Retired pilot Jock Lowe devises £7.5bn plan to double length of Heathrow runways (and lose runway alternation)

A retired Concorde pilot called William “Jock” Lowe has been promoting his £7.5bn plan to extend  both Heathrow runways from 3,900 and 3,700 metres, up to 7,500 metres – approximately doubling them.  He has submitted his scheme to the Airports Commission (all expressions on intend on such projects had to be delivered to the Commission by 28th February).  In the Lowe scheme (if it was to be allowed) the number of flights could be doubled, from the current cap of 480,000 per year up to about a million. This scheme is cheaper than the Leunig scheme, proposed in October, for 4 Heathrow runways, a bit further west.  The rise in flight numbers could only be done by “mixed mode”, which means having planes both landing, and taking off, all day on both runways. So a plane would be landing on the eastern part of a runway, while another takes off on the west portion of it.  This would mean London residents over flown would get twice as many flights as they do now, and they would lose their half a day of peace, which they get from the current runway alternation. It would be deeply and passionately opposed by thousands of Londoners. 


Jock Lowe devises £7.5bn plan to extend runways at Heathrow

“The cheapest option to solve the capacity crunch in the south-east.”


11 MARCH 2013

William “Jock” Lowe (a retired Concorde pilot) has devised a £7.5bn plan to extend the existing northern and southern runways at the Heathrow airport from 3,900 and 3,700 metres to 7,500 metres.

As well as doubling the airport’s passenger capacity from 70m to 140m, the extension of runways will increase the number of flights from 480,000 per year to almost 1m. Heathrow currently uses only one runway at a time for jet take-offs or landings.

Lowe, a former executive director at British Airways who is currently in charge of Gatwick Airport, also proposed to move part of the M25 motorway in his plans, submitted to the Davies commission which is examining how to preserve the UK’s status as an international aviation hub.

John Stewart, head of HACAN (the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), told the Financial Times: “For people under the existing flight paths, there would be uproar. They would be getting a double whammy – more planes, and planes all day long. My sense is that it could be as unpopular in west London as a third runway.”

Lowe further said that aircraft noise could be reduced by flying jets higher over London, bringing them into Heathrow on steeper descents and flying in over less populated areas.

Lowe added: “The airlines and air traffic control have done very little on noise mitigation on arrival and even on take-off. When we started hearing about all these various ideas, I thought this is just getting really rather silly. Heathrow is in the ideal spot… For UK Ltd, why would you dream of putting it somewhere else?”

Lowe, who is working with Mark Bostock, a former director at engineers firm Arup, claims that his proposed plan is the cheapest option to solve the capacity crunch in the south east and would not put jobs and businesses at risk, compared to the £10bn proposal by economist Tim Leunig.

Lowe estimates that the full plan could be completed in phases within ten years and a limited extension of the airport’s northern runway could be completed within three years.

As part of the first phase, the airport will be connected to Crossrail and the Great Western rail line. In the subsequent phases, Heathrow will be linked to the High Speed 2 rail line connecting London with northern England, and the high-speed link to Europe, which is expected to take longer time.

Lowe and his team are working on the impact on greenhouse gas emissions due to extension of runways.





There is also a Financial Times article on this at

Pilot plots longer Heathrow runways

10.3.2013 (FT)
The Financial Times has a diagram of the proposed runway scheme, and two others (a northern 3rd runway, and the Tim Leunig scheme, for 4 runways, all a bit further to the west of the airport)
The Lowe scheme is:
Lowe scheme for longer Heathrow runways


by contrast, the plan by Tim Leunig, of Policy Exchange, below:

Policy Exchange produces report hoping to shift Heathrow a few km to the west, with 4 runways over the M25

5th October 2012The Policy Exchange,  which says it is a leading think tank to deliver a stronger society and a more dynamic economy (nothing about care of the environment) have put forward a proposal to expand Heathrow, by building 4 new runways. And moving the existing two a mile or two to the west, on top of the M25. Then there would be a two more runways, one parallel to each of the shifted runways.  The Policy Exchange then says that if this cannot be built, 4 runways could be be built at Luton instead. They claim around 700 properties (in Poyle) would need to be demolished compared to the 1,400 that would need to go to make way for the estuary airport, and its purpose would be to send a “much needed signal to people that Britain is open for business.” They dismiss the problem of carbon emissions by presuming that all homes in the UK will be insulated, so leaving fossil fuel for transport – and that travelling is much more appealing so we can “have the money and carbon allocation to see the world.” A very odd report, with some very dubious logic ….. and contorted arguments.   Click here to view full story ….
Policy Exchange map of their plans for Heathrow …..

Compared to the existing situation (and proposed location of a 3rd runway). The existing runways are about a mile apart. The Policy Exchange seems to be putting the runways in each pair very close together.