Airport News

Below are news items relating to specific airports

 

New AEF briefing: Why Heathrow can’t solve its carbon problem (and the trouble with offsets)

The Government and Heathrow are trying to pretend that adding a 3rd runway, increasing the number of flights by around 50% (many or most to long-haul destinations) somehow is not a climate change impact problem. Now in an excellent new briefing from the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), "Why Heathrow can't solve its carbon problem (and the trouble with offsets", they explain how the carbon emissions cannot just be wished away and there are no mechanisms currently proposed to properly deal with them. Heathrow has a "roadmap" on how it aspires to be "carbon neutral". AEF says the roadmap "does little more than recycle existing – inadequate – measures to limit aviation emissions" and their briefing sets out why the plan falls short. AEF says: "...almost all the proposed actions involve Heathrow riding on the coattails of other Government or industry initiatives." ... and "The kind of offsetting that CORSIA will deliver ...isn’t designed to deliver a zero emissions target but instead to reduce emissions, at best, to half of what they might have been. ... the idea that offsetting makes a tonne of CO2 from aviation “neutral” is misleading."

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Flybe’s Newquay link with Heathrow takes off courtesy of taxpayer PSO subsidy (£6.2m over 8 years)

From next weekend people flying between Newquay and Heathrow will get a £5 subsidy each, from UK taxpayers. There will be 4 flights per day both ways. Newquay airport is not particularly near anywhere - other than surfing beaches. The service will be Heathrow’s only subsidised service, run under a public service obligation (PSO).  PSOs are defined under European aviation regulations as “scheduled air services on routes which are vital for the economic development of the region they serve”.   That means for routes where there is not enough demand to even half fill a small regional aircraft and that to attract a commercial operator to fly the route, the government has to provide a financial incentive. The cost to the taxpayer over 4 years for this will be £3.4 million. (For 180,000 pax per year that works out at £5 each. But there were only <93,000 pax in 2013). The pendulum is swinging back to Heathrow, however.Heathrow has set aside a £10 million fund to incentivise domestic airline route development - needed to persuade regional MPs to back the runway.

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Stop Stansted Expansion to start legal challenge to government decision not to call in expansion application

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has confirmed that it will commence legal proceedings to challenge last week's decision [20 March] by the Communities Secretary James Brokenshire not to intervene in the decision by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to approve the expansion of Stansted to 43 mppa.  Brokenshire said his reason for not intervening was that "the application does not involve issues of more than local importance".  SSE considers this conclusion to be completely wrong. In the next month or two, Stansted is expected to overtake Manchester to become the UK's 3rd busiest airport.  The noise, air pollution, community health and road traffic impacts of Stansted are felt far beyond the borders of Uttlesford, and the 3.7 million equivalent tonnes of carbon dioxide attributable to Stansted flights this year will have significant adverse global impacts. SSE will apply to the High Court for a JR of Brokenshire's decision. SSE solicitors have written to UDC pointing out that it would be inappropriate for UDC to issue any decision in relation to the airport planning application whilst these legal challenges are pending.  SSE already has an outstanding JR application against the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, over his decision of 28 June 2018 to allow the airport planning application to be determined locally by UDC. 

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Heathrow’s Fly Quiet results reach new heights of improbability

Heathrow has this week (22nd March) belatedly published the results from its Fly Quiet & Green programme for Q4 2018.  In this scheme Heathrow assesses 7 different aspects of environmental performance, but it only publishes a single, numeric "Fly Quiet points" score for each airline. That published score is the sum of the Fly Quiet points awarded to the airline for each of the 7 metrics. But that part that is far from transparent, with the 7 numbers per airline not made public. The results put out by Heathrow do not make any sense, and do not appear to properly reflect the actual noise. Rather, they appear to be manipulated to make  noise levels look lower than they really are. This time around instead of giving the airlines an average score of around 750 out of (optimum) 1000, as with previous quarters' results (already grossly inflated), Heathrow has hiked the average score by over 8% to 813 points.  The expected average (mean and median) score should be around 500. But not content with inflating the scores even more than usual, Heathrow has also inexplicably excluded 5 (China Southern, El Al, Korean Air etc) of its 50 busiest airlines from the results - but added others instead.

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Summary of the hearings into the legal challenges against DfT approval of Heathrow 3rd runway

The hearings at the High Court, into the legal challenges against the government's decision to press for a 3rd Heathrow runway, were complicated. They were hard to follow, even with daily transcripts - as there were constant references to text in documents in "bundles" that the public are unable to see. Neil Spurrier, who individually brought one of the legal challenges, and is a solicitor, has done a user-friendly summary of some of the key points that came up. Four of the challenges were largely on environmental grounds (the 5th was a rival runway builder, Heathrow Hub). Neil gives a brief summary of some of the points on noise, air pollution, carbon emissions, and economic benefit including comments on the response by the government's barristers and their attempts to brush aside the criticisms. The judges may make their judgement in about May - there will probably be a few days notice before hand. As well as the summary, there are some notes made during the hearings, to help clarify some points. 

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Heathrow to start procuring contractors for demolition, site clearance, utility diversions etc by end of 2019

Heathrow's expansion programme director Phil Wilbraham says the airport will begin procuring construction partners at the end of this year, [assuming it passes the hurdle of the legal challenges, which ended on 22nd March ....]with construction of the 3rd runway scheduled to begin in 202.  Contractors will be sought for a range of disciplines including demolition, site clearance and utility diversions.  The plan is to start to procure teams at the end of 2019:  "We are going to start in 2021, so we will need contractors on board next year to work with the designers and to ensure that the construction planning is done really well in advance of starting the main construction work. ... Initially we will be starting with demolition, site clearance and utility diversions. Then we will go into a major civil engineering project which will be around things like earthworks. We have got a lot of earth to move around underneath the runway. We will be moving roads like the M25, the A4 and the A304. We are moving some rivers as well.” Heathrow is  “confident” legal challenges would ultimately fail and have no impact on the airport’s construction timetable.

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Grayling’s team at DfT deliberately tried to conceal information about Heathrow 3rd runway noise, which might have risked “further scrutiny”

A totally damning, ‘smoking gun’ memo has been located, showing how DfT staff in November 2017 were keen to avoid information showing how bad Heathrow noise would be - and how many people would be affected - with a 3rd runway. The Times reveals how DfT staff plotted to cover up warnings about the extra aircraft noise, with a 6-page document sent to Chris Grayling (Transport Secretary) recommending blocking a plan to tell millions of households (up to 13 million people) about the extra noise they could face from a 3rd runway. Grayling and the DfT claim publicly that a 3rd runway could be introduced with fewer people affected by plane noise even with 265,000 more annual flights - which, of course, beggars belief of anyone with half a brain. The DfT memo wanted to avoid alerting people to the noise problem, for fear that would cause "disruption" and "public debate" and "further scrutiny" and “unnecessary controversy” before the parliamentary vote on the NPS (in June 2018). The memo included a map that reveals DfT officials knew well how badly vast swathes of London and southern England (and Grayling's own constituency) would be badly affected. Disgraceful DfT behaviour.

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Hampstead and Highgate, with few flights overhead now, due to get bad levels of Heathrow noise

Heathrow wants to expand its operations to fly over areas with little aviation activity at present, including over north west London. The local paper for Hampstead and Highgate says that Hampstead is 500 ft above sea level and, in Heathrow’s first phase of expansion, (it wants an extra 25,000 flights per year in a couple of years from now - if permitted) it may be exposed to flights at 2,500 to 3,500 ft. The noise levels would be over 60 to 65 decibels (dB) - more than the level of background noise in a busy office - from 6am every morning. Highgate may be in the same position. That might work out as a flight overhead every 2.5 minutes between 6am and 7am and one every 10 mins thereafter from 7am to 11.30pm.  If there is then a 3rd runway, there could be a flight every minute, with the noise of most being above 65dB. The negative effects on health, (from noise and air pollution) and noise impacts on the education of children are well known. The paper says: "That Heathrow is pushing ahead with expansion despite these impacts beggars belief." While more studies need to be done on the health risks of aviation noise, it is a serious concern for residents accustomed to zero noise who are then subjected to noise above 65dB at least 40 times a day 

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Government (James Brokenshire) rejects ‘call in’ of Stansted Airport planning application to increase passengers from 35m to 43 mppa

The Government has decided not to ‘call in’ Stansted Airport’s planning application to increase passenger numbers, which was approved by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) last year.  In February 2018, Stansted Airport owners, Manchester Airports Group, submitted a planning application to UDC that sought permission for the airport to increase the annual passenger number from 35 to 43 million per year. UDC granted this planning permission in November 2018, by a narrow vote of the Planning Committee, only won by the Chairman's casting vote. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire, has now written to say the decision by UDC is correct, saying:  "... the application does not involve issues of more than local importance justifying the secretary of state’s intervention.” That is, of course, wrong as planes using Stansted fly over a wide area. Brian Ross from campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) said the planning consent still faces a legal challenge from SSE, versus the transport secretary in the High Court, which began last September. The case has been on hold for 4 months, pending the decision, but SSE is now takin legal advice on whether to widen the basis of its legal challenge. 

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Austrian higher court approves construction of 3rd runway at Vienna Airport, refused on climate & noise grounds in Feb 2017

The Supreme Administrative Court in Austria has approved construction of a 3rd runway at Vienna Airport. The court overturned appeals made by local residents and environmental groups on the basis of noise complaints and environmental impact of the runway. Opponents had successfully argued that noise would be a problem across urban Vienna. Also that it could not be justified on climate change grounds.  But the airport appealed - and has now won.  It says the noise will not be a problem as there will not be landings over the Vienna city area during normal operations, and it aims at "decreasing noise pollution in the area."  There are the usual claims that it will "reduce delays, fuel consumption, and noise by abolishing allotment patterns and queued aircraft during peak hours".  Back in February 2017 a court said the increased greenhouse gas emissions for Austria would cause harm and climate protection is more important than creating other jobs. Also that the ability of the airport to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by its own measures were not sufficient, and emissions would rise too much. All now forgotten, it seems. Making money trumps climate stability.

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