Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.
Public consultation over Southampton runway extension slightly delayed – and campaigners fight for Marlhill Copse trees
The public consultation through Eastleigh Borough Council over plans to extend Southampton Airport's runway by 164 metres has been delayed. It was due to start on July 10th, but now the start date is not known - the delay may only be a week or so. The consultation is due to last 30 days. The airport also wants to add 600 more parking spaces to the existing long stay car park. There is a lot of local opposition to the plans, largely due to the noise impact and the extra carbon emissions of more flights. Neighbouring local authorities including Winchester and Southampton councils objected to the scheme. There has already been one consultation, in late 2019, and the airport may make modifications in this second consultation. The final decision will be by Eastleigh Borough Council. The airport bought a small woodland near the airport, Marlhill Copse in 2018. It now wants to fell many of the trees, citing safety concerns. The trees in fact would only be a potential safety concern if the airport is allowed to expand. Three trees have already been felled, on the pretext of "good forestry management". Campaigners are trying to get this tree felling and tree height reduction stopped.
MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”
The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has decided to appeal against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council of the expansion plans of Stansted airport. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman, Peter Sanders, said this was “callous, cynical and pointless” and prolongs uncertainty. MAG has been seeking an increase in the permitted number of flights using Stansted, up from the present limit of 35 mppa to 43mppa. Stansted’s actual throughput in 2019 was 28 mppa and will be very significantly lower in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19. Uttlesford District Council (UDC) first received MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted in June 2017 and spent more than two and a half years considering the issues prior to 24 January 2020 when its (cross-party) Planning Committee voted by 10 votes to zero to refuse the application. MAG itself had said it wanted the application to be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application. But now it is appealing, for the decision to go to a Public Inquiry, that would be costly for UDC at a time when finances are struggling.
Government grants Manston DCO to allow the airport to re-open, against Planning Inspectorate recommendation
Manston has been closed as an airport since May 2014. It is the first airport to have to take its plans through the DCO (Development Consent Order) process, dependant on the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). It always failed as an airport in the past, largely due to its location. In October 2019, the Planning Inspector recommended to the Secretary of State for Transport that Manston should not be re-opened. The decision was then for transport minister Andrew Stephenson, "with the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, recused to avoid any conflict of interest." He has now given approval to the DCO for the airport to re-open, for cargo and even passengers - overruling the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The airport claims it could open by 2023, handling up to 10,000 cargo flights a year as well as passenger services, with construction starting as early as 2021. There is huge opposition to the plans, due to noise and air pollution. The approach path from the east is directly over Ramsgate, about 2 miles from the airport. PINS had said opening Manston would have "a material impact on the ability of government to meet its carbon reduction targets". The ANPS is currently not valid, awaiting a Supreme Court hearing on 7th and 8th October.
Prof Whitelegg: How the aviation sector should be reformed following the Covid-19 crisis
Prof John Whitelegg says the Covid pandemic provides a key opportunity for major reforms to the aviation sector. The sector is not likely to reduce its carbon emissions to the extent necessary, even for the net zero target for 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has said there will need to be measures to limit demand for air travel, and it "cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” They say "we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050.” Aviation continues to receive an effective subsidy, due to the absence of VAT and fuel duty that amounts to about £11 billion per year (compared to about £3.8 billion taken in APD). There are well known negative health impacts caused the plane noise, with some of the best researched being cardiovascular. We need to change the dominant expectation that air travel with continue to grow. There has to be realisation that air passengers must pay the costs of the environmental damage they cause. Some necessary changes would be charging VAT; taxing frequent fliers; adopting WHO noise standards for health; full internalisation of external costs; fiscal instruments to shift all passenger journeys under 500kms in length from air to rail. And more.
International aviation and shipping likely to be added to UK carbon budgets – but not in time for the 6th budget?
Even excluding international aviation and shipping (IAS) the CO2 from transport makes up about of the UK's total emissions. But so far these emissions have been excluded from the UK's 5-year carbon budgets. This has been a glaring deficiency of the budgets, even if the aviation and shipping emissions were to some extent "taken account of". There has been pressure for years, and repeated advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) - the government's official advisers on climate - to include these sectors fully, starting now. It appears that, at last, this will eventually happen and they will follow the CCC's guidance. But not before 2023. This emerged from the first meeting of the Department for Transport’s net zero board, which included some environmental campaigners. The government recently said aviation makes up 8% of the UK's climate impact. UK carbon budgets are set 12 years ahead of time to provide sufficient long-term guidance to investors. The 5th carbon budget (covering 2028 - 2032) has already been set, without the inclusion of IAS. The 6th carbon budget will be set in 2021. The CCC will publish its advice to government on the 6th budget, for 2033 - 2037 in December 2020. But 2023 is too late for this ... so the 7th carbon budget?
Study shows the unequal distribution of household carbon footprints in Europe – and air travel component
A study carried out by Leeds University and Trondheim University (Norway) looked at the distribution of household carbon footprints in European counties. It investigated the link between higher household income, and their carbon emissions. This included the contribution from air travel. The authors say they found significant inequality in the distribution of high carbon footprints (CFs). The top 10% of the EU population with the highest CFs contribute more carbon compared to the 50% of the EU population with the lowest CFs. Only 5% of the EU households (eg in Romania) live within a CF target of 2.5 tCO2eq/capita per year, while the top 1% of EU households have CFs of 55 tCO2eq/capita. The most significant contribution to CO2 is from air and land transport, making up 41% and 21% respectively of the CF for the top 1% of EU households.The households with the highest CFs are by and large the households with the highest levels of income and expenditure. The high CO2 emissions by the more affluent present challenges for environmental and social objectives. The authors say: "Exploring the prerequisites for living well within carbon limits is a key focus of our time."
Electric flying not feasible for larger planes or longer distances
There has been a lot of mention in recent years about the possibility of planes being powered by electricity. That has the potential to cut the CO2 emissions of aircraft. However, the aspiration of electric planes is likely to be a dangerous diversion from taking measures now to cut the CO2 from the sector, if it has the effect of creating the false hope of breakthroughs. The reality is that flying needs a very energy-dense fuel, such as kerosene. Currently there are some tiny planes, able to carry under 10 passengers, that may be able to make short flights, of under 1,000 km, in the next few years. That is entirely different from a passenger plane carrying 200 passengers many thousand miles. Power is particularly needed on take-off, and while climbing. Liquid jet fuel is burned during the flight, so the planes lands lighter than when it took off. The battery is the same weight throughout, putting more stress on the plane while landing. The engines would have to use propellers, and not be jets - and there are limits on how fast propellers can turn. There are real constraints, caused by physics, in the ability of electricity to power larger aircraft.
Airlines granted huge CO2 emissions reprieve by UN compromise, even further weakening the CORSIA scheme
The UN’s aviation emissions offsetting scheme, CORSIA, will not take 2020 into account as the baseline when calculating how much airlines have to pay to neutralise their CO2 emissions. Normally, without the atypical year due to the Covid pandemic, the emissions baseline (reference point) would have been taken as 2019 and 2020. Now only 2019 emissions will be used. Had 2020's far lower CO2 emissions been included, that would have created a much more taxing challenge for airlines, and would have meant them having to buy many more carbon credits, costing them much more money. Environmental groups have derided the decision to ignore 2020's emissions as “making a mockery” of climate policy. The change will mean that the 3-year pilot scheme will be useless, as CO2 emissions from aviation are unlikely to climb back to the level in 2019. There will be no CO2 requiring offsets, being below the now raised threshold. According to Carbon Market Watch, “while CORSIA will officially start in 2021, airlines will not have to do anything until several years later.” Anyway, carbon credits are now ludicrously cheap.
Why Boris’s zero-emission long-haul British aircraft is just pie in the sky
The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next 30 years. His wish for the UK to build long-haul zero- emissions plane may never be achieved. It is just not credible. Short-range electric flight is, for the very smallest planes, already a reality. Multiple firms, including UK start-ups, are working on zero-emission eVtols – electric vertical take-off and landing craft, or flying taxis – for domestic inter-city travel, carrying just a handful of passengers. Battery weight and range means that manufacturers currently view larger electric planes as feasible only for short-haul flights – and even then the focus is largely on hybrid-electric, with jet fuel needed for take-off. The big UK contribution to this vision, a Rolls-Royce-Airbus collaboration called the E-Fan X, was dropped in April. Meanwhile, work continues at Cranfield university and elsewhere, trying to convince sceptics that hydrogen could eventually be a viable fuel for passenger jets, produced using surplus (?) renewably-generated electricity. Or combined to produce an "electro-fuel" - but that still emits CO2 when burned in a plane engine.
EasyJet plans to close bases at Stansted, Newcastle and Southend – and cut staff by as much as 4,500
EasyJet says it has begun consultations on plans to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports, though it will keep routes using those airports. It will no longer keep planes there, or base crew there. EasyJet may also be cutting its number of employees by up to a third, about 4,500 out of 15,000 overall. About 1,300 cabin crew could lose their jobs, and also 727 pilots (which is about a third of the total). The Unite union said "There is no need for this announcement at this time, especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pound government loan which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs." But there is little demand for flying at present, and no certainty about Covid in the coming months. Easyjet currently has 11 bases in the UK, with 163 aircraft, serving 546 routes. There are 7 aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend, there are 4 aircraft and 183 crew; and at Newcastle there are 3 planes and 157 crew. The job cut proposals are not limited to the bases that may close. EasyJet does not expect 2019 levels of demand to be reached again until 2023.