to ask them to sign his motion. The consultation by Edinburgh airport is inadequate, contains incorrect information, and is based on faulty data. But the altered routes would inflict noise on new areas, and for huge numbers of those sensitive to noise, have life changing consequences.

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Edinburgh airport flawed and inaccessible consultation on airspace changes condemned by opponents

On 2nd February, Edinburgh Airport launched its second consultation, which closes on 30th April, on its airspace change programme. The consultation is very hard for a layperson to understand, with voluminous documents. The aim is to make more "efficient" use of airspace - ie. fit in more planes, especially at the few times of day when Edinburgh airport is particularly busy, like early morning. People are asked to comment on various route options, many of which mean new areas overflown, and some areas newly intensely overflown, under narrow PBN routes. Hundreds of local people, who will be badly affected by some of the proposed changes, have attended packed public meetings. The local group Edinburgh Airport Watch (EAW) are very worried about the lack of justification for the plans. There are no projected numbers on flights, types of planes, the times of day that planes may fly. EAW say the noise shadows created by the proposed flight paths will be enormous, and will affect hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom will not have been exposed to aircraft noise before. Areas excluded from the initial stage consultation were excluded from the published swathes, told they would not be affected and now find flight paths directly over them. Not surprisingly, they are furious. Neil Findlay MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, asking that the consultation be re-done, with proper information.

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Fears on how Tory party want post-Brexit bonfire of EU “red tape” on environment etc regulations

Brexit comes with immense uncertainties, one of the main ones for anyone concerned with the state of the environment, air pollution, water pollution, or carbon emissions, is how much European legislation will be dumped. The Telegraph writes of how keen it, and many in the government, are to get rid of tiresome regulations that hold back business and economic growth, for no better reason than environmental protection. There are comments like these: the "Telegraph calls on the Conservative Party to promise a bonfire of EU red tape" ... Iain Duncan Smith thinks the Tories should promise at the next election to “whittle away” unnecessary rules, reducing the “burden” on businesses and citizens. ... "we can reduce the cost on business and on individuals by reducing regulations which will improve our competitiveness, our productivity and therefore ultimately our economy” ... Lord Lawson (prominent climate denier) says UK must swiftly seize the chance to “transform the British economy” by cutting “massive” numbers of EU regulations. ... "Builders have been frustrated by rules on preserving newts, which are classed as “endangered” in Europe even though they are thriving in the UK" [probably due to years of protection] .... The Green Alliance is working to ensure proper environmental protections survive. Read their blog here.

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IPPR says apprenticeship levy will deepen north-south divide – with areas like Heathrow benefitting

One of Heathrow's most often repeated claims as benefits for a 3rd runway is taking on 5,000 more apprentices, taking the number up to 10,000, by 2030. In reality, much of the training for apprentices comes from the government, so companies benefit. Many of the apprentices are not young people entering a first job, but existing staff improving their skills. Heathrow would benefit, and get money back, that they have to pay into the levy. Now analysis from the Thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests the new £3 billion levy on larger employers, starting in April 2017, will raise less money and have smaller impact on areas that need it most - in the regions. Instead it will deepen Britain’s north-south divide, with London and the south-east benefiting most, as this is where there is the highest number of big employers. The areas where it is most needed are those that have been hit by deindustrialisation and suffer from low levels of qualifications, low productivity and low pay. Not the Heathrow area. The levy is to be paid by employers in England with a payroll of more than £3m and charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual wage bill (ie. perhaps nearly £3bn per year.) The IPPR said: the government should analyse the regional impact of its new apprenticeships policy, so it does not leave unemployment hotspots in the north-east or Yorkshire with proportionately less funding.

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Virgin likely to be in the red again, and wants lower charges if Heathrow gets a 3rd runway

Virgin Atlantic wants Heathrow to reduce its passenger charges once (perhaps that should say IF) its 3rd runway opens. Virgin CEO Craig Kreeger said charges are already too high. Virgin, naturally, wants flying to be as cheap as possible - or growth in numbers is slower (less profit). Virgin is not doing very well at present. The Times reports that Virgin Atlantic's pre-tax profit, excluding exceptional items, rose by 2.2% to £23 million last year - the 3rd successive year it has been in the black. However, it may make a loss this year, because it faces competition from British Airways and increasing capacity in the North Atlantic market. BA will start low cost transatlantic flights from £86 this summer, on a new airline called Level, from Barcelona.They also have to contend with lower air fares, rising fuel prices, fears of London terrorism and currency fluctuations that will hit profits. Virgin faces weak consumer confidence since the £’s fall against the US $, making trips from the UK to the US, its main route, more expensive. Virgin has to pay more for its fuel and new planes now, as these are bought in dollars. It is not yet known if many US tourists will be wary of coming to London, after the killings in Westminster. Virgin's air cargo turnover fell 15.9%, due to weaker sterling and overcapacity in the market.

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Level: British Airways sister airline offering transatlantic fares dramatically lower than rivals

Now many Brits are so affluent, and have been on holiday to all the conventional holiday spots in Europe, they want to go on longer haul trips to more far flung destinations. The price of air travel is so low, that people can have higher and higher carbon holidays and leisure trips, for remarkably little cost. The great hopes of the airlines, and the public who want to visit everywhere they can by air, is for long haul to become super cheap. It has always been a problem, because people are reluctant to accept minimum comforts on a very long flight, of over 6 hours or so. And they then need food etc. Norwegian has cheap flights to the USA, and now IAG has launched a low cost airline, called "Level" to try to combat the challenge from Norwegian. Level is part of the IAG conglomerate, which includes Aer Lingus, Vueling and Iberia as well as BA, and it will be based in Barcelona. Level will initially fly to Los Angeles and Oakland in California, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic and the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires. All airlines must charge air passenger duty of £75 each way for departures, so flights cannot exclude this. Level plans to add more routes with more planes from summer 2018 and is "talking to other potential European airports where Level may operate".

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Blog: “One flew over the cuckoo nest, then another hundred, and another, and another…”

In July 2016, a seminar was held in the House of Commons, on the link between exposure to high levels of aircraft noise, and mental health. It is known that the stress of finding one's home is newly under a busy flight path affects some people very badly. With planes at low altitude - one after the other, hour after hour, day after day - the impact of this new intrusion into someone's home life can cause anxiety, stress and depression. This is particularly the case for those with pre-existing susceptibilities. The situation is made worse when those now subjected to intense, almost daily, plane noise find there is no source of help, and no way to reduce the problem - causing a feeling of helplessness, and even despair. The problem has only become intense in the past few years, now the aviation industry is using P-RNAV. That means constantly repeated noise for those below flight routes. But what can be done to help people whose mental health is harmed, through no fault of their own, when they find - without warning or permissions - that a flight path has been created over them? Is "respite" for a few hours per day, or a few days per week, enough to make a difference? Would providing funding to move house be the answer, for those whose mental health is seriously damaged by the noise intrusion? Read a new blog by a noise sufferer, on the difficult, but important, issue of mental health impact of more concentrated flight paths.

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Packed first public meeting of new anti-Heathrow expansion group, BASHR3 in Hounslow

Nearly 200 residents packed out a church hall to attend the launch meeting of a new local anti-Heathrow expansion group - BASHR3. The first public meeting of Brentford and Hounslow Stop Heathrow Expansion (BASH Runway 3) meeting on March 21st was a lively event, with speeches from Ruth Cadbury (Brentford & Isleworth MP), John Stewart of HACAN, and Maggie Thorburn, from Friends of the Earth. Putting profits and pollution before people were high on the agenda and there were serious concerns that tens of thousands more people in Brentford , Isleworth, Osterley, Chiswick and Hounslow will be affected by a third runway. Ruth Cadbury was adamant that the threat of a third runway would be eradicated, and many claims made by Heathrow of how they would deal with problems such as noise, air pollution and carbon emissions were "laughable." ...Ruth believes that "Together, we'll see off the threat to our area for good." The 3rd runway means the massive intrusion of aircraft noise into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, who not currently under a flight path. Being overflown for the first time would come as a deeply unpleasant shock for many, and the DfT has made no attempt to give out information about who would be affected. Air pollution will also become worse across the constituency as a result of the traffic generated by the extra cars and lorries on the local and motorway road network.

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Response by T&E to EU consultation on VAT – there is no logical reason why air travel is exempt

The EU held a consultation recently, about VAT and changes to the European Directive on it. The consultation closed on 20th March 2017. Some of objectives of the consultation were to ask if there should be greater freedom for Member States to fix VAT rates; the proper balance between harmonisation and Member States autonomy in setting VAT rates; problems of differentiation of VAT rates within the Single Market etc. Air travel is zero rated for VAT across the EU. The group "Transport & Environment" responded to the consultation, and a couple of their points were that: having no VAT on air travel means the most carbon intensive transport mode, aviation, has ticket prices which are artificially lowered, creating distortions between rail/bus and aviation/ferry. ... all Member States must impose VAT on all passenger transport, especially aviation ... where this cannot be agreed, it should be easy for some Member States to impose VAT on passenger transport ... for things that benefit society such as medicines there is a very strong argument to allow for super-reduced rates, however, climate intensive travel by air or cruise vacations are not among them. There is currently also no VAT on cruises - which are most definitely not essential items.

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UK-based airlines told to move headquarters to Europe after Brexit or lose intra-European routes

The EU has warned airlines including easyJet and Ryanair that they will need to relocate their headquarters or sell off shares to European nationals, if they want to continue flying routes within continental Europe after Brexit. Executives at major airlines have been reminded during recent private meetings with EU officials that to continue to operate on routes between European airports, they must have a significant base on EU territory and that a majority of their capital shares must be EU-owned. This will mean they will need to act to restructure, with economic consequences for the UK, including a likely loss of jobs. Theresa May is due to trigger Article 50 next week. If the EU takes a tough line, it may result in the UK reciprocating with its own rules, which would leave EU-owned airlines facing equivalent choices. Some might establish their own British subsidiaries, as the demand for air travel in the UK is high and there is money to be made. EasyJet flies many routes within Europe (not from UK) and that is part of its business model. Ryanair is based in Ireland, but has some UK shareholders it will have to replace with Europeans. BA does not fly intra- European flights, and IAG is based in Spain. IAG is likely to need to disinvest shareholders in order to be majority EU-owned, and allow its other EU-registered carriers to continue to operate across Europe. The overall impacts on the UK will not be known for some time.

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Boots to stop pocketing the VAT on items over £5 sold to passengers travelling outside the EU

Boots is finally giving customers VAT refunds at UK airport "airside" shops, following the lead of WHSmith, which began doing this in summer 2016. Airline passengers began realising in the summer of 2015 that retailers had been claiming millions of ££s in VAT refunds from those travelling outside the EU, who they identified by asking to see travellers' boarding passes. But instead of refunding the VAT to the customers, the stores pocketed it. This meant an increase in profit for the shops, and for the airports - and less for the Treasury. Boots has 29 branches at UK airports, and these shops don't have self service tills - so customers can deal with a sales assistant. VAT will only be refunded by Boots on items costing over £5, (ie. refund of £1) or £6 for WH Smiths. Presumably a lot of purchases are below £5, and so the shops will keep a lot of extra profit from these. People flying within the EU cannot get VAT removed. The shops have been demanding to see boarding cards, but only because this has enabled them to keep the 20% as profit - that has angered people.The airports charge retailers huge rent, to have the privilege of a store in the captive market of the airport departure lounge. Heathrow etc don't charge its stores a set flat rent – but rather a % of their net sales. This VAT change might slightly dent that figure.

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Major new coalition launched to fight Heathrow 3rd runway

A major new coalition has been launched to fight the proposed 3rd runway at Heathrow. The coalition is formally backed already by 18 local campaign groups, including to name a few, Stop Heathrow Expansion (SHE), HACAN, Teddington Action Group (TAG) and recently formed BASH Runway 3 (based in Brentford). More groups are expected to join in the coming weeks. The coalition also has the support of 5 local authorities as well as leading politicians from all main parties. The aim of the coalition is to put additional pressure on the Government to drop plans for the runway, building upon the work of existing opponents including campaign groups, local authorities and MPs. It will provide opponents of the runway a platform, allowing them to work effectively together - including support from MPs to the heroic local Councils challenging Heathrow in the courts. The coalition will work to highlight issues - including noise, air pollution and economics - with the DfT's current, deeply flawed, consultation on the Heathrow National Policy Statement (NPS). Though the DfT has held 20 consultation exhibition events across west London, Berkshire and Surrey, considerable numbers of residents were left disappointed that there was no information on locations of new flight paths, and that will not be presented until much later in the process.

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Four Select Committees launch an unprecedented joint inquiry into air pollution

MP’s from four Parliamentary select committees have combined forces to launch an unprecedented joint inquiry on air quality to scrutinise cross-government plans to tackle urban pollution hotspots. The Environmental Audit Committee, Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Health, and Transport Committees will hold four evidence sessions to consider mounting scientific evidence on the health and environmental impacts of outdoor air pollution. The Government has lost two UK court cases about its plans to tackle the key pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The High Court has ordered the Government to publish a draft new clean air plan to tackle NO2 by 24 April, with a final plan by 31 July. The European Commission has also threatened enforcement which could see the UK pay millions of pounds in fines if the Government does not within two months take steps to bring 16 UK zones within legal pollution limits. Louise Ellman, Chair of the Transport Committee (dealing with the draft NPS on Heathrow), said emissions from vehicles are a significant problem and the standards that governments have relied on have not delivered the expected reductions.: "We will be asking what more can be done to increase the use of cleaner vehicles as well as to encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport.”

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Heathrow 2.0: a ‘sustainable airport’ that pretends no one has to choose between planes and pollution

A thoughtful article, by two leading academics in public policy and ideology, casts huge doubts on the claims of Heathrow to have solutions to the increased environment problems of a 3rd runway. It is well worth reading it all. A few extracts: "Heathrow expansion has become an emblematic issue in the fight against climate change. ... An airport that exists above politics gives the illusion that no one has to choose between planes and pollution ... its “cake and eat it” narrative, in which we could fly more and still cope with rising CO2 ... the plans lack clarity and ambition. Strategic priorities like a 'noise envelope' ... are often stated, but not accompanied with clear targets ... As Heathrow itself accepts, the airport cannot deliver on most of the claims it makes ...The airport is simply trying to fill the void left by Theresa May and Chris Grayling, who have abandoned their responsibility to offer policy leadership ... this absence of leadership betrays the emergence of a new “post-sustainable” aviation, designed to accommodate the challenges of Brexit ... people are increasingly urged to believe that human progress and innovation are enough to meet environmental challenges. ... In this emerging discourse, the demands of economic growth trump those of the environment and social well-being."

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DfT report says widening the M25 on its south-west quadrant would not be the right solution

The M25 South West Quadrant Strategic Study (M25SWQ), has been published by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England. It claims to "identify and appraise options for improving performance of the transport network across all modes in and around the M25 South West Quadrant". It has concluded that the M25 should not be widened (beyond what is already committed) in the SW quadrant, because that would have "significant (negative) effects on surrounding communities" and would not be effective in reducing congestion". The study was looking at the section of the M25 between, and including, junction 10 for the A3 at Wisley and junction 16 for the M40 in Buckinghamshire. This is the busiest section of the M25, close to Heathrow. The report says future work on the M25 should not focus on widening it, but reduce the pressures and recommends further work to "Explore options for new or enhanced highway capacity, separate but parallel to the M25." "This should work first to find alternatives to travel, or to move traffic to more sustainable modes. ... But the volume of travel means that road enhancements are also likely to be needed." There could be upgrades for existing roads, and options for roads to fill in the gaps.

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Evidence session on Heathrow impacts held by the GLA Environment Committee

The GLA Environment Committee held a meeting on 16th March, to which they invited both Heathrow staff (Matt Gorman, and Andrew Chen) and opponents (John Stewart, Jenny Bates and Simon Birkett) to reply to questions. The Committee has serious concerns about the environmental impacts of Heathrow, and they have not yet been persuaded by the bland assurances that Heathrow continues to give. The transcript of the session is not yet available, but it is all on Webcast. Important points were made, in response to Assembly Members' questions, on issues such as how much Heathrow would actually pay towards necessary surface access improvements; how long Heathrow will take to install noise the pledged £700 million (up to 20 years, Matt Gorman says); and how the ban on night flights should mean 8 hours without planes, not only the six and a half hours without scheduled flights, that Heathrow has grudgingly agreed to consider. The committee have experience of needing to mistrust bland assurances by Heathrow on how a 3rd runway could meet noise and air pollution challenges. They will be submitting their response to the DfT's consultation on the draft NPS.

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About 30 people at Notre-Dame-des-Landes demand their property back (taken 5 years ago to build a new airport)

At Notre-Dame-des-Landes, a new airport is planned to replace the existing Nantes airport. The battle has been going on for years.  Now exactly five years after the French state expropriated a large area of land for the airport, there has been no start to the project - there is not even a start date in prospect. Therefore under the French system, as work has not begun, those who have lost ownership of their land (they may still live on it for the time being) can apply to get it back. Around 30 people affected are now submitting the necessary legal papers to get their land, farmland and buildings back, to the court in Saint-Nazaire. These people have not used the money, and they don't want it. They want ownership of their land and property back. The French system did not anticipate, in the law relating to expropriation, that any scheme would have delays for as long as five years. 

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The challenge of tackling the non-CO2 impacts of aviation – explained by Carbon Brief

In a long, but very informative article, Carbon Brief discusses the problems of the non-CO2 impacts of aircraft emissions. These are from water vapour, aerosols and nitrogen oxides emitted by aircraft at cruise altitudes. Though these impacts may be short lived, they have definite climate forcing effects, though these are complicated, while CO2 has easily understood impacts and lasts in the atmosphere for decades or centuries. The impact of contrails forming cirrus cloud is to slow the radiation of heat back into space, causing more warming. But this effect is greatest at night, when contrails persist, and also in areas where there is colder, damper air. So the impacts are not uniform across the globe. The article discusses possibilities of planes avoiding certain areas where contrails persist, either on a daily basis or with blocks of airspace out of use for particular periods. Or of planes flying less high. Both those options are likely to increase fuel use - and thus CO2 emissions - by planes, and so need to be carefully organised, to avoid having yet more overall climate impact. Even if the ICAO deal requires planes to pay a small amount to "offset" their CO2, they are not required to pay for non-CO2 impacts. With the global aviation industry expected to increase its CO2 emissions by 200%-360% by 2050, the non-CO2 impacts are a very real problem, and one that should not be ignored. Small changes to flight routes are unlikely to make more than a token difference.

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DfT invests a further £1.8 million of taxpayer money over 2 years in the Dundee-Stansted route

A new deal to secure the air link between Dundee City Airport and Stansted for another two years has been announced. The UK and Scottish governments and Dundee City Council have agreed a public service obligation (PSO) contract worth almost £3.7m. Loganair will continue to operate the route from 26 March. The service will see two return flights each weekday and one return flight on a Sunday. The UK Government will contribute 50% of the total funds, (ie.about £1,8 million over the two years) with the Scottish government putting in £1.4m and Dundee City Council providing £400,000 of funding. UK Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad announced it, with comments about the importance of connections between Scotland and England for trade and tourism - "helping business and leisure travellers alike". So much of this public money is to assist leisure travel. The UK government funding is through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which aims to maintain connectivity between London and smaller regional airports, where routes are at risk of being withdrawn.

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Launch of new group “Plane Justice” for those newly affected by Gatwick Route 4 since May 2016

Residents north of Gatwick, from Newdigate through to Salfords, have launched "Plane Justice", a collective of communities which seeks to support (whether through campaigning, communications, discussion, negotiation or legal process) those who are, or would be, newly affected by aircraft in airport ‘catchment areas’. Formed in response to changes made to Gatwick departure Route 4 in May 2016, the founders of Plane Justice have experienced on a personal level the stress, anxiety and sense of hopelessness and financial insecurity that changing flight paths causes to communities. The group describes the current iteration of Route 4 as the "Route to Misery", with a noisy turn and a more southern trajectory after the turn, which overflies more than 7,000 new residents. They want to bring an evidence-based and ethical dimension into decision making about the management of airspace, which in their experience to date of Gatwick and its associated aircraft noise, has been surprisingly lacking. Many people feel there has been a serious injustice in the way areas have been targeted by unacceptable levels of aircraft noise. Plane Justice wants Gatwick's hated "Route 4" to be returned to its pre-2013 “legacy” position, which was flown for decades with negligible complaints.

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Indian air travel pays 25% tax, but Delhi now cut tax for domestic flights only to 1%

Unlike the UK, India puts VAT on the price of jet fuel. Sales Tax (levied by the State Governments) averages across India at 25%. But now domestic air travel from Delhi is likely to get cheaper with the Delhi government deciding to cut value added tax on aircraft turbine fuel (ATF) to 1% from the existing rate of 25%. As part of the central government’s connectivity scheme, the Delhi government reduced VAT on ATF by 24% to boost links with smaller airports in its budget for the year 2017-18. Delhi will have cheaper air links especially to the smaller airports to the north west. India is the world's fastest-growing aviation market but most of the air travel is between big cities. Under the regional connectivity scheme, the government will subsidise part of the cost for airlines to operate flights to smaller towns. Jet fuel is one of the biggest costs for airlines, especially for low-cost carriers such as IndiGo Airlines, owned by InterGlobe Aviation, SpiceJet and GoAir. Airline shares rose on the news.

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Vegetable oils biofuels should be phased out by 2020 – their CO2 emissions are higher than fossil diesel

The aviation industry has great hopes - unjustifiably - that it will be able to magically locate low carbon "green" fuels in future, that will emit less carbon per litre than fossil jet fuel. Various niche plant oils have been tried, and quietly dropped (the inedible ones that could grow on soils not good enough for human crops are not commercially viable). So far it is not thought that the industry would be so bold as to try to claim use of plant oils like palm oil, rapeseed oil or soya oil could make suitable "sustainable" jet fuels, knowing the bad publicity of burning oils that compete with human food, in jet engines. But plant oils are used in immense amounts as biodiesel for cars and vans, including in Europe. Figures show that this, rather than cutting the overall CO2 emissions (which was the intention by the EU) in practice ends in higher lifecycle emissions than fossil based fuels. On average, biodiesel from virgin vegetable oil leads to around 80% higher CO2 emissions than the fossil diesel. Palm oil has the highest greenhouse gas emissions - about 300% those of fossil diesel - because of deforestation [including habitat and wildlife loss] and peatland drainage needed to set up the plantations, in places like Indonesia. In 2015 46% of all palm oil imported into the EU was burned in vehicles as biodiesel (45% as human or animal food, and 9% burned for electricity or heat.)

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Heathrow’s head of property excited about redevelopment opportunities and maximising revenues from airport’s property

Talking to Property Weekly, Heathrow's head of property and facilities, John Arbuckle, is bullish and "excited" about all the property and developments he is looking forward to, with a 3rd runway, He can see "redevelopment opportunities as well as maximising revenues from the airport’s property." The Heathrow investment property portfolio is worth around £2bn, and that will grow when more land is obtained (by compulsory purchase, and by buying up homes that will be too polluted or too noise to live in). Heathrow now has around "1.9m sq ft of buildings, 100 hectares of leased land, more than 200 houses and 807,000 sq ft of warehousing and offices leased from third parties." Heathrow also owns around 1,250 hectares of land around the airport. It is expected that there will be more hotels, for the expanded airport. John Arbuckle, in typically bullish Heathrow fashion, hopes to "put the building blocks in place for a third runway in 2025." He manages to coyly avoid mentioning the destruction of much of Harmondsworth and parts of the Heathrow villages, and compulsory purchase, just talking about the airport "working closely with our local communities" and "being great neighbours to the local community.” Property companies are rubbing their hands with glee at increased demand for commercial office and industrial space near Heathrow.

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“Aircraft Noise 3 Villages” says DfT’s Heathrow consultation is ‘flawed’ as Surrey Heath left in the dark

The Aircraft Noise 3 Villages group, that represents residents in Lightwater, Windlesham and Bagshot, is angry that local councils are not doing anything to get the amount of aircraft noise from Heathrow reduced. They want action by Surrey Heath Borough Council (SHBC) and Surrey County Council to tackle the issue of increased aircraft noise. They are also concerned that their areas were excluded from the distribution of 1.5 million leaflets by the DfT, inviting members of the public to a series of public events on the Heathrow National Policy Statement (NPS) consultation. The DfT is holding 20 events in areas affected by Heathrow, but this has not covered many of the places that either already get, or will get, intense levels of plane noise if there was a 3rd runway. Rosalie James, from the Aircraft Noise 3 Villages group, has written to the DfT, Surrey Heath MP, Michael Gove and Surrey County Councillor, Mike Goodman, to say their areas should have had a DfT info event. The absence of DfT events is yet another way in which the NPS consultation is widely regarded as deeply flawed. Even if people can attend a DfT event, they will find no information on future flight paths, though it is known that almost 50% more Heathrow flights, using more concentrated flight paths, would cause severe noise problems for those overflown.

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Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea & Fulham) urges DfT to ban Heathrow night flights from 11pm to 6am

Chelsea and Fulham MP (Cons) Greg Hands has urged DfT ministers to impose a ban on all night flights at Heathrow. Greg renewed calls for all planes to be grounded between 11pm and 6am, a period of 7 hours, and says he is frequently woken up at night by noise from aircraft passing over west London. In a letter to Lord Ahmed, the parliamentary under secretary of state for transport, Mr Hands argued that there should be a “comprehensive” ban on night flights at Heathrow. He said the lives of local people are being unfairly disrupted by the noise, and research from international health bodies, including the WHO and the BMJ, highlights the damaging impacts of sustained sleep deprivation on people’s wellbeing. “These Londoners have jobs to do and families to look after, for which they require a good night’s sleep." A ban of flights for a 7 hour night period would “lessen the detrimental impact on hundreds of thousands of Londoners living beneath the flight path”. ... “I find it unacceptable that the convenience, quality of sleep, and the health of millions of residents in London and the wider South East under the flight path is sacrificed for the sake of a few thousand inbound passengers per night".

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Aviation biofuels: “Won’t get fooled again” – why they will not solve aviation’s CO2 problems

An analyst with Transport & Environment questions whether biofuels could ever make more than a minute impact on aviation carbon emissions. He says we know from past experience with biofuels for road vehicles that they can actually be worse for the environment than the fossil fuels they replace. Unless biofuels are sourced very carefully indeed, they rise causing drastic changes in land use, including deforestation and peatland drainage. Even if biofuels could be produced on land currently used for agriculture, this means there are indirect land use changes (ILUC) meaning that whatever was previously produced there needs to be produced somewhere else. ie. the result may be cutting down forests to create new land to grow crops. Guarantees are needed to ensure that fuels worse than kerosene are not promoted - in terms of carbon emissions, but also loss of wildlife or violation of human rights. "The aviation sector often hypes up a new technology as the solution to its climate problem, only to admit that it is not feasible or prohibitively expensive. It quickly moves on to another ‘solution’. All this serves to convince policymakers that sustainable aviation is around the corner. Biofuels may be the latest example of this strategy." Aviation biofuels, at a very minimum, must be better on carbon and environmental impact than fuels they replace.

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APD rises by only rate of RPI but that does not stop Heathrow and AOA complaining (again …) it should be cut

Air Passenger Duty is just £13 for an adult (over 18) for any return flight to Europe. It is £26 for a return flight inside the UK. It is just £75 for an adult to any destination further away than 2,000 miles, and higher for higher class tickets. Air travel pays no VAT and no fuel duty, and the combined amount per year that these two could bring in amounts to around £8 - 10 billion per year, even after the receipts from APD are taken into account. APD is charged by the Treasury because there is no logical reason why air travel (most of which is discretionary, and much of which is for pleasure) should be untaxed. After cutting the rate of longer haul APD (over 4,000 miles) in April 2915, the tax as just risen by the rate of inflation - RPI. But the airlines complain about it every time there is a budget. Now Heathrow and the Airport Operators Association have complained again, that APD has not been cut. They would like to see air travel almost not taxed at all, to boost the number of passengers -and hence their profits. Heathrow has the DfT falling over itself to promote its 3rd runway. It is a little distasteful for it to be pressing for effectively further subsidy, when its runway would end up costing the taxpayer a huge amount in necessary improvements to surface access, which the airport is unwilling to stump up for. It is indeed a very greedy industry, relentless in its demands.

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Runway opponents stage a brief take-over of Maidenhead DfT Heathrow event, filling in info gaps

The Maidenhead DfT information display - pushing the Heathrow 3rd runway - was taken over for its last 20 minutes by an invasion of anti- runway protesters. The DfT events are intended to give information to members of the public who want to know more about the runway plan. Unfortunately the displays are very focused on the alleged benefits of the runway, with very little information on its negative impacts. Generally the DfT staff who man the events are unable to answer questions about negative effects of the runway, in any detail. Campaigners from SHE (Stop Heathrow Expansion) with representatives from around 8 other groups, held a brief session to show up some of the gaps in information that the DfT is giving the public at these (20) sessions. Neil Keveren (SHE) pointed out some of the omitted information (like how little change to night flights is actually proposed, the effect of those whose homes will be compulsorily purchased, the health impacts of air pollution and the cost to the taxpayer of improvements to surface infrastructure). There is no info on any of those in the DfT panels. Others then chipped in with other information that the DfT should be including. The session ended with rousing chants of "No New Runways" and "Theresa May, What would your father say, NO 3rd runway" - and Neil singing, accompanied by his guitar, the song "This is our home, and we will stay. No 3rd runway".

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“Heathrow 2.0” glossy report attempts to portray a 3-runway airport as “green” and aiming to be “carbon neutral”…..

Heathrow has regularly produced annual sustainability reports (they do not seem to be on its website any longer). The report from 2014 is here. Now, in an a serious attempt to be seen as a truly "environmentally friendly" airport they have produced a glossy report called "Heathrow 2.0" which endeavours to show that - with 50% more flights, producing nearly 50% more CO2 emissions, is a shining example of environmental leadership for us all. Some ex-environmental campaigners helped Heathrow put the report together. While it is hugely to be welcomed that Heathrow will try to have as low an environmental footprint as possible, within the airport itself - the problem is confusing that with the immense environmental impact the airport has outside its perimeter. The report has nothing much to say on that, other than offsetting schemes of one sort or another. The airport hopes to become "carbon neutral" but that is only by offsetting - effectively buying the emissions reductions of others. Heathrow wants to be seen to be "green" by helping to fund some peat-bog restoration, and buying renewable energy. It aims to do a bit more on preventing illegal trafficking of wildlife through its air freight etc etc et. All laudable stuff. But there is no reason why Heathrow needs to have another runway, in order to do all these good environmental things that it could perfectly well be doing (should be doing) as a 2 runway airport. Check the report for high level greenwash ....

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£150m bid race for Luton airport light rail link from station to terminal

Luton Airport has started the bid race for up to £150m worth of construction work for a planned new light railway system. This will be paid for by Luton council. It has appointed Arup to design and press through the mass passenger transport scheme. It would be a 2.1km long guided mass rapid transit system, to run between two purpose-built stations, heading out from Stirling Place, close to Luton Airport Parkway station, to the airport terminal. It will be broken down into two main packages. Work worth up to £115m will include viaducts, embankments, cut and cover works and station platforms. Some of the works will be within the airside sections of the airport. The track, rolling stock and associated systems package will be subject to a separate contract worth up to £35m, to be awarded concurrently. The light rail scheme forms part of a £1.5 billion inward investment programme by Luton council, with a 20-year plan for major transformation of the town. Planning permission is being sought from Luton Borough Council (which conveniently owns the airport) and Central Bedfordshire Council. They hope work could start later in 2017, and it would open in 2021 with the intention of the journey time from Luton to St Pancras being cut to 30 minutes.

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Hydrogen unlikely to become fuel for aircraft – it is no magic bullet solution for aviation CO2

Over the past decades many have investigated the possibility of using hydrogen as jet fuel, in the hope of keeping the aviation industry growing without massively increasing carbon emissions. A new paper from the Netherlands is enthusiastic about the use of hydrogen, saying it could be a good fuel as it is light. The professor writes: “It is a defect that kerosene is so irrationally cheap, which triggers much unnecessary air travel. A worldwide tax on kerosene - if at all politically possible - should be something to pursue.” However desirable it might be to fuel planes with hydrogen, the reasons it has been rejected in the past are first that producing hydrogen itself takes a huge amount of energy. Then it must be stored, very cold, in tanks far larger than (maybe 4 times as large) those used now on aircraft, even if stored as slush, not compressed gas. Metal hydride storage is also possible. All the options increase the weight of engines etc, outweighing the fact the hydrogen is lighter than kerosene. There could be challenges to using premixed injection with hydrogen rich fuel, since the reaction rate for hydrogen is faster than for jet fuel - there is a danger of flashback, which would have to be dealt with. The problem with contrails and non-CO2 impacts would be as great as with conventional jet fuel.

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New Eurostar service London to Amsterdam soon, and to Frankfurt in maybe 3 years

High-speed trains from London to Frankfurt could be launched in the next 3 years (or may be more) helping the UK maintain links to mainland Europe post-Brexit. German rail operator Deutsche Bahn has announced plans to run direct trains between London St Pancras and Frankfurt as early as 2020. The new service would complete the 400-mile journey through the Channel tunnel in 5 hours. Deutsche Bahn was given permission to build the direct line in 2013, but plans were halted due to a lack of high-speed trains. The trains are still behind schedule, and this is delaying launch of the route. When more trains are delivered, Deutsche Bahn will prioritise routes from Frankfurt to Belgium and northern France, before the UK (which will by then have left the EU). A new chief executive of Deutsche Bahn is to be announced before long, and progress on the London to Frankfurt route may progress once he/she is appointed. In November 2016 it was announced that Eurostar is pressing ahead with plans for direct services between London and Amsterdam, despite a drop in passenger numbers. Eurostar said plans for the new route were “progressing well” and might start by the end of 2017? The new service would provide a rival to airlines transporting 3 million people a year from London to Holland.

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EIB lending Schiphol airport €350 million to build a new terminal and new pier

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is the European Union's nonprofit long-term lending institution, that is publicly owned, and whose shareholders are the member states of the EU. It says it uses its financing operations to bring about European integration and social cohesion. The member states set the bank's broad policy goals. It aims to support sound investments which further EU policy goals, and it says one of its objectives is environmental sustainability. Another is developing trans-European Networks of transport and energy, and as such it has funded many airport projects and airport expansions. It approved lending nearly €4 billion for the first phase of the new Terminal 3 at Frankfurt Airport. It is now lending some €175 million to Schiphol Airport, which is the first instalment of a total financing of €350 million for expansion. Schiphol plans to build a new terminal and a new pier, to cope with 15 million more passengers per year. In addition, the airport will relocate and renew other parts of the related infrastructure, such as internal roads and car parks. The EIB says as Schiphol is the "showpiece" of the Netherlands, this is essential. Earlier the EIB lent money to Schiphol to build the 5th runway. The new pier is planned to be completed by the end of 2019. The terminal is planned to open for operations in 2023.

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No assurances given by DfT Minister of State, John Hayes, on Heathrow 3rd runway and surface access

Sarah Olney, the LibDem MP for Richmond Park, secured a debate in Westminster Hall on "Heathrow Expansion: Surface Access" on 28th February. Sarah and Ruth Cadbury and Tania Mathias made relevant points about transport, and asked the Minister for replies. John Hayes spoke, but avoided giving any substantive answers to any of the questions. There are serious concerns about the increased number of lorries, for Heathrow freight, that are likely to blight neighbourhoods close to Heathrow if a 3rd runway is built, and this would probably contribute to worse air pollution locally. Heathrow has "pledged" that with a 3rd runway there would be no increase in road trips. (How this could be monitored, let alone enforced, is never stated). It is unclear how there could be a 50% increase in air freight, with no additional road vehicle trips, but Heathrow stresses the allegedly huge benefits to the UK of the additional air freight. John Hayes reply includes waffly non-committal statements like: "It is important to appreciate that, as we move to the point at which Heathrow Airport Ltd lodges its planning application, it will be expected to provide that kind of detailed analysis as part of the planning process." And "It is absolutely right that a plan anticipating changes in freight movements is made and is subject to scrutiny and debate. We will inspect that plan, and the Government will expect the developers at Heathrow to deliver a cogent, well argued, proper assessment of the impact of any changes in the volume or character of freight traffic ...."

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Fears that protecting environment in the courts will become prohibitively expensive, as ‘cost cap’ scrapped

New rules came into force today which could dramatically reduce the ability of individuals and non-governmental organisations to bring legal challenges to protect the environment. The government is scrapping automatic "cost caps" which limit the costs of losing a case in England and Wales. We have the current cost caps due to the international Aarhus Convention, which was ratified by the government in 2005. Opponents claim the changes will make it "impossible" to "hold the government to account". The government says people will not be expected to pay above their means, but they could still be virtually bankrupted, if they lose the case, having to sell their house. The normal "loser pays rule" means that successful claimants can claim their legal costs back from the defendant. The caps on costs (started in 2013) if you lose the case currently stand at £5,000 for an individual and £10,000 for an organisation. The change would mean the loser having to pay both their own legal costs, and those of the winner. ClientEarth, Friends of the Earth and the RSPB are challenging the rule change in the courts, arguing those bringing such cases would be exposed to huge and uncertain financial risk. The Aarhus Convention requires legal action to protect the environment not to be "prohibitively expensive". It is particularly a concern due to Brexit.

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Progress on green aircraft taxiing solutions is slow – unlikely to make huge improvements in fuel use or NO2?

For several years there have been attempts to cut the amount of aircraft engine noise and CO2 emissions from taxiing. Worldwide perhaps 2.6% or so of total aviation carbon emissions might be from taxiing, and it increases noise close to the airport. Some of the electrical solutions to the problem have come to nothing, and been quietly dropped. eg. a Honeywell/Safran EGTS joint venture that was abandoned last year, and a joint venture involving L-3 and Crane Aerospace, called GreenTaxi, also disappeared. There are two remaining possible systems: WheelTug nose wheel electric drive system and IAI’s TaxiBot semi-robotic pilot-controlled vehicle. IATA is enthusiastic about how these will cut fuel consumption from taxiing in future, and there is a conference on the subject in Singapore in May. The aviation lobby group "Sustainable Aviation" has said Heathrow could eventually, if there was the technology, cut "100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year". That is about 0.5% of its total emissions of some 19MtCO2. WheelTug requires a plant to be modified, and the APU to power two motors on the front wheel. Neither Boeing nor Airbus is supporting the development. The TaxiBot system is further down the certification route since it does not require modification to an aircraft. It lifts and holds the aircraft nose wheel, and then transports the aircraft without using the aircraft’s own engines.

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Government needs to provide clarity on possible jobs across the UK created by 3rd runway

When the Government announced Heathrow as its preferred option in October 2016 it downgraded the economic benefits of a 3rd runway substantially. The Airports Commission Final Report assessed the economic benefit to the whole of the UK, over 60 years, might be up to £147 billion (their assessment of need scenario). Heathrow often uses a much higher figure of "up to £211 billion" and omit to say it is for all the UK, over 60 years. In October, the DfT, calculating the possible economic benefits in a different way, thought a more likely figure was £61 billion. This is benefits only. But if the costs are taken off, the benefit falls to something more like £6 billion (£2 - 11 billion or so range). Heathrow, and the DfT, say there will be huge benefits to the regions, and large numbers of future jobs. The figures Heathrow has on its website are based on the £147 billion estimate. These have not been corrected, in the light of the reduced DfT estimate. So what is the actual value of a third runway to the English regions, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? All that we do know is that it will be considerably less than the promises made by Heathrow to so many MPs and local councillors. The onus is on Heathrow and the DfT to come up with revised estimates of the employment benefits to the regions. So far, it has failed to do so. .

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New anti-airport expansion group formed in Hounslow – BASHR3 – after launch of DfT’s NPS consultation on 3rd runway

A new anti-airport expansion group has been set up by residents of Hounslow and Brentford. The group, Brentford and Hounslow Stop Heathrow Expansion (BASHR3), has been launched in the wake of the government's National Policy Statement (NPS) consultation on proposals for a northwest runway at Heathrow. There are serious concerns in the borough about the increased noise, traffic and air pollution - amplified by the recent report by the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, that is highly critical of the government's implausible assurances on these issues. Brentford resident Dave Waller has helped set up the new campaign group as many more lives will be blighted by another flightpath. BASHR3 is urging people to attend the DfT consultation events, and submit their responses. Dave Waller commented on the air pollution issue: "If the third runway goes ahead, it is sure to get worse and we will be forced to move out of the area. Our lives will also be blighted by an increase in noise caused by the new flightpath, which will cut across Brentford." People concerned about Heathrow health impacts are encouraged to join BASHR3. Website and on Twitter at @bashrunway3 The first consultation event for Hounslow residents is February 27th at Hounslow Civic Centre from 11am to 8pm.

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Investigation reveals Heathrow airport staff are set targets to get passengers to spend money in shops

The Sun has used an undercover reporter to work as one of Heathrow's Passenger Ambassadors, whose job is to boost retail sales in the terminals. There is a Channel 4 Dispatches programme on this, also showing how airport passengers are getting a raw deal from changing money. In 2016 the airport made a record £612 million in retail income, which is rent from retailers and from car parking charges. This was up 7.7% compared to 2015, while aeronautical income remained unchanged at £1,699 million. Heathrow's retail division now makes up 22% of its revenues - £612 million out of £2,807 million. The 150 Passenger Ambassadors help travellers once they are through security, and are set strict targets about persuading them to visit shops and spend money. These are between £2,500 to £4,000 per day, and the most successful senior ambassadors claim to hit £10,000 per day. They are told: “The majority of the role will involve interacting with passengers, persuading them to shop if they had not planned to, or encouraging them to spend more by talking to them about offers and promotions across the Terminal….The average spend per passenger must go up as a result of your presence on the terminal floor.” The job description says: "A minute should not pass without a conversation with one or more passengers.”

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Willie Walsh and aviation insiders think Heathrow hopes of getting planning consent by 2020 are unrealistic

The Times reports that Willie Walsh, head of British Airways’ parent company IAG, (Heathrow’s biggest customer), said that Heathrow's target for its runway plans were over optimistic. He did not think the timetable of getting the support of MPs in the Commons within 12 months and then getting the planning process completed - through all the legal and planning hurdles - in a further 2 years was realistic. Those timings are highly optimistic, but Heathrow is preparing to start work on a 3rd runway in three years from now - in 2020. An airline insider told The Times that DfT officials had privately told industry bosses that planning permission would not be won until 2021. There will be legal challenges, and those could mean the timetable could slip even further. Heathrow wants to get its runway built by 2025, so it could increase the number of flights by 50% by 2030, compared to the number now. Heathrow has said it wants to apply to raise the number of flights from its legal cap now, of 480,000 per year, to 505,000 from 2021 - if it has been granted planning approval for the runway. That might involve one or two fewer flights in the night period, but a loss of some runway alternation during the day - perhaps softening people up for the worse noise, and shorter respite periods, there would be with a 3rd runway.

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Environmental Audit Cttee says government should take account of aviation non-CO2 impacts on climate

The Environmental Audit Committee report is highly critical of the government's handling of the issue of carbon emissions created by a 3rd Heathrow runway. The EAC raises the issue of non-CO2 impacts, which is something this government (and the Airports Commission) tries to totally ignore. Atmospheric science is complicated, and the exact extent that non-CO2 impacts from emissions by aircraft high in the atmosphere contribute to warming effects is uncertain. It is estimated to be up to twice the impact of the CO2 alone. The government used to use a multiplier of x1.9, but this was quietly dropped after 2011.The EAC have asked the Secretary of State whether "the DfT's upcoming aviation strategy would examine greenhouse gas emissions other than CO2. He said that non-CO2 emissions would be reduced alongside CO2, but “there is no clear scientific basis to look at other emissions and put those at the heart of our strategy”. The Appraisal of Sustainability says that non-CO2 emissions “are likely to be up to two times the magnitude of the CO2 emissions themselves, but [...] cannot be readily quantified due to the level of scientific uncertainty and therefore have not been assessed”. The EAC says the government should take account of the likely additional climate change impact of some non-CO2. Read the briefing on non-CO2 impacts.

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Brussels to start fining planes overflying city at night, but conflict of interest with Flemish areas

Brussels Zaventem airport has started fining planes that overfly the Brussels region if they exceed certain noise limits. The fines will be over the period of 11pm to 7am. The crucial period is 6 to 7am. It is thought that the fines could be around €5,000 - €10,000 per plan for an average plane, but with a range of fines from €1,300 - 62,000. The higher level fines are unlikely. Ryanair calculated its fines might be €6,000. Thomas Cook estimated they would be in the €1,200-2,000 range. If a flight is scheduled to arrive at 06:50 but does not reach the Brussels runway before 07:00 it would avoid the fine, unless it exceeds the daytime noise limits. However, there is - and has been for decades - a conflict of interest between the Flemish (northern) and French speaking parts of the city. The fines are for the French speaking areas, meaning planes will preferentially fly over the Flemish areas, to avoid the charges. Flemish mobility minister Ben Weyts filed an initial conflict complaint at the end of last year, which froze the introduction of the new limits for 60 days. As that term has now expired with no agreement reached, the Flemish Community filed a new complaint. Brussels said it was not ready to observe another 60-day delay and that it would administer fines, though it would not, for the time being, make the airlines pay.

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Plans for third runway at Heathrow ‘will blight 47,000 additional homes with dangerous levels of air pollution’

The Daily Mail reports that a 3rd Heathrow runway would expose 47,000 additional homes to dangerous air pollution from NO2 because more vehicles will travel to the airport. The runway would cause a rise in the number of cars, coaches and lorries - raising levels of NO2, that come especially from diesel engines. The Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) says the runway would rise breaching air pollution limits, and that is a key barrier to it being built. The EAC has ‘no confidence’ the Government can meet its target to fix the problem, or that 60% of all new cars would be ultra-low emissions by 2030. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show 1.29 million new diesel cars were registered last year, which was 48% of all new car purchases. EAC Chair, Mary Creagh, said there was no evidence of any “step change” in the Government’s approach that the Committee had called for in their previous report. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has proposed a £3,500 diesel scrappage scheme to pay people to replace their old diesel cars, but this may not be popular. As well as over 47,000 homes likely to be exposed to worse air pollution, due to Heathrow expansion, the air near Wraysbury Reservoir (a SSSI for birds) would also be have illegal air pollution. The Supreme Court has ordered the Government to produce a new air pollution strategy by April, after ruling that its Air Quality Plan is based on ‘optimistic emissions data’.

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Council leaders attack ‘dishonest’ Heathrow promotional leaflet, circulated widely by DfT

Conservative town hall leaders have accused the Government of “misleading” up to three million people over the impact of a 3rd Heathrow runway, and a "dishonest approach." The leaders of Wandsworth, Richmond, Hillingdon and Windsor and Maidenhead council tore into the DfT over the “shamelessly one-sided” consultation leaflet sent to around 1.5 million households and businesses (an estimated 3 million people). The leaders say the leaflets fail to include any details of proposed new flight paths, or the extra numbers of flights, or the reduction in "respite" periods that would happen, due to the 3rd runway. There is also no proper information on likely increases in traffic, and therefore in air pollution.The leaflet is instead ecstatic about alleged economic benefits it might bring, and unashamedly bigs up pledges of home price compensation for compulsory purchase, future insulation schemes (over up to 20 years?), and some apprenticeships. The leaders believe the leaflet is intended to mislead, and its dishonest approach is undermining the fragile trust residents have in politics. Areas that are already badly overflown by Heathrow planes, such as Clapham, Lambeth, Pimlico, Marylebone, Westminster, Streatham, Mayfair and Kennington were not included in the consultation exercise. Lord True commented: "The Government need to stop the spin.”

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UK Government announces £3.8 m funding for a Londonderry to Stansted (BMI Regional) air route

The UK government has announced £3.8 million (2 years) for a Londonderry to London air route, as the current operator Ryanair will stop operating the route at the end of March.  BMI Regional has been chosen as the preferred operator for the route between City of Derry Airport and Stansted, following a competitive tender process by Derry City & Strabane District Council. Flights begin on 2 May 2017, and the government will fund the route over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years.  The new service will include two return flights each day, except for Saturdays which will have one flight each way.  Lord Admad believed that the 13 weekly flights will "allow business passengers to get to central London and complete a full day’s work before returning home."  The UK government maintains regional airport links through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which "can be used to protect important regional air connections to London which may otherwise be lost." [As they are unprofitable]. Derry already has a route through the Fund, to Dublin. In December 2015 the DfT announced that 11 successful bidders had been awarded support from the Fund, for routes. The intention is that airlines, with the subsidy, can build up the routes that are not viable so they become profitable in a few years. 

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Transport Committee announces start of its inquiry into (Heathrow) Airports NPS (24th March deadline for evidence)

When he was Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin told the Transport Select Committee that there would be a 3 month inquiry, by a select committee, into the draft National Policy Statement for a Heathrow runway. He said in February 2015 that the inquiry would take place after the end of the NPS consultation. Now the Transport Select Committee has announced, just 20 days after the publication by the DfT of the draft NPS consultation, the start of their own inquiry into the NPS. They are only taking written evidence until the deadline of 24th March. The committee's website does not say what happens next, if or when witnesses would be called, etc. The Committee says they are interested to hear more about a variety of issues including: "How well the proposal reflects government policy on airports and aviation more generally" ... "The suitability of the Government’s evidence and rationale in support of a north-west runway at Heathrow" ... "How well the proposal takes account of other aspects of the Government's transport strategy." ... "How comprehensive the proposal is in terms of the supporting measures for affected communities" ... "How well the proposal takes account of sustainability and environmental considerations and the adequacy of relevant documentation and information published alongside the draft proposal." And so on.

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EAC: “Government must mitigate environmental impact of new Heathrow runway” – current plans do not

The Environmental Audit Committee report on plans for a Heathrow runway show huge failings by the government, on noise, CO2 and air pollution, even after several years of trying to gloss over them. The EAC report warns that proposed safeguards surrounding noise and pollution are inadequate, and just how inadequate the current NPS consultation on the 3rd runway is. The report warns that the proposed ban on night flights between 11pm and 5.30am would, in reality, result in only 4 arrivals being rescheduled each day. At present the airport is limited to about 16 night flights in a 24-hour period, with most scheduled just before 6am, which would not be affected by the new ban. The report criticises ministers for effectively giving Heathrow the green light without “concrete policy proposals” covering the environment. There is no proof that Heathrow could be expanded without an increase in the number of polluting cars being driven to the airport. The runway is likely to increase aviation CO2 by 15% above a previously agreed limit, with no plans for how other sectors of society could compensate with deeper CO2 cuts (or even that they have been advised of the problem). Noise would become worse for many areas, and the independent aviation noise watchdog proposed would be inadequate, with no powers and just an “advisory function”. And much, much more.

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New EAC report highly critical of government lack on clarity on aircraft noise targets

The EAC has now published a follow up report to their November 2015 report, after the oral evidence given by Chris Grayling on 30th November. It is highly critical of the government on its assurances on noise targets and its low level of ambition in limiting noise in future. The EAC says: "We are concerned that the Government’s National Policy Statement has provided no further clarity on how predictable respite will be achieved or on the specific timings of a night flight ban." ... "The Government must carry out further work on respite which should form part of the NPS process, alongside plans for a live timetable of respite to be published beginning when the new runway is operational. We welcome the Government’s commitment to a 6.5 hour night flight ban. ... it would appear inconsistent to reject its key recommendation on the precise timing of a night flight ban." ... and ..."The stated goal of “fewer people […] affected by noise from Heathrow by 2030 than are today” shows a lack of ambition. Without Heathrow expansion, local communities would have seen a decrease in aircraft noise as new technology and airspace management techniques were developed." ... and "We are concerned with the inconsistency of the metrics used to measure noise attitudes. The Government has recognised that the level of significant annoyance has reduced and the number effected increased, yet it bases its conclusions on the out of date 57 dB LAeq 16hr contour." And much more.

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New EAC report says government must provide clarity about its intentions on Heathrow CO2 emissions

The EAC has now published a follow up report to its November 2015 report, after the oral evidence given by Chris Grayling on 30th November. It is highly critical of the government on its assurances that the runway will meet carbon limits. The EAC says: "The Government claims that Heathrow expansion can be delivered within “the UK’s climate change obligations”. The Government has not set out what it means by “obligations”, let alone how it will meet them. It has not decided whether to accept the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendation on limiting emissions from international aviation. It has not decided on whether to follow the CCC’s advice on offsetting. The Airports Commission told us the appropriate body to make recommendations on managing aviation emissions is the CCC. It would not be a credible position for the Government to claim that it can deliver Heathrow expansion within emissions limits whilst rejecting independent advice as to what those limits should be and how they should be met." ... The EAC says though Chris Grayling said told them the Government had not decided whether it intended to work towards the planning assumption [of limiting UK aviation to 37.5MtCO2 by 2050], when asked if he "had consulted other Ministers or sectors over the higher emissions reductions that they might be required to make if the planning assumption was not met. He said he had not yet done so." And much more ....

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New EAC report says government has given no guarantees that air quality targets will be met with Heathrow 3rd runway

The EAC has now published a follow up report to their November 2015 report, after the oral evidence given by Chris Grayling on 30th November. It is highly critical of the government on its assurances that the runway will not increase air pollution. The EAC says the government's air quality analysis is over-optimistic. "The effectiveness of the Government’s new air quality plan will be integral to determining whether Heathrow expansion can be delivered within legal limits. We are concerned that the timing of the draft National Policy Statement consultation means the Government will be unable to carry out a comprehensive re-analysis of the air quality impacts, using the new air quality plan, before the [NPS] consultation process is complete." ... "The Government must publish such an assessment alongside the final NPS, it must work towards a scenario in which all road links affected by expansion have predicted concentrations below the limit value. Whilst the health impact assessment is a step in the right direction, the Government must carry out work to reduce the significant health impacts identified, before construction of the third runway begins." ...."Since the Government intends to withdraw the UK from the EU before April 2019, there is no certainty about what our legally binding air quality limits will be after 2019. We are disappointed that these limits are not clearly laid out in the Draft NPS." And there is much more ....

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RHC challenges economic need for night flights at Heathrow, when slots can be provided during the day

The Richmond Heathrow Campaign has submitted a detailed response to the night flights consultation. One particularly interesting point they make is that Heathrow does not actually need flights between 11pm and 6am or even 7am. The airport proposed adding 25,000 more flights per year, if it is given planning consent for a new runway, before the runway is built. That means there can be 25,000 more flights per year - around 68 more per day, or about 4 - 5 per hour more (half take offs and half landings). Heathrow says it is full, but would be able to fit in these extra flights, if it wants to. Therefore, if these slots are possible, some of the flights currently in the night period could be moved into the day period. However, there are concerns that the extra 25,000 flights per year would mean loss or runway alternation, that is seen as vital for those currently overflown by Heathrow approach flight paths. The RHC believes late running flights and increased numbers of flights between 6 and 7am are largely ignored by the consultation and people may wish to comment. For the sake of people's health, the noise disturbance to sleep has to be ended, with no flights before 7am. There needs to be a ban on scheduled and unscheduled night flights starting by 2020, irrespective of any decision on a 3rd runway.

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5 arrested for blocking Heathrow tunnel – traffic chaos with tunnel closed 2 hrs 30 mins

Protesters from the Rising Up group caused tailbacks on the M4 heading towards Heathrow airport, in their latest action against plans to build a third runway. A video posted by the group shortly before 8.30am shows a car blocking the Heathrow Tunnel that accesses Terminals 2 and 3. They draped a sign reading ‘No new runways’ over the car, and there was an activist lying next to the vehicle, locked to it, on the road. The Met police said officers attended the scene at 8.25am and arrested two people for obstructing a highway. The police said five people were arrested. Three protesters were locked to one of the vehicles and two were drivers of two cars. The tunnel was closed for over two hours, and the M4 spur road was also temporarily closed, while police worked with Heathrow Airport staff to remove the people locked to the third car. A contra-flow was put in place in the outbound tunnel to facilitate the movement of traffic around the blocked tunnel. There were delays in surrounding roads. Transport for London said just after 11am the tunnel re-opened. The protest follows a flashmob the group held at Heathrow on the weekend. The DfT opened its 4 month consultation on the 3rd runway on 2nd February. The degree of bias, and absence of balance or information on negative impacts of the expansion, in the consultation, has angered many people.

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With Dublin airport (state-owned) 2nd runway work to start, a 3rd terminal (privately owned) to be considered

A new review of airport capacity will look at the potential of establishing a third, privately-operated, terminal at Dublin Airport, according to the Minister for Transport. A forthcoming review, in the next few weeks, will examine the longer-term capacity needs of Ireland's 3 State airports will include an option for a 3rd terminal. However, the chief executive of DAA, the State-owned company that owns Dublin and Cork airports, said the idea of an independent terminal was theoretical, costly and inflexible. It had been tried in only two major airports in Europe and North America, and had failed and been reversed at both. The DAA said the delivery of the new 2nd parallel runway and other infrastructure to support growth at Dublin airport should be a priority as a third terminal was a long way down the line. The industry is hoping the number of passengers would double in the next 20 years, and this could be helped by Brexit. However, Brexit could cause problems with the liberalisation of the air transport market - so Ireland wants the market to remain fully liberalised and deregulated. Opponents of the runway (and terminal) say there is no consideration of carbon emissions, and much of the public see the airport's expansion as a "no brainer."

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Air pollution from PM2.5 particulates implicated in increasing risk of premature births

Reducing air pollution from the tiny particles, PM2.5 may help to prevent 2.7 million premature births per year worldwide, according to a study published in Environment International. These particles come from sources such as diesel powered vehicles, fires and other sources. Worldwide about 10% of births are classed as preterm, and for these babies there can be significant short and long-term health implications - depending on how early the baby was born. Problems associated with prematurity are the top cause of death among children under 5 years old, and has also been associated with learning and developmental disabilities as well as an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. The number of premature births caused by this air pollution in the UK per year might be as much as 4,500. The worst problems are in south and south east Asia, including India and China. The study considered that about 18% of all pre-term births were associated with the particulate pollution in 2010. Other factors linked to pre-term birth are maternal age (young and old), multiple pregnancy (twins etc.), social and personal/lifestyle factors such as poverty, maternal education, prenatal care, physical activity, diet, and alcohol and drug consumption.

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Beaconsfield MP Dominic Grieve says constituents should respond to NPS consultation, as parts of borough negatively impacted

Beaconsfield MP Dominic Grieve has written in the local Bucks paper to advise his constituents of respond to the DfT consultation on the Heathrow NPS. He says that because of the proximity of the airport, communities in the constituency will be directly affected by the proposals. He toes the government line about the runway being [allegedly] good for the UK economy and the Buckinghamshire economy, with more local jobs. But communities like the Richings Park area around Iver will face direct, adverse environmental impact from noise. Burnham has also been pinpointed as an area likely to have increased aircraft noise. He also mentions concerns about air pollution because limits "have been exceeded at the current levels of activity, prior to the expansion which is proposed." There is a DfT public consultation event on Saturday, March 11th in Gerrards Cross. Dominic Grieve says residents will be able to go through the consultation documents (not that easy a job) and make their own minds up. Deadline for responses is 25th May 2017. In October 2016 he said there were problems with vehicle movements, and air pollution, and quality of life of residents is being adversely affected in an unacceptable fashion. He said "the government and developers must demonstrate that they can address these issues fully."

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Opponents in Austria delighted by court decision to ban Vienna 3rd runway due to CO2, but airport may appeal

Austria's Federal Administrative Court has blocked Vienna airport's plans for a 3rd runway because of the extra greenhouse gas emissions it would have caused, and unacceptable loss of agricultural land. The airport and its allies are furious and have sworn to break this ruling. Legally they should not be able to because ordinary appeal was excluded. They must overcome the very high hurdles of an extraordinary appeal, but opponents fear they will try to get this. The appeal would have to make transparent what is at stake: is Austria going to take climate change seriously or not? In the UK we have the same problem, but our courts are clearly not mandated in the same way in relation to climate change (air quality is separate). Calculations show the 3rd runway, with its traffic projections, would have been by far the most polluting project in terms of GHG-emissions, and would have destroyed several hundred hectares of agricultural land - needed to grow food. Some of the Austrian media are taking the line that such a decision is not to be made by the court but by politicians, and that the Austrian economy should be more important than the climate. So the airport and Vienna city (20% shareholder of the Vienna airport stock corporation) want to appeal. Opponents are worried.

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Richmond criticises the 1.5 million DfT leaflets promoting 3rd runway as inadequate on noise problems

Lord True, the leader of Richmond Council, has complained (as have thousands of other people) that the information being put out in the DfT consultation on the Heathrow NPS is inadequate. He said: "The leaflet that was sent out last week it propaganda in its finest. And, the more we read into the full consultation material the more concerned we are at the Government’s selective presentation of the third runway’s impacts. They should be proactively informing flight path communities about major changes like the loss of daytime respite periods but that’s not been their approach. In the next few weeks there will be a number of resident consultation events, coordinated by the Department of Transport. I urge all concerned people to go and have their say and let the government know if they are not giving the information we need.” The DfT is not making it clear that areas like Richmond would be overflown for around 75% of the day, rather than around 50% of the time now. The leaflet makes no mention of noise, other than a carefully worded offer of 6.5 hours with no SCHEDULED flights at night. It is not made easy for members of the public to find data on noise changes, with a 3rd runway. There will be no details of flight paths for several years - so the whole NPS consultation is being done, deliberately by the DfT, in the absence of noise information needed by residents.

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Ice block (presumably off plane approaching Heathrow) damages roof just west of Windsor

There have been a number of incidents, at many airports, of lumps of ice falling off planes overhead, coming in to land. Ice can form naturally on aircraft flying at high altitudes, and this can break away and fall off when the plane comes down through warmer air. There is another recent incident of this, to someone under the approach path into Heathrow, just west of Windsor. On 10th February (some time between 7 am and 8.30am) some ice crashed through the roof of a house in Oakley Green Road near Windsor. The owners of the house were not hurt, though there is substantial damage to the roof. This is another incident where it is fortunate the ice fell onto a roof, and not onto people. Such a large object falling onto someone would kill or seriously injure them. Builders secured the property before the weekend and repairs were set to begin the next week. The CAA says this sort of incident is "‘relatively rare" and the CAA website says: “As the safety regulator for UK civil aviation, the CAA requires UK aircraft operators to minimise the risk of ice falls by performing regular maintenance to prevent leaks and take prompt corrective action if a defect is found. The CAA is unable to investigate the potential origin of an ice fall, but does record reports of this nature."

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Critique of 11 claims by DfT, in its 1.5 million pro-Heathrow runway leaflets, for NPS consultation

The DfT has sent out 1.5 million leaflets to households in areas not too far from Heathrow. The leaflets make no attempt whatsoever of balance, and are merely advertising the runway plans and promoting them. Many of the claims are misleading, or so abbreviated as to be unclear. Below there is a critique of the claims, point by point, and links to evidence backing up the criticisms. If anyone has received a leaflet, and wonders about the facts, this webpage may give some useful information. Just a few examples of the dubious statements in the leaflet: the figure of £61 billion economic benefit is given, leaving out the proviso that this is over 60 years. There is much made of the generosity of the compensation to be given for compulsory purchase, but in reality anything much below 125% would be derisory, and way below world standards. The claim about six and a half hours of no scheduled night flights omits to mention how many flights, scheduled before 11pm, often take off almost to midnight. And though there may be 6 more domestic links from Heathrow, these are likely to be unprofitable and may not last for long. The loss of long haul routes from other UK airports, due to a larger Heathrow, is conveniently ignored.

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DfT hold 20 consultation events in areas near Heathrow, plus 13 around the UK promoting Heathrow 3rd runway

The DfT is holding a large number of consultation events in the coming two months, both in areas affected by Heathrow, and after that, across the UK. The first event locally was on 13th February and the final one is 20th April in London. The DfT backs the runway, and so the information given out is very much in support of the runway. The DfT has sent out 1.5 million leaflets about the consultations, with simplified text backing the runway (and ignoring any negative impacts) - which look like Heathrow's own PR about their expansion plans. The events locally are from 11am to 8pm on weekdays (10 - 5pm on Saturdays). People have to register to attend events outside London. Due to the very short notice between the announcement of the NPS consultation (2nd February) and the first event on 13th February, it is difficult for local campaigners against the runway to attend all of them. The DfT has paid staff to man them all. People are encouraged to attend the events, and ask the DfT staff questions. Some suggested questions are shown below. People are also advised not to make their responses in the consultation events, but do them in a considered manner, from home, when they have had time to assess all the information, both for and against the 3rd runway.

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Rise in complaints in St Albans district about Luton plane noise – residents are angry

Three campaign groups, representing St Albans, Harpenden and wider-Hertfordshire have banded together to call upon local politicians to do more on the problem of increasing aircraft noise, than merely call for a review or consultation on the problem. Campaigners from the alliance of HarpendenSky, Save our Skies (SoS) and Herts-based LADACAN say St Albans is at risk of ‘turning into Heathrow’ unless the rise in noise pollution is stopped. Luton had more passengers than ever in 2016, at about 14.5 million. But there was also a 150% increase in complaints about noise. Residents in Hertfordshire want Bedfordshire, which owns the airport, to suffer more of its noise. Luton airport is owned by Luton council, and people in Hertfordshire say as Bedfordshire gets the profit, they should take more of the pain. Planes are getting bigger, heavier and noisier, and are flying even earlier in the morning and later at night. There is more noise affecting Flamstead, Redbourn, Harpenden, St Albans, and on to Sandridge and Stevenage. People overflown by increasingly narrow flight paths want politicians to do something and challenge the airport. However, politicians are always nervous of saying anything that might do perceived damage to economic growth, such as demand a ban on night flights.

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Tax experts criticise lack of detail in Scottish Government’s plan for new Air Departure Tax (ADT)

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) is calling for independent analysis into the impact of cutting and axing Air Passenger Duty (APD) in Scotland. The CIOT says there is not enough detail about plans to replace APD with Air Departure Tax (ADT) from April 2018 and says a special report could “strengthen” the rationale behind the change. APD earned Scotland £275 million in 2015-16 and the CIOT, a trade body representing tax professionals, says the Scottish Government’s Air Departure Tax Bill is short on information about proposed rates, bands and exemptions for the replacement. There are also no fiscal forecasts on how halving duty from next April or eventual abolition will be achieved. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the change will benefit families and other holidaymakers who “may well welcome a reduction in the cost” of going abroad. They may therefore go abroad more often, spending money they would otherwise have spent in Scotland. Moira Kelly of CIOT said: “There is a case to be made for using this legislation to outline who will pay what, when they will pay it and who will be exempt .... In the absence of information such as this, it is very difficult to say with any degree of certainty what benefits, if any, this change will make.”

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Flight paths of Heathrow 3rd runway travel over, and parallel to, M4. Safety and distraction issue?

The planned north-west runway at Heathrow, that the UK government is very keen to push through, runs close to the M4 motorway. This is a very busy stretch of road, with much of the traffic associated with Heathrow, in one way or another. The arrival flight path from the east, onto the 3rd runway, would run over parts of it, and very close to other parts, for some distance close to the airport. This is where the planes are at their lowest and most noisy. Currently along the boundary roads of the airport there are barriers, to prevent drivers seeing the planes - at ground level - and being distracted. However, with planes flying low overhead or parallel to the road for some distance, no barriers would be able to obscure the view.possible. It is not clear whether any consideration has been given by the DfT to the problem of driver distraction (or even driver nervousness) to have planes quite so low, flying parallel and in view. There are around 130,000 vehicles per day on that stretch of the M4 - meaning over 6,000 per hour - it is a very busy section of road, and due to become yet busier with a new runway. No other major airport has busy motorway with approximately the same alignment as the flight path - there is something comparable for one Tokyo runway. Will the government take into account the safety problems of this motorway / flight path clash?

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Particulate emissions from electric cars as bad as conventional – due to more tyre and brake wear

While electric vehicles are a welcome technology, enabling a cut in local air pollution from diesel and petrol cars and vans, (as long as the electricity they use has been sustainably produced) they are not wholly a "silver bullet" solution. A new study shows that much of the particulate air pollution in cities comes from from vehicle tyres and brakes, and road surface wear and resuspension of road dust. There is a positive relationship between vehicle weight and these non-exhaust emissions - the heavier the vehicle, the more wear on tyres and brakes. As electric vehicles tend to be around a quarter heavier, for the equivalent size, than their conventional equivalent internal combustion engine counterparts they produce more of this pollution. Therefore electric vehicle PM emissions - overall - are comparable to those of conventional vehicles. The study found that these non-exhaust sources account for around 90% of PM10 and 85% of PM2.5 from traffic. They conclude: "Future policy should consequently focus on setting standards for non-exhaust emissions and encouraging weight reduction of all vehicles to significantly reduce PM emissions from traffic." Heathrow is pinning its hopes for cutting air pollution on more use of electric vehicles.

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“Virtual ecotourism” means people do not have to fly to see endangered wildlife

Many of us would love to go to exotic destinations and see wildlife. It will never be quite as good a glimpse as the remarkable programmes on wildlife on TV, where film makers can take months to get the shots. Ecotourism is beneficial to some areas, from money it brings in to the local economy, and demonstrating to local people that there is more commercial value in keeping wildlife alive than in killing it. However, it has its downsides, and even when ecotourism done sensitively it has drawbacks. These include the high carbon footprint, from flights; wildlife disturbance, potential for disease introduction, and development of roads and infrastructure which have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Also many people are unable to afford the high price of ecotourism, or are too old, young, or otherwise unable, or unwilling, to travel. Virtual Ecotourism (vEcotourism) can contribute to overcoming these problems by providing a way to experience a conservation site virtually, using many on-line technologies combined with a live, on-location tour guide. The Virtual Ecotourism website offers a number of "tours" which are 360 degree panoramas, from where the actual tourists go, showing what they see. This is a positive development meaning people do not have to fly across the world, just to see rare populations of animals.

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Court in Austria blocks 3rd runway at Vienna airport, as climate harm outweighs a few more jobs

A court in Austria has ruled that Vienna Schwechat Airport cannot be expanded with a 3rd runway, on climate change grounds. It said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. The court said the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. It also said it was important to conserve valuable arable land for future generations to provide food supplies. The airport will appeal. It is using the same false arguments that the DfT and Heathrow are using here - that building a 3rd runway would (allegedly) reduce the amount of carbon emissions and noise because they claim (against common logic) that "fuel consumption and the noise are reduced, because the waiting times of the aircraft would be avoided at peak times." The airport hopes the runway would bring more tourists into Austria to spend their money, and would be needed by 2025. The airport had 22.8 million passengers in 2015.  It is a mystery how such a low number of passengers could require 3 runways, when there is barely enough to fill one, let alone two, runway.

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Heathrow airport workers might get financial payout to encourage those with diesel cars to scrap them, to cut NO2

It is rumoured that workers at Heathrow may be offered around £2,000 each, to replace their diesel cars with less polluting electric or petrol models, to try to overcome the problem of NO2 air pollution. Staff at Heathrow are estimated to drive around 27,000 diesel vehicles. Detailed proposals are still being worked up, with talks due to take place with airlines, retailers, cargo operators and other airport employers. Discussions are understood to have taken place about the possibility of a pilot diesel scrappage scheme, by the DfT, in various areas of the UK with the worst pollution (perhaps Heathrow is one) before a nationwide rollout. An earlier Government scrappage scheme to get older, more polluting vehicles off the roads involved motorists being offered £2,000. Half of this came from the government, and half from the motor industry which benefited from more new car sales. Heathrow wants the M4 out to the M25 to be included in the Low Emission Zone to clamp down on polluting lorries and vans. It hopes that by cutting this pollution (much of which is from vehicle trips associated with Heathrow) it can be allowed a 3rd runway, keeping air pollution just within legal levels. Meanwhile, the EC is expected to soon take the next step in legal action against Britain for failing to cut illegal NO2 levels.

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Pope: CO₂ compensation for air travel is hypocrisy

Pope Francis has denounced the CO₂ compensation for air travel as hypocritical. He said: "The planes pollute the atmosphere, but with a fraction of the sum of the ticket price trees are planted to compensate for the damage inflicted." If this logic were extended, one day it would come to a point where armaments companies set up hospitals for those children who fell victim to their bombs. "This is hypocrisy." He said this was one of the greatest ethical problems of today's capitalism, that industries were producing waste and then trying to conceal it or treat it to make it invisible. He demanded an economic system that would not only reduce the number of victims, but also require no sacrifices or offsets at all. He was speaking to about 1000 entrepreneurs from around the world who are committed to the social economy. With offset schemes for air travel, passengers can transfer money to so-called compensation agencies. The amount of the sum is generally determined by the distance, consumption and seating class. The agencies then invest the money in climate protection projects in developing countries. Critics see in this practice a modern form of indulgences, which leads to increased flights.

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GACC welcomes the proposal in the DfT airspace consultation to give more consideration to problems of narrow routes

GACC has welcomed the Government decision to allow flight paths to be dispersed instead of concentrated on a single track. GACC said the policy of concentrated flight paths, which was introduced in 2012 based on the use of aircraft “Satnavs”, has caused great distress and misery to those people unfortunate to be underneath. For the past four years GACC, along with many local protest groups, has urged the Government to permit fair dispersal. The new policy is included in a new consultation on UK Airspace Policy, which states: “We propose that decisions on how aircraft noise is best distributed should be informed by local circumstances and consideration of different options. Consideration should include the pros and cons of concentrating traffic on single routes, which normally reduce the number of people overflown, versus the use of multiple routes which can provide greater relief or respite from noise.” Dispersal – spreading aircraft across the sky – would be best according to GACC, and respite – one route on Mondays and a different route on Tuesdays, for example - would be second best. Overall, however, GACC finds the consultation paper disappointing. There is a forecast for a 50% increase in the number of aircraft in the sky but no target for a reduction in noise and no action to reduce noise.

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AEF comments on DfT airspace “modernisation” consultation: it provides little future noise reduction

The DfT has a consultation on managment and modernisation of UK airspace. It ends on 25th May. The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has now had the chance to read it in detail. AEF comments that though proposed new powers - in a very limited way - for the Secretary of State to "call in" plans for some planned flight are welcome, there is little ele to give real benefits to people overflown. On proposals for more consultation and engagement etc, the AEF says: "Improvements to the process in terms of transparency and communication won’t tackle the underlying need to reduce noise." They comment: "...the introduction of quieter aircraft and a reduction in stacking ... will only have a marginal impact given the likely increase in the number of aircraft." And the SoNA study (2014) now published shows people are more annoyed by aircraft noise than they were in the past, despite technological improvements. That means noise must be taken seriously. On the plans to set up an Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) AEF says while this will provide advice, verify noise data etc, with "no requirement to deliver a noise reduction strategy, and without enforcement powers, or the teeth to make binding recommendations, the Commission’s effectiveness may be limited." Anyone affected by aircraft noise should read the whole AEF comment.

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CAA publishes SoNA study, showing high levels of annoyance from aircraft noise well below 57dB

On 2nd February the CAA published a report on a survey about attitudes to aircraft noise, done in 2014. It is called SoNA (Survey of Noise Attitudes). This follows the ANASE study done several years earlier, that was shelved by government, as its methodology was questioned, and it showed high levels of annoyance in response to plane noise. The SoNA study findings are that some adverse effects of plane noise annoyance can be seen to occur down to 51dB LAeq 16hr. The conventional level of averaged noise considered a problem is 57 dB LAeq, and noise is measured on a logarithmic scale. The SoNA report also found sensitivity to aircraft noise has increased, with the same percentage of people being highly annoyed at 54dB LAeq 16hr in SoNA as there was at 57dB LAeq 16hr in the ANIS study that was done in 1985. This gives further evidence to the demand that the government no longer uses the 57dB LAeq metric as its main noise measure. The debate continues about the merits of averaged noise over 16 hours in summer, with metrics measuring the number of plane noise events in a given time. The study says "there is insufficient evidence to link chronic health outcomes with event-based noise metrics, and SoNA 2014 found these performed less well than LAeq 16hr as a predictor of annoyance." But the findings may show "it may be appropriate to use N65 as supplementary measure for daytime noise..."

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Are GPS jamming incidents a growing problem for aviation?

In recent years, the number of reports filed by pilots to NASA’s aviation safety reporting system regarding incidents of GPS signal loss or disruption for private and commercial aircraft have increased. It is not yet clear how big a problem this is, or might be. Over the last decade, aircraft have been increasingly using Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) technology, as more operators use PBN (Performance Based Navigation). The problem is if the signal used by GPS satellites gets jammed either deliberately by a military exercise or maliciously by a person with ill-intent or even inadvertently by something like a lorry driver trying to scramble the signals of his employer’s GPS-based vehicle-tracking technology. There have been a number of incidents, including commercial airliners, and these involve either a total loss of signal or — more alarmingly — misreporting the aircraft’s position, for no apparent reason. Small jammers can easily be bought online. In the UK it is illegal to use one, but legal to buy one. Much of the jamming is harmless, but with a lot accidental low-level jamming, it "could interfere with GPS systems.” In the US, the FAA is very aware of the vulnerabilities of GPS, and "actions are being taken to address them proactively."

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Government allows ending of Cranford Agreement, so Heathrow planes can take off to the east from north runway

On 2nd February, later in the day after the announcements on the NPS and the airspace consultation, the DfT added news that the government has agreed to end the Cranford Agreement. This would have been a major announcement in itself, but craftily buried with the other news. The Cranford Agreement was an undertaking, set up about 60 years ago, that planes taking off towards the east would only use the southern runway, not the northern runway. This protects people in Cranford from appalling noise. The ending of the agreement means less noise from arrivals (when the airport is on easterlies - about 30% of the year) from the west - so places like Windsor, Datchet, Colnbrook and Poyle - under the northern runway approach path - could have half as many arrivals per day (around 330 rather than 630). But areas like Old Windsor, Wraysbury and Stanwell Moor could see the number of arrivals on easterlies from 26 to 328 a day (on the southern runway). For take offs, areas south west of the southern runway will see fewer planes, but areas north east of the northern runway will have more planes. It is likely some people in the very noisiest areas might be able to get some insulation from Heathrow, but not a lot. There are also implications for the distribution of air pollution from the planes. A condition of the planning permission gives Heathrow three years to enact the new infrastructure to implement the changes.

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Heathrow villages set for destruction get no consultation event from DfT

Residents, community representatives and local MP John McDonnell are outraged that the public consultation on the DfT's draft National Policy Statement on expanding Heathrow does not have a public exhibition event in any of the Heathrow Villages. The villages face the prospect of being demolished to make way for the runway. Though 20 local events are planned by the DfT, in areas not far from Heathrow and affected by it, the nearest one to the Heathrow villages is in West Drayton, not easy to reach by public transport from many of the villages. Previous public consultations on Heathrow expansion have always included exhibition events for those who would lose their homes. Local MP John McDonnell commented: “Quite frankly the Government are having a laugh by not holding a consultation event in the Heathrow villages. My constituents face losing their homes, schools, community centre and village life if this runway goes ahead." ...“I will be organising a further series of public meetings across the constituency over the coming weeks to ensure that local people and community organisations are fully informed and are able to fully participate in the Governments consultation process. I am confident that yet again we will defeat these disastrous proposals.”

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Irish Finance Minister raises prospect of reintroducing air travel tax, as industry is under-taxed

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has said the air travel industry may be considered to be under-taxed and the ability to apply the tax should remain in order to raise revenue. He has said the some form of air travel tax should be reintroduced, as air travel pays no VAT and no fuel duty. There is currently in Ireland a report by the National Civil Aviation Development Forum, that is recommending that Air Passenger Duty (APD) is formally abolished. APD was reduced in Ireland from €3 per passenger to zero in 2014. It had been €2 for short haul trips and €10 for long haul trips until 2010, and then a flat rate €3 for all trips from 2010 to 2014. Mr Noonan strongly rejected the proposal to remove APD, insisting the levy - at just €3 has no impact on the aviation industry, or passenger demand. He said the tax was a “useful tool for raising revenue and paying for externalities associated with air tax such as emissions, noise pollution, etc”. APD was only cut due to very heavy lobbying by the aviation industry. There is now aviation development forum in Ireland, set up since the Brexit vote. It comprises senior representatives in Irish aviation, is chaired by the Department of Transport, and aims to help the aviation industry to grow.

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European aviation CO2: there should be no free ride for the aviation sector – Peter Liese

Peter Liese, who has been the rapporteur on aviation carbon legislation in the European Commission, has commented that the aviation sector should be doing more to cut carbon. He said the proposal by the European Commission to at least keep intra-European flights in the ETS is a basis for negotiations but the sector should contribute as much to emission reductions as other industries do. He said the Parliament will continue to exert pressure for ambitious climate protection measures in intercontinental flights. He welcomed the proposal to have a reducing cap on the carbon of intra-European flights, as this imposed the same linear reduction factor to aviation as for other industries. "The previous treatment was unfair to other sectors, like the steel industry, where many people are worried about their jobs. How can you tell a steelworker that his company has to meet high climate protection requirements, while other economic sectors do practically nothing?” However, the deal planned by ICAO “is by no means ambitious.” He proposes that the EU "should continue to exempt intercontinental flights until 2021, but then reinstate them if the ICAO rules are not clear. We should also include flights to countries which, like Russia, refuse to join the ICAO agreement.” Trump and Putin should not dictate what we do in Europe.

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EU to continue with only intra-EU flights in the ETS, and all long haul excluded – at least for several years

The European Commission has published its proposal for aviation in the EU ETS, covering both the remainder of the 3rd trading period and the 4th trading period (that was left out of last year's proposal). This says that flights to and from Europe will remain excluded from ETS, this time indefinitely. But flights within Europe remain in the ETS, and from 2021 onwards they'll be subject to a declining cap (until now this cap was static). That is welcome, as it is the means by which emissions are reduced. However, this hugely diminished version of aviation inclusion in the ETS has meant, since 2013, excluding flights to and from Europe, which represent about 75% of the sector’s CO2. The Commission will review things in a few years to see how ICAO's global market based measure [offsetting] is getting on. The review might even decide to apply ETS to all flights, or it could abolish aviation ETS entirely. Commenting on the EC proposal, Bill Hemmings from Transport & Environment (T&E) said: “The Commission has chosen to again suspend the only effective measure to regulate aviation emissions, all for a voluntary deal which is years from coming into operation and which may never actually reduce the climate impact of flying. By letting aviation off the hook again, other sectors will now have to do more on cutting their climate emissions even while air travel demand soars.”

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How will people who would ultimately be – newly – intensely overflown by new Heathrow flight paths know they need to make their voice heard?

There is a considerable problem with the DfT consultations on the National Policy Statement on Heathrow, and their Airspace modernisation consultation. If there is a 3rd Heathrow runway, tens or hundreds of thousands of people - who are not currently overflown - would be. They would also be likely to be overflown intensively - as the intention of the airspace management industry is to use narrow routes, and have planes directed down these accurately. That means the same people would get plane after plane overhead, often most of the day, perhaps on most days or on many days per year. However, many of these people have no idea yet that this threat may await them. They will neither be aware there is a consultation to which they should respond, nor of the severity of the noise burden to which they may be subjected. No flight path details are yet known, and probably will not be know for another couple of years. There is a considerable risk (as at Frankfurt with their 4th runway) that people could find themselves, once a runway opens, with a level of noise they had been warned of, and for which they were not prepared. The DfT is sending out 1.5 million leaflets for its NPS consultation. But how will the relevant households know that this might be a matter of real significance for them in the future? Unless people are fully informed, with proper information, the consultation is not adequate.

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