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Latest news stories:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Institute of Directors want government to allow two new runways – not just Heathrow

The Institute of Directors (IOD) are firmly convinced that people should fly more, and so the south east needs more runway capacity. They appear to be entirely convinced by the publicity Heathrow has put out about the alleged benefits a 3rd runway would bring. But they want more than just one runway. The IODs wants the government, after the 8th June election, to build two more runways, and a follow-up Airports Commission be established. They want a fast-track commission be set up immediately to recommend locations for two additional runways within a year. Plans for a 3rd Heathrow runway need the draft National Policy Statement to be voted through parliament, perhaps early in 2018 and then several years of planning process. At the earliest the runway might be in use some time after 2025. Numbers of air passengers are rising quickly, as flying is so cheap and the moderately affluent in the UK get richer. The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry has also called for the next government to enable a 2nd runway at Gatwick to help create a “megacity”. While Gatwick was shortlisted as a candidate for a new runway by the Airports Commission, other airports such as Stansted and Birmingham would be likely to push hard should a future opportunity emerge.

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Elmbridge man warns against health dangers – noise and air pollution – of Heathrow expansion

An Elmbridge man has warned residents of health dangers from the proposed expansion of Heathrow. It’s claimed that a third runway would see the airport provide up to 720,000 flights per year, from the current cap of 480,000. He said: "Having an extra 200,000 flights and a vague promise to actually reduce traffic and air pollution, which is currently breaching all legal limits, it's just not credible, the idea that there will be less pollution, less noise. ... In Elmbridge, in all the high streets, it's breaching European limits at the moment, and around Heathrow of course it breaches limits. So, the combination of noise and air pollution certainly does affect the health of the people of Elmbridge. If you put the tobacco industry in charge of tobacco regulation, if you put the car industry in charge of diesel emissions, and if you put the airline industry and an airport in charge of air pollution, it's just not credible. ... The truth is we really can't trust these people to take our health into account". By contrast, Heathrow PR claims there will be less noise (quite implausible) with the extra 200,000+ flights, and there will be no problems with air pollution levels. Both claims are entirely without justification.

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DfT data show Hounslow, Hillingdon & Slough (all near Heathrow) have the most heavily used roads in UK

There are more than twice as many vehicles on the roads of two west London boroughs than anywhere else in the UK. The DfT figures show Hounslow to have considerably more road traffic even that the second busiest borough, Hillingdon. Both are close to Heathrow, and much of the traffic is associated with the airport. In 2016, 8,339 vehicles passed an average point in the Hounslow road network every day, a marginal increase from 8,240 the previous year. This is more than twice as many than the national average, where a typical stretch of road would see 3,587 vehicles a day. Hillingdon had 7,889 vehicles using the average stretch of its road network daily. The figures were also very high in other boroughs in west London, such as Ealing, Brent and Harrow. Another area near Heathrow, Slough, had 7,576 vehicles per hour. Road use is at the highest level it has ever been across the country due to steady growth in car traffic. Heathrow hopes to increase its number of passengers, with a 3rd runway, by about 50% and to double the volume of air freight. It claims that it will try to keep the number of road vehicles to no higher than current levels, though it has no effective means to ensure this. The DfT data shows just how bad the current problem is, even with a 2 runway Heathrow.

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Sir Jeremy Sullivan, given task of overseeing NPS consultation, rejected ban on Heathrow night flights in 2008

The DfT has set up a retired High Court judge to oversee the process of the consultation into the draft Airports National Policy Statement. His brief is to look at the process, and he is not interested in the content of the consultation. Sir Jeremy is reputed to have been a good and popular judge. However it is interesting that he presided over an appeal for a reduction in the number of night flights at Heathrow, in 2008. Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor and Maidenhead councils had taken the DfT to a judicial review at the Royal Courts of Justice, to seek a reduction in the number of aircraft allowed to arrive at Heathrow before 6am. But Sir Jeremy Sullivan ruled in favour of the Government, rejecting the review on all grounds. Mr Sullivan said that while the Government had a policy of bearing down on night noise this did not necessarily mean that it had to make things better. He added that the policy was, therefore, "vacuous." The councils argued half the planes in this early morning period had been placed in the wrong noise category and if they had been correctly classified they would not have been able to fly. The judge agreed with the DfT that the government did not have to take specific action on the Heathrow problem, as the night flights scheme pooled noise data over the 3 London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

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EasyJet annual overall CO2 emissions rise, but the spin just focuses on CO2 per passenger kilometre

EasyJet has had a moderately difficult year and its profits have not grown as fast as it would have liked. So logically it is pushing for the highest load factors it can, to save costs and increase profits. Getting the planes fuller is great - as it does make a small reduction in the amount of carbon emitted per passenger. EasyJet is proud to be announcing that its CO2 emissions for the year ending September 2016 were 79.98g/passenger km. That was down by 1.3% on the previous year and 31% lower than in 2000. But in 2000 the number of passenger kilometres flown by EasyJet was only about 2.5% of the number now. With the massive annual growth in passenger kilometres that EasyJet anticipates (and does everything it can to achieve) of over 6% per year, the small improvement on each is far, far out-weighted. It is like someone one a diet saying they will eat biscuits that are 1% smaller, but eat 6% more of them. The net effect is massively more - biscuit eaten in this case - carbon emissions overall. It is merely greenwash, for PR purposes and to confuse the unwary, to crow about tiny improvements in carbon intensity per unit of a product, while increasing the quantity of the product. All industries do this - even countries. EasyJet's overall carbon emissions are rising, and as long as it grows fast, will continue to rise. Most gains in load factor improvements have already been achieved - the "low hanging fruit".

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Heathrow cargo consolidation app, to cut NO2 – but outweighed by anticipated freight growth

Heathrow has said it hopes to double the amount of air freight it carries, if it gets a 3rd runway. Most of this freight arrives at the airport, or leaves the airport, in diesel powered lorries or vans. Heathrow knows it has real problems worsening local air quality, with particulates and NO2 in particular. The Airports Commission report was particularly weak on NO2 air pollution, and ignored the emissions from Heathrow’s air cargo. In March 2016 Heathrow put out the news that it is trying to get freight companies to consolidate some loads, share journeys etc. Now Heathrow has put out a similar story, about a new App it has produced. This new load consolidation App is called "Heathrow CargoCloud." It might save companies a bit of money, and it might slightly cut the number of trucks, and hence the levels of NO2 air pollution. The illegal levels of air pollution are a real problem for Heathrow, and neither the airport nor the government has any realistic means of getting these down in the short term. In reality, getting a few trucks off the road - though very welcome - is not going to be enough to negate a planned doubling of freight tonnage. Heathrow hopes its App will make Heathrow "an airport of choice for cargo.” ie. attract more freight (and more congestion and air pollution) cancelling out any improvements ...

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Environmental group launches legal action over plans for new Dublin runway under climate law

The original permission for the proposed 3.1km runway at Dublin airport was granted in 2007, and was due to expire this August. A 5 year extension was granted by Fingal County Council in March 2017. The runway plans were put on hold during the recession.. Now Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) have sought a judicial review of Fingal County Council’s decision. They allege that the council’s Chief Executive was fully aware that the extra runway would result in increased greenhouse gas emissions before granting the 5-year extension. This would be in contravention of the objectives of the 2015 Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. FIE say that as the original permission was granted based on an Environmental Impact Statement from 2002, the council has failed to consider new research on climate change over the past 15 years. The FIE’s challenge also refers to the recent refusal of planning permission for a third runway at Vienna Airport by the Austrian Court due to the higher carbon emissions the runway would cause. Two separate groups of residents to be affected by the construction of a 3rd runway have also brought legal challenges. St Margaret’s Concerned Residents Group say the impact of the runway on their homes was not properly considered by the council.

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Residents of Burien City Council, Seattle, sue the FAA on fight path change – and win

Burien is an area affected by Seattle airport, in the US. People there have been badly affected by a new concentrated flight path over them, since June 2016. Residents have got together to fight the changes, and get the noise reduced. In January 2017 the lawyer for Burien City said she had made it clear to the FAA that the city was serious and that if the agency “did not ‘cease and desist by February 10, 2017 and if the FAA did not commit to conduct a full environmental review,’” then the Burien and Quiet Skies Coalition would sue the FAA. They have now done that, and won - and their win is inspiring other cities to make similar moves. The flight path changes were made without any public notice, either to the city or to the Port of Seattle. The FAA had refused to meet the city council to discuss changing the flight plan. Local campaigner Debbie Wagner said: “It’s a huge win, nobody ever beats the federal government.” However, this is a win of a battle - not the war. “You can band together, you can join together and fight and win, but in the grand scheme of things we’re fighting a Goliath that wants to grow even bigger....we are all suffering. We’re suffering now in the present situation, they want to make it twice as bad. I can’t even imagine” she said. Sea-Tac International Airport is expanding, with new buildings etc, and expansion is only going to make the situation worse.

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Stop Stansted Expansion calls on CAA and NATS to reverse 2016 flight path change, that are causing noise misery

SSE says National Air Traffic Services (NATS), who develop flightpaths for Britain's airports, should reverse changes made last year. The changes to flightpaths are causing "noise misery." The changes, introduced in February 2016, have led to a doubling of flights using the easterly Clacton departure routes and led to more than four times the number of complaints about aircraft noise (4,000 in 2016 compared to 760 in 2015). NATS and the CAA are conducting a review of the changes, to assess the impacts and benefits against what was expected when the plans were introduced. SSE noise adviser, Martin Peachey, said: "Whenever there are changes to flight paths there are always winners and losers but in this instance it seems that the only winners are the airlines. There must be more equitable outcome so that local residents do not pay a high price in terms of increased noise misery." The changes were opposed by residents at public consultation, with 82% of those who responded, but were nevertheless approved by the CAA and implemented in February 2016 because there were judged to be benefits for airlines, in terms of fuel savings and time saving. Any minor benefits for airlines are far outweighed by the additional noise misery being inflicted upon local communities. SSE is urging local residents to make their views known to NATS.

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Inadequate draft DEFRA air quality plan remains silent on Heathrow 3rd runway impact on NO2

Defra's new, very weak (due probably to trying not to upset owners of diesel cars in the run-up to the election) air quality plan is not likely to achieve air within legal NO2 limits in parts of London before 2030. A 3rd Heathrow runway would increase levels of NO2 in an area that has remained persistently in breach of legal limits. However, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) point out that the draft plan does not mention the airport, with emissions associated with a 3rd runway apparently not even modelled. AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said, while we are waiting to see what legal action is taken on UK air quality: "In the meantime ministers are hoping to lock in parliamentary support for Heathrow expansion by the end of the year, despite new forecasts indicating that London may still be non-compliant with air pollution limits by 2030, and despite knowing that a third runway, due to open mid-2020s, would make the problem worse. The process for approving Heathrow expansion should be halted immediately, and reconsulted on only once an effective and legally compliant air quality plan is in place, so that the impact of a third runway can be properly assessed.” Forecasts from both the Airports Commission and the DfT show that expansion would act to further increase NO2 due to extra emissions from aircraft as well as associated passenger and freight traffic on the roads.

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Government response to EAC on Heathrow air pollution are vague and entirely unsatisfactory

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) criticised the UK Government for its failure to deal adequately with air pollution from a 3rd Heathrow runway. Before its dissolution, for the general election on 8th June 2017, the EAC published the response by the government (dated 21st April) to questions put to it by the committee in February. The responses on air pollution are not satisfactory. Asked by the EAC to carry out work to reduce the significant health impacts identified, the government just says it is updating "its evidence base on airport capacity as appropriate to ensure that any final NPS is based on the most up to date information" ... and that "The Government is determined to meet its air quality obligations and to do so in the shortest time possible." ..."The draft NPS stipulates that final development consent will only be granted if the Secretary of State is satisfied that, with mitigation, the scheme would be compliant with legal air quality requirements." ie. totally vague, saying almost nothing specific. The EAC said Government must publish a comprehensive assessment of the infrastructure requirements of a 3rd runway and consult on it before publishing a final NPS. The Government just said "necessary changes to the transport system will rightly be considered as part of the statutory planning process." And so on.

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Campaigners incredulous at Rob Gray’s appointment as the new head of community engagement at Heathrow

Heathrow airport has effectively stuck two fingers up at the local opposition to the 3rd runway, by appointing to the post of Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations at the airport. Mr Gray starts in May, working under executive director for expansion, Emma Gilthorpe. The job will be to "work with local communities to ensure our plans reflect their views.” Rob Gray has been deeply disliked by opponents of Heathrow expansion, due to his 4 years as director of the astro-turf organisation, "Back Heathrow" which was set up to look like a genuine community group. Mr Gray is unpopular not only because of his personal style and hostile attitude to those whose lives would be damaged by the runway, but also because of untruthful campaigns. One was banned by the ASA in October 2016, for having incorrectly used statistics claiming the extent of support for a 3rd runway. Back Heathrow also produced promotional materials and letters implying *(falsely) that Heathrow would close without the runway, and jobs would be lost. Mr Gray's attitudes towards runway opponents makes him a highly unsuitable person to have the role of liaison - if the airport was serious in undertaking genuine dialogue. His appointment is being seen as a signal that they are not. Back Heathrow has a new director, Parmjit Dhanda, and its recent letter to its supporters, asking them to send in NPS submissions in favour of the runway says: “It is now up to you to save Heathrow’s future.” and “PS. Don’t risk Heathrow’s future.”

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Draft Government plans to cut NO2 pollution are woefully inadequate, having limited impact

The government was forced to publish its draft Air Quality Plan consultation (closes 15th June) on 5th May, having tried to delay it till after the election. It has not impressed campaigners for lower NO2 in our air. The plan has been criticised for being "woefully inadequate" and containing measures that would make only slight improvements. There is a planned scrappage scheme for a year, but this would only be for 15,000 vehicles (9,000 diesel and 6,000 petrol). The plan would replace these vehicles with electric Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles (ULEVs). It would cost the government money. There are plans to get more vehicles retrofitted, with selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology for buses and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and LPG technology for black cabs. But it would only be for around 6,000 buses, 4,400 black cabs, and 2,000 HGVs by 2020. There could be more incentives to buy both battery operated and plug-in hybrid electric ULEVS.  And also hopes to change driver behaviour to drive more smoothly, remove speed humps, or cut speed limits.  All sound sensible ideas, but would have minimal impacts on the vast numbers of UK road vehicles. There are around 160,000 vehicles per day on the M4 near Heathrow, and around 263,000 on the M25 near Heathrow. It will take more than the government's current proposals to make more than a tiny dent in all that NO2 air pollution. There is no mention of airports in the Defra document.

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Guide to impact of Election on work of parliamentary committees, especially relating to Heathrow NPS

For those of us who are unfamiliar with the way parliament works etc, and especially in relation to select committees and the effect of a general election, here is a short briefing on what will happen in the coming months, especially in relation to Heathrow. From the 3rd May Parliament is dissolved. The parliamentary select committees have also ceased to function. The chairs of these committees need to be elected first, and the decision made on which party will chair each committee, according to the strength of the party in the House. It could be mid July before committee chairs are appointed. Then members of the committees have to be appointed, and that needs a motion setting out the membership of each committee, agreed on the floor of the House. In both 2010 and 2015, this took approximately six weeks to be agreed. Therefore, the earliest the final composition of select committees will be known is likely to be September 2017. The election means that any current inquiries not completed (such as the Transport Committee one on the draft NPS) have been paused. It will be up to the members of the new Transport Select Committee if they wish to pick up this inquiry and continue with it. There is also an inquiry by 4 select committees into air quality. That will also have to be picked up by the new committees.

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Govt under pressure on 3rd runway air pollution – Heathrow just “confident” on future “exciting breakthroughs”

The UK Government is under increasing pressure to clarify how a 3rd Heathrow runway could be delivered without breaching air quality and CO2 dioxide emissions targets. In February the parliamentary EAC issued a report that called on the Government to produce a new air quality strategy “to determine whether Heathrow Airport expansion can be delivered within legal air quality limits”. It also said the Government “must not allow our air quality standards to be watered down as a result of leaving the EU”, and urged clarification on what a post-Brexit air quality national plan would look like. The UK needs to ensure EU air quality targets won’t be quietly dropped. The government's draft NPS has made vague assurances that “final development consent [for a third Heathrow runway] will only be granted if the Secretary of State [for Transport] is satisfied that, with mitigation, the scheme would be compliant with legal air quality requirements”. However, there is no clarity on what that means. They surely would not prevent Heathrow using its runway, after spending so much money building it. Heathrow just says “Although we don’t have all these solutions yet we have a strong history of innovation and we’re confident that the next 10 years will hold even more exciting breakthroughs than the last.” ie. fingers crossed it all just - possibly - might be OK ....

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Airline lobby group “Airlines UK” set out their list of manifesto demands, to boost the sector’s profits

Airlines UK, the lobby group for UK-registered airlines, has set out a number of manifesto ‘asks’ ahead of the General Election in June. It has Brexit, taxation and airport capacity at the top of its wish list, for maximising the industry's growth and profits. The sector is very nervous about Brexit, and wants the UK to remain a member of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) with all EASA rules and regulations applied to UK operators and companies based here and the UK continuing to receive full voting rights within EASA. It wants the government to safeguard EU, US and international market access for airlines. It wants continued UK involvement in the development of Single European Sky (SES), and participation in SESAR. It wants to continue to be able to employ staff from across Europe, and no further restrictions to UK border arrangements. Airlines UK also wants the 3rd Heathrow runway, with lower costs of fares there; and also growth in aviation at all other UK airports, with airspace modernisation, and surface access improvements (paid for by the taxpayer). While wanting all these goodies, it wants there to be no tax at all on air travel, with APD abolished. (Air travel already pays no VAT or fuel duty). And if APD is cut in Scotland, it definitely wants no APD in the UK, in order to avoid "competitive distortions." On carbon emissions, it just wants more use of biofuels (with no acknowledgement of their environmental cost). It is a grasping industry, never satisfied ....

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Large number of delays on Piccadilly line in the last 10 months – even with just a 2 runway Heathrow

Passengers on the Piccadilly line suffered 47,800 hours of delays during the last 10 months, official statistics reveal. Problems with the 40 year old trains accounted for a third of all rush hour delays while 7% were because of faulty signals on the ageing line. The line, fourth busiest on the network and used by more than 70,000 passengers a day, has been beset with problems. Lost passenger hours are calculated by measuring the delay caused to each train and then multiplying by the number of people affected. The information was obtained by a FoI request to TfL. The figures highlight the need for urgent upgrade work on the line. The director of the Piccadilly line said this was caused by "a large number of damaged train wheels during November and December last year" (due to rain, apparently - rain happens every year?). In autumn 2016 leaves-on-the line resulted in half the Piccadilly line fleet being taken out of service for repairs. This is the main tube line to Heathrow, and Heathrow pledges (if anyone could believe them ...) that 55% of its passengers will use public transport by 2031 - up from about 42% now. That is a massively higher number of people, expected to use a line that already struggles. The 3rd runway can only make this worse, and Heathrow refuses to pay for transport infrastructure improvement.

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LibDem Leader Tim Farron says voting Tory “sends relaxed message over 3rd Heathrow runway”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called on Londoners not to give the Tories a free pass to build a 3rd Heathrow runway. Mr Farron claimed that a vote for the Conservatives in the general election would send a “relaxed message” about the most significant construction project in the capital since the Second World War. “If the Conservatives win in south-west London that would be taken as a message from local people they were happy and content with where we were with Heathrow,” he said. Reaffirming his party’s position as anti-Heathrow expansion, Mr Farron said his MPs would block every vote on the issue in the Commons. Pressed on how he would solve the shortage of runway capacity for the anticipated rise in air passengers, he said was about providing alternatives and making use of the other runway capacity around the country, especially in places like the Midlands. Meanwhile it is expected that the Conservative manifesto will again (as in 2015) avoid any mention of the runway issue, in order not to cause problems for local MPs like Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and Justine Greening (not to mention Theresa May herself, in Maidenhead) getting re-elected, despite their difficult positions of not standing up for their constituents on this matter.

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MPs criticise Government over carbon ‘fantasy’ for Heathrow expansion (based on vague hopes)

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has criticised the UK Government for its failure to deal adequately with carbon emissions from a 3rd runway, saying their carbon calculations were a "fantasy". As part of its response, the Government says it will publish an Aviation Strategy white paper in 2018 (which means pushing the Heathrow runway through first, and only then, sorting out the rest of the UK's aviation policy. A true case of "cart before horse"). The government is trying to make out that adding a new runway would not place extra pressure on other sectors to reduce their emissions. The Committee on Climate Change has repeatedly warned this would be the case, if gross UK aviation CO2 emissions rose above 37.5MtCO2 per year. The government says (whatever this means) that it “remains open to considering all feasible measures to ensure the aviation sector contributes fairly to UK emissions reductions”. Clear as mud. The EAC has now ceased work, due to the general election. But its chair, Mary Creagh has warned the election will enable the Government to “duck their responsibilities to the environment”. She said: “Heathrow expansion should only go ahead if the Government has a clear plan for the extra air pollution, carbon emissions and noise. All the government has to offer on aviation CO2 is membership of the (woefully weak and inadequate) ICAO deal, which the UK would join in 2021.

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Tory manifesto to avoid mention of Heathrow 3rd runway to help critics (like Boris and Hammond) get re-elected

The Telegraph has learned that the Conservative election manifesto will avoid mentioning the Heathrow proposed 3rd runway, in order to save the party political problems. A Conservative spokesman told the Telegraph there is “no need” to cite the project despite it not yet being voted through "because it was announced last year.""A more veiled reference to airport expansion is now expected to be included instead." Leaving it out of the manifesto means MPs such as Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond, Justine Greening and even the PM herself (with a constituency badly affected by Heathrow) are saved awkwardness. They hope to be able to avoid the issue, even though it one of the most expensive and controversial infrastructure projects proposed in then next few years. The issue was also not mentioned in the 2015 election when, again, it risked losing voters in seats affected by the airport - especially marginals. A decision as large as Heathrow would be expected to be in an election manifesto, as it has implications for so many people. That is especially the case as the draft NPS on Heathrow must be voted for in Parliament. Tania Mathias continues to battle against the runway plans, as does Zac Goldsmith, now to be the Conservative candidate at Richmond Park. Both are contesting seats with others, equally opposed to the runway - Vince Cable and Sarah Olney.

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400 mile walk Harmondsworth to Holyrood: Neil takes his anti-Heathrow runway message to the SNP

Neil Keveren, a builder who lives in one of the villages that would be partially destroyed by the construction of Heathrow’s proposed 3rd runway, has completed a 400-mile walk from Heathrow to Edinburgh, in protest at the SNP’s backing for the plans. Neil arrived at the Scottish Parliament 23 days after leaving his home in Harmondsworth on 4th April, having covered about 20 miles every day. Neil was born in the village of Sipson, which is also facing partial demolition if the expansion goes ahead. For Keveren, the expansion of Heathrow is deeply personal. His house in nearby Harmondsworth is located only 54 paces from the enlarged airport’s boundary fence, while his 82-year-old uncle Ray (his support driver on the walk) also stands to lose his home. The SNP block of 54 MPs formally backed the Heathrow bid, in the probably mistaken belief it would bring significant strategic and economic benefits for Scotland, including the very dubious indeed figure of "up to 16,000 new jobs" - over many years. Neil had appointments with a number of SNP MPs during the day, and had the opportunity to give them more information about the runway. So far most of them have only received very biased information from Heathrow, and they were interested to learn some of the inaccuracies and exaggerations in what they have been led to believe. Neil's amazing walk proved the opportunity to talk to the SNP and correct misapprehensions.

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Heathrow plans 4 regional construction hubs for proposed runway, to give the impression of spreading jobs around UK

Four UK construction hubs are being sought by Heathrow to allow components of its £16bn expansion project to be built away from the airport. The logistics hubs will pre-assemble components for the proposed 3rd runway before transporting them to the airport. Heathrow claims this will make the project cheaper, and provide some jobs to other parts of the country. This form of construction may have been used in the housebuilding sector but had only had a “limited” role in major British infrastructure projects. The areas to have these construction hubs need to have good connectivity (road, rail?), have "a relevant supply chain and strong local skills". Areas need to apply by July 31st, with a list of potential sites expected to be announced later this year. The airport can only start submitting its development consent order if the NPS is voted for in Parliament, and if the government wins the legal challenges. That could not be before spring 2018. Heathrow hopes, perhaps unrealistically, to have its runway built and working by 2025. Heathrow says it has used off-site locations before, with large parts of the structural steelwork for Terminal 2 building constructed in Yorkshire and Lancashire. In October 2016 the Scottish government said: "Heathrow will work with the Scottish Government to investigate Glasgow Prestwick Airport as a potential site for a logistics hub to support the building of the third runway." No mention of that now?

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Government cannot delay air pollution plan – must be published by 8th May

The UK Government has lost a court bid to delay publication of its air pollution strategy, and must now release it before the 8th June election. Courts had given the government until Monday 24th April to set out draft guidelines to tackle illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. Late last week, ministers lodged an application to delay their release until after the general election saying publication would fall foul of election "purdah" rules. But now the High Court ordered the draft plans to be published on 9th May, five days after the local elections, but long before the general election on 8th June. The date for publication of the final air pollution strategy document remains unchanged on 31st July. The government's lawyers said publication now would drop a "controversial bomb" into the mix of local and national elections. But the High Court said purdah was a convention only and did not override legal obligations to clean up the air. Additionally, the impact on public health would exempt it from the purdah rules anyway. This is the latest development in a long-running legal action brought against the government by environmental lawyers, ClientEarth. This at least means that there will be some idea of the air pollution proposals before the end of the draft Heathrow NPS consultation. Had they been delayed, there would not have been. .

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T&E and CAN write to AirlinesforEurope (A4E) to ask where they stand on Ryanair’s climate denial

Following remarks by Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary rejecting the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, T&E and Climate Action Network Europe have written to the European airlines' lobbying group, AirlinesforEurope (A4E), and A4E's other member airlines - asking them to state publicly whether they side with O'Leary's climate denial or whether they accept the proven link between human activity and a warming planet. With aviation emissions continuing to soar – up 8% in Europe alone in 2016 – and governments struggling to introduce effective measures to rein them in, there is a strong public and consumer interest in knowing whether European airlines accept the need to take action on climate change or are intent on identifying with the diminishing band of climate deniers. National and European decision makers should also know where airlines stand on the issue of climate change when they are being intensively lobbied by airlines on the issue. The letter ends: "We therefore call on your airlines, and A4E, to state publicly whether you accept the over-whelming evidence of climate change, and the resulting need to take ambitious action, or whether you are partners in Mr O’Leary’s reckless climate denialism."

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Tainted pro-runway “Back Heathrow” director gets top job in Heathrow community relations team

Residents are dumbfounded and angry after learning that Rob Gray has been appointed as the new Director of Community and Stakeholder Relations at Heathrow. Until recently, Gray had been the Director of Back Heathrow Ltd., a company set up by Heathrow Airport Ltd., to promote a third runway. Under his leadership, Back Heathrow was found by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) to have produced misleading adverts aimed at politicians, where they overstated support for their campaign. On a different occasion, Gray oversaw a mismanagement whereby people replying to their campaign materials were automatically registered as supporters. Gray also led the campaign using scare tactics, designed to make local residents fear that if they didn’t back a third runway, Heathrow would decline and close, causing mass unemployment across west London. Rob Gray's new role requires him to foster good relationships with the local community and strive to make Heathrow the better neighbour it should be. Opponents of the runway believe this is an appointment that can only cause further deterioration in relations between the airport and local communities. It would especially be the case for those that would be destroyed to make way for the runway or because living in such close proximity to it would be impossible.

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More intelligent approaches, understanding bird psychology, help cut risk of bird strikes

Safety fears have led to mass culls of birds near airports. But are such drastic measures necessary? It appears that about 70,000 gulls, starlings, geese and other birds have been killed around New York airports since since 2009. They have been killed by shooting, trapping, and sometimes gassing. The CAA say that the number of confirmed bird strikes rose from 1,496 to 1,665 between 2011 and 2015. Only in 6% of cases did it have some kind of operational effect on an aircraft. In many of these incidents, planes aborted take-off, returned to the airport, or diverted to another. According to Natural England, 12,956 birds were culled in 2015-16. Rooks, crows and pigeons made up the largest number. Bird conservation organisations wan airports to use less barbaric ways of reduce the risk of bird strikes. There are various technological solutions that may be effective. One bird ecology professor at Exeter university said that it is necessary to understanding of the birds’ point of view. A "sonic net" can be used, which is a noise played across areas to be protected. It needs to be at the same pitch as the alarm calls of birds, or predator noises that they are listening out for. “When birds experience this they either leave the area or their vigilance goes up because they can’t hear each other’s alert calls or a predator coming.” So the birds move away, as it is too risky to stay.

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CAGNE dismayed there will be no Gatwick departures review, and CAA Route 4 approval

Local Gatwick group, CAGNE, are very disappointed that Gatwick airport will not be holding a full review of departures - in the way there was a review of arrivals. One key reason for this is that one airspace change has impacts on others. At the Gatwick Noise Management Board meeting (5th April) community groups learned of Gatwick’s decision not to hold a full Departure Review, contrary to earlier indications.Sally Pavey, Chair CAGNE, commented: “CAGNE always seeks a fair and equitable distribution of arrivals and departures to the east and west of the airport for West Sussex and Surrey residents. We know that many communities that suffer the concentrated flight paths of departures (PRNAV) will now be very dissatisfied.” The CAA approved the introduction of concentrated flight paths on all departure routes from Gatwick in May 2014 with seemingly little consultation. The CAA then reviewed these, (CAA PIR Review), and only found some routes needed re-addressing to comply with the current Government airspace policy and CAA guidelines, one of which was Route 4. The CAA has now approved the changes to the Surrey Route 4, which departs west from Gatwick and then turns east, to the intense disappointment of many now intensely overflown. The noise metrics the CAA uses do not properly the impacts, with averaging conveniently concealing intense periods of noise.

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Sweden should face down industry myths about the impact of an air travel tax, and impose it

There is a great interest in Sweden on which decisions will be taken regarding aviation tax. For European airlines, resistance to air taxes is a top priority. Andrew Murphy, Manager at Aviation at Transport & Environment (T&E) believes Sweden must resist industry pressure and intimidation, and not cut the taxes. In every country, in Europe the airline industry lobbies in the same way: say the tax threaten job losses, say it’ll destroy the economy, and threaten to shut down routes if governments don’t drop attempts to tax. The UK’s air passenger duty (APD), first introduced in 1994, has withstood all onslaughts while its airline sector has thrived. Now it’s Sweden’s turn to be subject to this economic scaremongering. For airlines, low taxes mean slightly cheaper tickets, so more passengers and more money for the industry. And more CO2 of course. industry arguments have very little basis in reality, and are rarely backed up with any credible evidence. In the UK a tax of £13 per return flight for an adult really is not enough to stop anyone travelling to Europe. Nor will a tax of £7 - 37 in Sweden. The industry likes to make out that the tax is wicked and damaging, and everyone deserves a tax break at the expense of all the others who don’t fly. The industry already pays no VAT, no fuel duty and only the most minimal charges for carbon under the EU ETS.

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Councils that have spent £350k fighting Heathrow expansion plans ‘doing taxpayers a favour’

Local authorities that are badly affected already by Heathrow are having to spend large amounts of money, in trying to oppose a 3rd runway. The cost to the boroughs if the runway was in operation could be huge (road costs, housing, health, noise, congestion, social impacts etc etc). The councils may have to spend £350,000 on a joint legal challenge against the government's plans for the runway. Though this may sound a lot, it is probably dong taxpayers a favour, in trying to save massive future costs. A FoI request revealed Wandsworth, Richmond and Hillingdon councils spent £300,000 from their general funds, and Windsor and Maidenhead Council spent £50,000 from its development fund. Hillingdon Council has also earmarked a contingency budget of £200,000 in case of future legal action regarding the expansion, and Wandsworth Council has set aside £25,000. The government spent £3.8 million over 18 months on consultants, working on 3rd runway plans. The anticipated cost of necessary surface access infrastructure for the runway could be £15 billion, and that is likely to have to be paid by taxpayers (across the UK, not merely in London or the south east). Robert Barnstone, coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: “These 4 local authorities are in fact doing British taxpayers a favour trying to stop this overwhelmingly burdensome amount of money being spent."

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Day 17 of Neil’s walk to Scotland – through the Northumberland National Park

21st April: Day 17 of Neil Keveren's 400 mile walk from Harmondsworth to Edinburgh. Neil is less than a week away from his destination, Edinburgh. His body is holding up but he is facing the toughest part of his walk, with the weather forecast next week talking about Arctic winds (headwinds) and thunderstorms! Neil has blogged about what it has been like walking through the Northumberland National Park. "Strong winds today and I have my waterproofs on. It's so hilly! I've been on this same road now for days and it takes some getting used to. When I look at the road ahead I'm aware that I have to walk as far as the eye can see. When I look behind me I see a vast stretch of road that I've walked. ...The landscape is stunning. A bonus on this walk has been absorbing some of the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen. ... It's also been good to have so much support on the road - not just from Ray in the van. Drivers beep me and people on the street stop to wish me well. A few people have walked along for a while to keep me company and have chat. Perhaps the most unusual though was a flock of sheep who walked their boundary with me - I think they liked my hi-vis. ... Today was a tough walking day, with serious hills on one long, mostly Roman, route."

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Gatwick community group calls for the new Government to restrict aircraft noise through policy

Local Gatwick community group, CAGNE, wants the next Government - after the 8th June election - to control aviation, and encourages voters to make an election promise to limit aviation through appropriate policy. The current Government’s consultation on national airspace policy suggests undertones of an industry that could be allowed to self regulate, under a more relaxed policy. The DfT consultation (ends 25th May) on airspace change proposes allowing the industry to have more self-regulation, by allowing airport owners more control of airspace. It also sets the bar for call in by the Secretary of State too high for communities to mount, requiring 10,000 complaints - a practical impossibility for a small group. The DfT also offer no independent ombudsman outside of CAA approval. Sally Pavey, Chair of CAGNE commented: “This permits the CAA to continue to play judge and jury as it is funded by the industry it serves. There is very little new policy in the consultation to make airlines reduce aircraft noise. It displays the attitude that aviation demands are a priority over that of those communities that suffer unacceptable level of aircraft noise, up and down the country, now.” CAGNE believes that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to airspace design. The meaning being that each route has to be addressed separately so that the impact on communities can be addressed in a proper and fair way.

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Voters in Maidenhead need proper representation in opposing the negative effects of 3rd runway

With an unexpected election, residents in the Prime Minister’s constituency – Maidenhead – have the chance to elect an MP who opposes the Heathrow 3rd runway. Back in 2009 Theresa May on numerous occasions voiced her avid concerns about its impact on her constituency. In May 2010, when the runway was stopped by the coalition government, she said: “Like many local residents, I strongly welcome the cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow……and today’s announcement is a victory for all those who have campaigned against it.” But that was all reversed, and Mrs May U-turned on the issue. Two letters in the local paper express the frustration and disappointment of constituents. One writes: “… since her elevation to Prime Minister, Maidenhead residents no longer have a voice for their views.” … Maidenhead needs an MP who opposes the necessity for the local council to spend tens of thousands of £s on legal action against the proposed runway. … “Also the Department for Transport in their “Sensitivities” report outline that the Net Benefit to the country, after construction costs etc is only from £0.2bn to £6.1bn over 60 years, i.e. divide this by 60, so a miniscule percentage of the UK Economy” ….We need an MP who “properly represents the interests of Maidenhead constituents.”

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30 NGOs ask Austrian authorities not to reverse block on expansion of Vienna airport

30 NGOs, from Austria and beyond, have called on the Austrian authorities to respect a court ruling which blocked the planned expansion of Vienna Airport on the basis that it would violate Austria's domestic and international climate commitments. Aviation is the most carbon intensive mode of transport, and its continued growth undermines efforts to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The letter says: "The Court’s ruling is a recognition of the inability of the aviation sector to expand in a manner which takes into account the public interest of climate mitigation, and which is consistent with Austria’s domestic, constitutional and international legal responsibilities. No effective measures currently exist to mitigate the sector’s substantial and growing climate impact. Aviation remains uniquely exempt from fuel taxation and VAT, artificially inflating its growth and undermining the incentive to improve efficiencies or strengthen alternatives to aviation, such as rail." The NGOs say reliance on the weak ICAO deal (CORSIA) should not be used to permit aviation to expand, as it is "wholly incompatible with the Paris Agreement: not only is its target insufficient for the Agreement’s 1.5°C limit, but its reliance on offsets is unsustainable given the Agreement’s requirement for all states and sectors to reduce emissions. Its limited environmental effectiveness is called into question if it is used by industry as a ‘licence to grow’."

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Ryanair denies climate change because it doesn’t like CO2 solutions that would cramp its growth

Recently Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary dismissed evidence of climate change as “rubbish”. Andrew Murphy, aviation manager at Transport & Environment, says this is hardly surprising. CO2 emissions from all sectors in the EU’s emissions trading system decreased in 2016 with one exception: aviation: CO2 from flights within Europe grew 8%, according to figures released last week by the European Commission. Low-fares airlines drove this growth, with Ryanair, Wizz Air, Eurowings and Norwegian all registering double-digit increases in emissions. Ryanair is the biggest aviation emitter in Europe. These airlines are now huge emitters with carbon footprints exceeding those of some small countries. Ryanair’s growth is thanks, in part, to a business model reliant on taxpayer handouts. It will face the biggest challenge if governments take serious action against aviation’s growing emissions. World CO2 emissions need to almost cease by 2050, so an increase of 8% in European aviation emissions in one year alone is of serious concern. It is allowed because all levels of government – regional, national and European - policies do nothing to curb its emissions. The sector receives €40 billion annual subsidy from its fuel tax and VAT exemptions. Luckily, the aviation EU ETS provisions are currently under revision, and MEPs and member states have an opportunity to fix some of the major flaws.

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Neil’s 400 mile walk to Scotland: Day 14 – Easter Monday meeting with Andy McDonnell MP

On his 400 mile walk from Harmondsworth to Edinburgh, Neil missed spending Easter with his family - but he has his Uncle Ray, his sup[port driver. And powerful determination to save his village from a 3rd Heathrow runway. He has been walking at least 20 miles per day, getting ahead of schedule. On Bank Holiday Monday, Neil met up with Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesborough and Labour Shadow Transport Secretary. Andy was interested in the scrapbook of the Harmondsworth community that Neil is taking to Scotland, showing some of the people who would be affected by the runway. Neil and Andy talked about the amount of taxpayer money (including from people in all the regions) that would be necessary to support the runway - effectively helping fund a foreign company's infrastructure in the south. They also talked about the tax evasion loop hole that Heathrow has exploited over the past ten years, paying high dividends but very low corporation tax. And the failure of Heathrow to live up to jobs promises in the past. Mr McDonald did say that he was looking at the government's recommendation to see if it passed Labour's "four tests" and that assessment is "underway." Neil was impressed that Andy understood many of the issues well, and placed emphasis on ensuring a high quality of life for all.

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CAA confirm Route 4 changes to be permanent – local group calls it the “Route to Misery”

Early in April the CAA approved the current P-RNAV design of Gatwick's Route 4 (the take off route towards the west, that turns north and heads east). This was altered in 2016 in response to the complaints about the way it has recently been altered. Now, dismissing the outpouring of complaints to the current route as “as expected”, the CAA says the route will continue. The CAA has concluded that modified Route 4 "has delivered the aim of the airspace change to an acceptable standard and this change will now be made permanent." They recognise that this has an impact on communities and has asked Gatwick to "investigate the potential of meaningful respite" by "alternating or switching a proportion of Route 4 departures onto another route." Local group, deeply opposed to the current Route 4, Plane Justice, comments that the CAA appears indifferent to the misery of the people who wrote in complaining about the Route. They are angry that the complaints are considered just “AS EXPECTED” rather than real expressions of genuine concern and annoyance. The group has a Route 4 Legacy Pledge, which calls on the CAA to revisit its decision and return Route 4 to the geographical position and dispersion pattern it occupied before 2013 (the ‘legacy Route’). They are asking people to sign up to this.

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IAG complains paying unblighted price + 25% + costs is too generous for those forced to leave their homes

IAG claims Heathrow’s proposed compensation package for residents being compulsorily purchased for the runway is too generous. For homes to be bulldozed, and for up to 3,500 that Heathrow admits would be too unpleasant to comfortably live in, Heathrow says it will pay "un-blighted" market price + 25% + legal costs and stamp duty. That amount would scarcely buy those forced to move an equivalent home, in a suitable area - let alone compensate for loss of community, home, local attachment etc. IAG made its complaints in its response to the Transport Committee call for evidence on the draft Airports NPS. IAG says “While IAG wants to see people properly compensated, [Heathrow] has gone far beyond the usual amounts offered for public compensation. ... In doing so, it has no regard for its airline customers who are paying for this as for all elements of the development and has not consulted IAG or others on the topic.” This has angered local councils which have collaborated to launch a legal fight against the proposed 3rd runway once a plan is confirmed. IAG is using the threat of raising air ticket prices against the government. Lord True, leader of Richmond Council, said the Government was now “left trying to sell a scheme which the local community detests and the airlines refuse to mitigate”.

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Builders Balfour Beatty want expansion of regional airports – as well as Heathrow – and Gatwick

Balfour Beatty claims that a 3rd runway at Heathrow will not be enough to address overcapacity at UK airports and that other airports around the country should also be allowed to expand. In a report, "Getting off the ground - an aviation policy for a post-Brexit Britain", they say there is no clear airports strategy from the government and outline a series of conclusions to address key issues, including relaxing planning legislation to help expand regional airports. None of that is surprising, as they are a building company, wanting lucrative building work. Balfour Beatty report is sceptical about whether the 3rd runway at Heathrow will ever be built, as legal and political obstacles will mean the planning process is likely to be delayed “well into the 2020s”. Their report wants airports elsewhere, especially in Scotland, Birmingham and Manchester, to be allowed to expand. They also want Crossrail to be extended to Stansted - as well as a 2nd Gatwick runway. ie. build baby, build .... pour concrete and make us rich .... They are quite right that the government does not have a proper aviation policy for the whole UK, preferring instead to force through the Heathrow runway, and only then think about the wider picture.

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Growing threat of wake turbulence, with larger, heavier planes – and more crowded airspace

Wake turbulence may be a growing problem that needs more investigation and reassurance for air passengers. There were 34 serious wake turbulence incidents in the past 10 years but 11 of those have been in the past two years. The most serious was the encounter between an Emirates A380 and a corporate jet in March 2017. The A380 was on flight EK412 from Dubai to Sydney and was at FL350 (ie. 35,000 ft) about 630nm south-east of Muscat when the business jet passed 1,000 ft underneath in the opposite direction. The corporate jet, an MHS Aviation Challenger 604 was flying from the Maldives to Abu Dhabi with 9 people on board and was en route at FL340 (34,000 ft). After the A380 passed the crew lost control of their jet and were only able to regain control of the aircraft only after losing about 10,000 feet. A number of the passengers sustained injuries. With more larger planes in global fleets, the problem may increase. The strength of the wake turbulence is governed by the weight, speed and wingspan of the generating aircraft. The greatest strength occurs when the generating aircraft is heavy, at slow speed with a clean wing configuration. It is an industry-wide problem that is increasing mainly because air traffic is doubling every 15 years - so there is more air traffic congestion and more stacking or holding of aircraft prior to landing.

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Easter Saturday: Neil makes it to 200 miles – halfway to Scotland – with support from Rachael Maskell

Day 12 saw Neil cross the halfway point on his 400-mile walk from Harmondsworth, the main village that would be demolished with a 3rd Runway, to Edinburgh. He is seeking to raise awareness of the campaign and speak with Scottish politicians, as the SNP is intending to vote as a block in favour of the runway. He wants to ask they why they are prepared to destroy his home, community and the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of Londoners, for vague pledges of help for Scotland and more air freighted salmon and whisky. In York, Neil was met by Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central,at the iconic York Minster, Rachael offered her support to Neil and the campaign, commenting: “It’s great to be here today with Neil ... to raise awareness of the impact that a third runway at Heathrow would have. It’s fantastic he’s made it so far on this journey about what’s going to happen to housing, air pollution issues, noise pollution and of course the cost of the project. I’ll be taking his message out into the city, do a public meeting and ensure that people understand the real impact on the local community on a third runway.... Whilst we hear so many jobs will be created, what’s really important is the community voice is also part of the consultation and people understand the consequences of what will happen if a third runway actually goes ahead.”

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Michael Gove criticised after turning down public meeting on Heathrow 3rd runway plans with constituents

The DfT held 20 public consultation events on the draft National Policy Statement about plans for a 3rd Heathrow at places near, of affected by, the airport. A 21st is now to be held, which Greg Hands MP will chair, for Chelsea and Fulham. But though seriously overflown by Heathrow planes, Surrey Heath was not given a DfT event. On March 17th, Surrey County Council publicly challenged the DfT's refusal to hold an information event in Surrey Heath and Elmbridge - but there will still not be one. The local campaign group, Aircraft Noise 3 Villages (AN3V) is highly critical of their MP, Michael Gove, who has not got a public meeting arranged, and declined to either hold one himself or even attend one. Rosalie James, from AN3V (representing Lightwater, Windlesham and Bagshot, said to Michael Gove: "The public meeting was requested by many people keen to understand what your position and that of the council is in terms not only of existing noise, but how residents will be protected from yet more noise IF expansion is finally approved." Had Mr Gove bothered to attend a public meeting on the Heathrow runway proposals, it would have been an important opportunity for constituents to find out the position being taken by the MP, and their local council - and find out how their representatives are intending to protect their area from increased aircraft noise.

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Extra DfT consultation date added for Chelsea & Fulham constituents on draft NPS plans

The DfT originally planned 20 of its consultation information events in areas relatively near, and affected by, Heathrow. There was outrage that some areas badly impacted by the airport did not get one. One such area was Chelsea and Fulham. Now its MP, Greg Hands, has persuaded the DfT to add a session for his constituency, which he will chair. This will be at Fulham Library on 19th April from 6.30 - 8pm. This is the day before the final event, at the O2 arena, on 20th April. The arrival route from the east, onto the proposed 3rd runway, would be directly over parts of Chelsea and Fulham, with planes at about 3,000 feet. There could be an aircraft overhead every 90 seconds or less, for large parts of most days (depending on the wind). At that level of noise, it is difficult to hold a conversation outdoors at normal speech volume, when a plane goes overhead. Greg Hands said he opposes a Heathrow 3rd runway, (though believes the UK needs more airport capacity) and he also wants a ban on night flights- for seven hours - from 11pm to 6am (Heathrow wants flights to start by 5.30am).

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Freight train to China leaves UK – carrying whisky, pharmaceuticals etc – not needing air freight

The first rail freight train from China to the UK arrived three months ago, carrying imports. Now the first return trip is being made, on 10th April, leaving Essex, on the 7,500 mile trip. Thirty containers contain British produced goods including whisky, soft drinks, vitamins, baby products and pharmaceuticals. The DB Cargo locomotive leaves the DP World London Gateway rail terminal in Stanford-le-Hope for the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang province, eastern China. After going through the Channel Tunnel the train will pass through France, Belgium, Duisburg in Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, arriving at Yiwu on 27th April. The operators say it is cheaper to send goods by train than by air and faster than by sea. The service is part of China's One Belt, One Road programme of reviving the ancient Silk Road trading routes with the West. The train link means products can be both imported and exported from the UK, as well as by ship - with both being far lower carbon modes of transport than air. Heathrow claims it is vital to the UK economy because of its exports of items like pharmaceuticals and whisky. But it makes better sense to ship these by rail, rather than use so much fuel getting them up to 38,000 feet .... Items that are non-perishable do not need to be air freighted. Frozen fish (Scottish salmon) can be carried by rail.

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Grayling tells the Welsh that Heathrow 3rd runway will be of huge benefit to them

On Friday 7th April the DfT held one of its regional events, promoting the 3rd Heathrow runway - as part of its draft NPS consultation (ends 25th May). Chris Grayling must have felt the need to try to encourage attendance (which has been woefully low at other regional events) so he had a piece in the local paper, Wales Online. He pushes the potential benefits of the runway for Wales as hard as he can, with comments like how it will "boost jobs" and "promote our innovative industries on the world stage" and "the new runway could provide better links to more destinations around the world, a wider choice of airlines ...." He said: "According to Heathrow, it currently handles £2.8 bn of Welsh exports each year. The new runway could double the airport’s freight capacity, linking Welsh businesses with fast growing global markets." And so on. Heathrow signed up to a deal with the Welsh government in January, in which the airport gave some very dubious figures of how much Wales would benefit. These figures are based on Heathrow's own assumptions, based on assumptions, based on an out of date, highly exaggerated figure of economic benefit of the runway, of £147 billion (that is, over all the UK, over 60 years). Even the DfT no longer believes that figure.

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Ferrovial (owns 25% of Heathrow) halts future UK investment over Brexit – but will keep on with Heathrow

The Spanish company that owns 25% of Heathrow has said that uncertainty over the UK's exit from the EU has put a halt on future UK investment deals. It is not investing more, but it is not divesting either. Ferrovial's Chairman Rafael del Pino said that though investment in Heathrow is not in doubt, he saw "no opportunities" in the UK in terms future merger and acquisition deals. However, Ferrovial hopes Brexit would have "positive side effects", including "a more favourable view of Heathrow expansion" - in fact the current government is so panicked by Brexit that it is desperate to try to show the world Britain is "open for business" by building a new runway, largely as a symbolic gesture. As well as a 25% stake in Heathrow, Ferrovial also owns stakes in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports. Those help make the UK one of Ferrovial's most important markets, with about 30% of its revenue generated here. Del Pino said Ferrovial viewed the Brexit process "prudently", not just because of its effect on the UK "but also throughout Europe", as nobody knows what the consequences will be. Last month, Heathrow's investors said they would invest £650 million in Heathrow. Not a lot seeing they have taken £2.1 billion in dividends since 2012, and paid hardly any corporation tax.

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Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary says climate change is ‘complete and utter rubbish’ – not related to burning carbon

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary has dismissed climate change concerns as "complete and utter rubbish". Speaking on an Irish radio programme, he said he believes that people's fears about global warming are unfounded. He said: “This kind of nonsense that we all need to cut back on beef production or that we all need to eat vegetables or go vegan and all start cycling bicycles is not the way forward. ... In the 19th century in London, [people] thought they were all going to die from smog. There is always some lunatic out there who points to a load of rubbish science; science changes.” He said: "I don't accept that climate change is real. I don't accept the link between carbon consumption and climate change" ... and the cooling and warming had been "going on for years." It is hardly a surprise that a businessman whose private fortunes depend on encouraging ever more burning of fossil fuels thinks this. Otherwise how could he cope with the cognitive dissonance? But it is worth noting that the aviation industry does no more than pay lip service to any prospect of reducing its carbon emissions, merely holding out a few very minor carbon savings - while massively growing (doubling or tripling) the size of the industry - and getting other sectors to offset its CO2.

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BA introducing biometric boarding gates at Heathrow, further reducing numbers of airport jobs

Airports always promise huge numbers of jobs if they expand. The reality is that airports and airlines are cutting jobs as fast as they can, and having everything mechanised. It is cheaper not to have many employees. Now British Airways (BA) is introducing automated biometric technology to create self-service boarding gates at Heathrow. Passengers passing through the security channel will have a digital scan of their face recorded. When they arrive at the gate and scan their own boarding pass, their face is matched with the previously recorded data. If the two digital images match, the passenger is allowed to board. The system was trialled in June 2016, and is now being rolled out, with 3 of these gates (for domestic flights only) at Terminal 5. BA plans to open 3 more of these self-boarding gates every week until mid-June. It will finally be extended to international flights. BA has also opened self-service bag drops at both Heathrow and Gatwick - doing away with more jobs. Back in 1999 when Heathrow got consent for its 5th Terminal, the airport said there would be 16,000 more jobs by 2016. When probed, Heathrow is unable to even give a number for the jobs at T5, let along prove there has been much of a rise in employment. All they will say is that in July 2013, 76,600 were directly employed on the Heathrow site.

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Heathrow NO2 air pollution worsens as Government presses ahead with 3rd runway plan

A report published on the Heathrow Airwatch website, shows tha air pollution around Heathrow is getting worse - as the Government presses ahead with plans for a 3rd runway. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels rose at 9 out of 12 monitors in west London within two kilometres (1.24 miles) of the airport between 2015 and 2016, according to provisional data. At two sites in Hillingdon and Hayes it remained in breach of EU limits. At another, Oxford Avenue in Hillingdon, the average NO2 level rose from 32 micrograms per cubic metre of air to almost the legal limit of 40. Opponents of the 3rd runway fear this confirms that air pollution around Heathrow is getting worse, and would be at very unhealthy levels with a new runway added. John Stewart, chairman of HACAN, said: “The key fact that Heathrow cannot hide is that air quality around the airport is going in the wrong direction. It is going to be harder than ever for Heathrow to build a third runway and stay within legal air pollution limits.” The Heathrow Airwatch report said NO2 levels had increased at many of the monitoring sites between 2015 and 2016, and across the South-East so “indicated” the specific rises were not only the result of changes in local activities. NO2 levels are below, or just below, the EU limit of 40 micrograms at 9 out of the 11 local monitoring sites outside Heathrow's boundary within 2km of the airport.

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Stansted Airport announces new £130m arrivals terminal to be completed by end of 2021

Planning permission has been granted for a 34,000 sq m arrivals terminal at Stansted Airport, (owned by Manchester Airports Group) costing about £130 million. It will include larger immigration and baggage reclaim areas. Work is expected to take up to three years to complete, and will begin in late 2018 - so finished by end of 2021. The new building was granted planning permission by Uttlesford District Council. The airport's Chief Executive Andrew Cowan said: "At a time when airport capacity in the country is at a premium, Stansted is playing a vital role in supporting both the regional and national economy. This project will strengthen our ability to do this by enabling us to make the most efficient use of our single runway." Once the site is complete, Stansted will be the only airport in the UK operating dedicated arrivals and departures terminals.

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Jeremy Corbyn backs further expansion (2nd runway?) for Birmingham Airport – as well connected to transport

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says Birmingham Airport should have a 2nd runway, as it “is uniquely well connected to transport" which may be better than any other UK airport. Jeremy made these remarks while backing the Labour candidate, Sion Simon, in the West Midlands Mayoral Election in May. Candidates in the battle to become West Midlands mayor have clashed over whether Birmingham Airport in Solihull should have a 2nd runway. Sion Simon says it should, while Conservative candidate Andy Street says there is no need for one. Jeremy Corbyn said Birmingham airport has "mainline rail within seconds of the airport terminal. And of course a huge motorway network around it. ... Improving airport facilities in the Midlands and the North helps to increase usage of those airports and therefore reduces pressure on airports in the south east." Mr Street argues there is no need for a 2nd runway and the airport can handle twice as many passengers even without a new runway (Birmingham had about 11.6 million passengers in 2016, while Gatwick managed 43 million, with one runway). More could be done with Birmingham airport to improve the quality of the routes and redevelop the airport to integrate it with HS2. Birmingham is better located geographically to be a major airport for the UK than London, which is too far south. A 3rd Heathrow runway would badly damage Birmingham airport, which is why they oppose it.

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Neil Keveren set off on 400 mile walk, explaining along the way why there should be NO 3rd Runway

A lively group in Harmondsworth village saw Neil off on his one-man long walk north, to Scotland, as he set off on the first day's stretch to Chesham. Councillor Ray Puddifoot attended the gathering, and spoke about the significance of Neil's trip, and the importance of persuading MPs across the country, and particularly the SNP, to vote against the runway. The 54 SNP MPs in the House of Commons are likely to vote, en block, for the runway having been dubiously persuaded to believe in huge benefits it would bring Scotland. Ray said the runway was nonsensical, as well as illegal - in causing breaches of air pollution standards. He said Neil was representing the interests of tens or hundreds of thousands of people, taking his message across the country, that the 3rd Heathrow runway should not be built. Zac Goldsmith also attended the send-off party, saying in the middle ages - to avoid undue bloodshed and loss of men - armies would sent out their best and bravest fighters to do battle on behalf of everyone. So it is with Neil, courageously setting off to speak up for everyone whose lives would be made worse by the impacts of the runway, and especially those in Harmondworth who face losing their homes, their village and their community, in act of wanton destruction for an unnecessary, and high carbon venture.

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Phillip Hammond: Ministers ‘only backed third Heathrow runway if night flight ban remained’

Several Cabinet ministers only backed a Heathrow 3rd runway on the condition that the Government ensured there was a proper night flight ban. At a meeting in his Englefield Green constituency, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond hit back at airlines - like IAG - that are pushing strongly for early morning flights, which cause noise misery for many local people, to be allowed to continue. He told local residents in his Runnymede and Weybridge constituency that he supports Heathrow expansion if measures proposed by the Airport Commission (Chairman, Howard Davies) were guaranteed to protect communities close to the airport. The Commission said there should be a ban on all scheduled [ignoring un-scheduled however] night flights between 11.30pm and 6.00am. Heathrow has proposed 11pm to 5.30am - it wants early flights. IAG has said it needs flights landing early, and at the terminal, by 5.30am and then a large number of flights before 7am. Few people consider 5.15am the end of their period of sleep, so that is entirely unacceptable to anyone who is woken by plane noise. Evidence shows many health impacts of sleep disturbed by plane noise, including cardiovascular impacts and Type 2 diabetes.

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Night flight noise likely to increase risk of Type 2 diabetes for those living under flightpaths

Research by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in Basel has shown that people who live below an airport flightpath are more than 80% more likely to have type 2 diabetes than people who live in quieter areas. The findings have led scientists to suggest that aircraft noise, rather than air pollution, could be to blame. The noise of the planes overhead, when they are low and loud, is likely to have a devastating effect on the body’s metabolism, leading to increased blood sugar levels. The effect is largely from noise at night, confirming that night flights are damaging to health. The cost to the health of over-flown populations needs to be properly taken into account, and given enough significance against small economic benefits of night flights to airports and airlines (which is how the DfT assesses the issue at present). Heathrow already has - by an order of magnitude - the most people affected by night flights, with over 700,000 living within the 55 Lden noise average contours. The link to diabetes is through the body's reaction to stress, raising blood pressure. Noise stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis, leading to increased blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the “stress hormone” cortisol. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart disease, strokes, limb amputations and blindness. It affects over 3 million people in the UK.

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Willie Walsh adamant Heathrow must have arrivals well before 5.30am – then full on for next 2 hours

International Airlines Group (IAG), which is Heathrow’s biggest customer, has submitted its evidence to the Transport Committee, to its inquiry into the Airports NPS. IAG does not agree there should be a ban on night flights of six and a half hours, that the NPS and the DfT are proposing - hoping that would overcome local opposition to the runway. The WHO says for good health, people need 7 - 8 hours sleep, and more for some age groups. Therefore even six and a half hours is not enough. But IAG says ..."the NPS does not recognise the operational flexibility required for flights to connect and deliver the associated benefits. The Government should therefore avoid unreasonable restrictions on night operations that would prevent economically valuable connections." ... from small changes IAG has made "Local communities have therefore benefited ... from a reduction in noise while no additional night movements have been granted at Heathrow in return." ... if Heathrow opened at 7am, that would be 2 hours later than Frankfurt ... to make the best use of the new runway, increase connectivity etc ... "the first arrivals will need to be scheduled to have landed and be on-stand ready to disembark passengers by 05:30, with a high arrival movement capacity in the subsequent 1-2 hours."

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Willie Walsh and IAG: Work out cost of crossing M25 before Heathrow runway plan

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG, says pushing through Heathrow’s 3rd runway should be suspended until there are proper plans of how the airport is going to bridge the M25. The section of the M25 that the runway would have to go over is about the busiest stretch of motorway in the UK, and it is unclear if there would be some sort of bridge (a cheaper option, about 8 metres above the road surface), or a proper tunnel (more expensive for Heathrow). IAG, and British Airways, are concerned the extra cost would mean higher charges by Heathrow, so higher ticket prices. Heathrow says landing charges would remain as close to flat "as possible" but Walsh fears they could double and they raised their concerns in their submission to the inquiry by the Commons Transport Committee, into the draft NPS. There are a few airports globally that have some sort of bridge, with planes taxiing above the road, clearly visible to traffic. None over such a wide, busy section of motorway. In October, when the bridge idea was first suggested (the Airports Commission always presumed a tunnel) papers from Highways England showed it described the scheme as “high risk”, warning of a “a substantial risk of excessive customer frustration about what might be prolonged period of disruption”. IAG is also deeply opposed to Heathrow ending night flights between 11pm and 5.30am, as that risks flights going instead to airports like Frankfurt, losing IAG money.

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Virgin April Fools joke – their new plane, the 1417 which adds power by flapping ….

Virgin Atlantic: the airline reveals the Dreambird 1417, which boasts wings that bend and flex to create a flapping motion that not only propels the aircraft forward but generates its own power to meet every electronic need on board. To be fair, they have made a well produced and quite convincing video to accompany the not-all-too-convincing press release – complete with an appearance by Beardy himself. Virgin pride themselves on April fool releases, and Atlantic is just one of many flooding into reporters’ inboxes from Branson’s subsidiaries.

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One man’s 400-mile, 3 week, walk London to Scotland, to save his village from Heathrow bulldozers

On Tuesday 4th April Hillingdon Council leader Ray Puddifoot and others well-wishers will gather in Harmondsworth at 11am as local man Neil Keveren sets off on a marathon 400-mile walk to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to ask Nicola Sturgeon why the SNP is backing a 3rd runway at Heathrow and destruction of his home and village in the process. Neil aims to finish his walk on Thursday 27th April at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. There will be a theme for each day and a number of campaigners and politicians will join Neil for sections of the walk. The route can be found below and covers places within Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire, Yorkshire, County Durham, Northumberland, Scottish Borders, Midlothian and Edinburgh. Neil Keveren, who was born in Harmondsworth's neighbouring village of Sipson, has lived in the area all his life; he hopes that his walk will highlight the reasons a third runway should not go ahead. Keveren, who built up a successful building business in the area, said: "I am not one of nature's natural walkers but I felt I had to do this for my family, my village and the wider campaign." Neil will also use Facebook Live to provide daily updates of his progress and any highlights of that particular day. Further updates will be available on the Stop Heathrow Expansion twitter page @StopHeathrowExp.

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London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, Mayor criticises DfT’s lack of answers to fundamental questions on Heathrow

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has submitted evidence to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into the DfT's draft NPS on a 3rd Heathrow runway. The Mayor said there would be unacceptable consequences for London; it would hamper efforts to improve London's air quality; 200,000 more people would be exposed to noise while scheduled night flights could increase by at least a third; and there are no credible plans to maintain traffic levels or commitment for infrastructure to support 250% increase in public transport trips. He said ministers’ plans were based on the 3rd runway not being fully utilised – playing down the real impact. The government had ‘completely failed’, and was his duty to Londoners to oppose a third runway. He said: “The government has completely failed to demonstrate how Heathrow can be expanded without a severe noise, air quality and transport impact on London. The government’s position appears to be to simply hope for the best, with unproven plans that look to take advantage of unrelated improvements being made to air quality and public transport. It’s simply not good enough for one of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, and it leaves me even more concerned about the prospect of Heathrow expansion on London and the UK.”

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Residents face just 4 hours free from aircraft noise if 3rd Heathrow runway goes ahead

Sarah Olney, the new MP for Richmond Park, has criticised the Department for Transport for not being open with residents that a 3rd runway at Heathrow could mean just 6 or 4 hours per day respite from aircraft noise. Currently residents under many of Heathrow's flight paths can expect up to 8 hours without being disturbed by incoming and outgoing flights from Heathrow. However, hidden away in the public consultation on a third runway (the draft NPS) is an admission from the Government that whilst residents can expect more ‘certainty’ over when respite periods will be, the number of hours they can expect to be free from aircraft noise will drop to just 6, or even 4, hours. Sarah Olney raised the issue in the House of Commons on 30th March, asking the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, to explain why the consultation did not make this evident. Responding for the Government, he failed to answer the question, stating only that the consultation “set out in broad terms the impact of the changes”. Speaking after their exchange in the House of Commons Sarah Olney commented that the government is treating local residents with contempt. If Chris Grayling cannot even give a proper reply in Parliament, either he isn’t aware that residents will suffer from more noise (if not, why not, if he is Minister in charge of the process), or he isn’t willing to admit it. [No questions of ministers on Heathrow are ever answered properly - always evasively].

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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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