Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.
APPG on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity launches inquiry into Building Aviation Back Better
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity has launched an inquiry into how the aviation industry can build back in a post Covid-19 world. The APPG is keen to receive evidence from a range of organisations on how to build a more sustainable aviation policy that supports both workers and the environment. People have till 14th September to respond. The sector is unlikely to recover to levels of flying in 2019 till perhaps 2023. This presents an opportunity to reset the UK’s aviation strategy and initiate a green recovery. This should set aviation on a fairer and more sustainable course, while providing any support necessary for workers to shift to green jobs. Aviation policy which must strike an equitable balance between the benefits aviation brings and its adverse environmental, economic and health costs. The issues on which the APPG is seeking comment include the Aviation White Paper, taxation, regional balance, bailouts, the UK policy framework for decarbonisation, and community impacts, such as noise, night flights and air pollution.
Net Zero APPG says there needs to be a Carbon Takeback Obligation on sectors like airlines, to permanently remove CO2
A Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (NZ APPG) has been set up, to assess the progress being made by the UK towards its climate target. The group has set out a 10 point action plan, to get the government to scale up its efforts to "drive the UK towards net zero and ensure a green Covid recovery." There is an immense need for a "green recovery package to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and reduce emissions.” This has to focus on green-job creation, prioritise energy efficiency, decarbonise heat, and energy storage. The right investment, and the right regulatory conditions are needed. The NZ APPG want the Chancellor to develop a clear and systematic Net Zero Roadmap, complete with interim targets and robust implementation, review and governance arrangements. On aviation, they say UK should "Establish a ‘Carbon Takeback Obligation’ for fossil fuel extractors and importers, and airlines, requiring them to permanently store an increasing percentage of the CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% (net zero emissions) by 2050."
Business air travel likely to remain at lower levels, for years – big impact on airline finances
The airline industry has largely been funded by business air travel, and those paying for premium seats, or very high air fares, bought at the last minute. Cheaper air tickets to get "bums on seats" would not themselves enable airlines to make profits; the expensive seats are what enable those cheap tickets to be offered. Now the demand for flights has collapsed due to Covid, and the decline in business flying is intense. Many companies do not see their level of business flying returning. Some think there may be a return in perhaps two years, though it may never happen. Will visiting clients/customers be as vital in future, to make deals or impress? Business travel in the US makes up 60% to 70% of industry sales, according to estimates by the trade group Airlines for America. The standard and acceptability of internet communications, video-conferencing, and Zoom have shown many organisations that they do not need much air travel. Companies do not want to risk staff getting abroad and being stranded. Business passengers travelling to big cities like London have created hotel, catering, conference, taxi etc demand, but that is all likely to reduce in future. Even if/when Covid is beaten, the impacts on business flying are likely to be long-term.
£200 million from government for research into lower carbon planes
The UK government has unveiled £400m in private and public sector funding for technologies and research aimed at cutting aviation CO2 emissions. BEIS has announced that projects aiming to develop high performance engines, new wing designs and ultra-lightweight cabin seats - all intended to cut fuel consumption - will be getting funding from the Government's Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme of £200 million. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the £200 million would be matched by £200m from industry. There may also be money from universities, including Nottingham and Birmingham, for this research. The ambition is "zero carbon aviation" as part of the Government's FlyZero initiative. Britain would like to become a world leader etc in lower carbon aviation technologies. There is a The Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs that is working on the necessary transition to "net zero" by 2050. The UK needs to be seen to be leading on this, before hosting COP26 in November 2021 (postponed from Nov 2020). The APPG has a 10 point action plan that says fossil fuel extractors and importers, as well as airlines, should be required to permanently store an increasing percentage of CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% by 2050, via a proposed "carbon takeback obligation."
ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement
The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more - and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their recommendations, for how improvements should be made.
BA is retiring its whole fleet of 747s (lots used to use Heathrow) due to the Covid fall in air travel
British Airways has said it will retire, with immediate effect, all of its Boeing 747s as air travel demand has fallen so much due to Covid - and it may never recover to be how it was before. BA has 31 jumbo jets, which make up about 10% of the BA fleet. It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date. There are about 500 747s still in service, of which 30 are still flying passengers. More than 300 fly cargo. The rest are in storage. The four-engined 747s are not fuel efficient, so cost a lot to run - and emit a lot of carbon. They are very noisy, causing noise nuisance to millions living under fight paths near airports. Even before Covid, Air France, Delta and United had already retired their 747 fleets. With expected lower air travel for years, even if a vaccine is found fairly soon, airlines need to save money, and 747s are more expensive to run than 2-engined planes. It will also be difficult to fill them up. They depend on the hub model of airports, and are less suited to the more popular point to point sort of air travel. With the end of 747s and A380s, much of the rationale for Heathrow expansion ends. Unfortunately, it is due to the 747s in the 1970s making air travel cheaper, that brought in the era of cheap, readily available air travel - with its environmental costs.
ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid
What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up. It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is "to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme." And: "It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ...." It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many "stakeholders", finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic "should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way" and noise should be a key priority.
Around 250 job losses likely at Bristol airport, due to collapse in its air travel demand
Nearly 250 jobs could be lost at Bristol Airport because demand for air travel has plummeted. The unions are saying these redundancies would leave a ‘huge economic hole’ in the region. Bristol Airport has begun consultation with Unite over making 76 directly employed staff redundant. Swissport has also announced 167 job losses. A smaller number of redundancies at other firms are also expected to be announced soon. There are the usual claims about the alleged economic benefit the airport brings, and the number of jobs it supports. These conveniently ignore the fact that most flights are taken by local people flying abroad for their leisure, spending their money abroad - not in local businesses or local leisure/ holiday destinations. To try to save jobs, the unions want delay, in the hope that air travel demand picks up. The AOA - lobby groups for the industry - said this week up to 20,000 jobs at Britain’s airports are at risk as a result of the collapse of air travel due to the Covid pandemic. Bristol is yet another area has has become too dependent on the airport for jobs, and this vulnerability has now been shown up. Aviation is no longer a sector with guaranteed security and growth for a local economy.
Heathrow to close southern runway for several weeks, then use it for daytime only, till October
Heathrow has announced, with no warning, that it will be only using the northern runway from 13th July to 2nd August. It is doing extensive repairs (probably in fact resurfacing) on the southern runway, that means it cannot be opened even part of the day. So people living under the approach path to the northern runway, or under the departure flight paths, will not get the respite period they are used to. Normally flights are switched at 3pm each day. The disruption is planned to last until early October. After 2nd August, there will be flights on both runways, but the southern runway will be closed from 7pm to 7am. Therefore those under flight paths for the northern runway will get all the noise. Campaigners fear that the use of "mixed mode" (ie. landings and take-offs using the same runway) could become the “new norm” if Heathrow seek to use this method of operating permanently, post-pandemic, as a way of increasing the current flight cap of 480,000, to an estimated 565,000 flights per year. Mixed mode would allow that increase in flights without building a 3rd runway, which Heathrow probably can no longer afford.
Natural England says Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should not be approved – necessary details have not been provided
The government's environment adviser, Natural England, says Leeds City Council should not approve controversial plans for the Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided. Natural England states the airport's planning application lacks detail and "there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects" on the environment. It has asked the airport to provide additional information, so the council can asses the impact the new £150 million terminal would have on air quality, local wildlife and protected landscapes. Natural England therefore advises Leeds City Council that it should not grant planning permission at this stage. The airport wants to increase passengers numbers from 4 million to 7 million a year. Climate scientists, environmentalists, The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) and four Leeds MPs are also calling on the council to reject the new plans. GALBA, said the airport has not bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.