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.
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.
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.
Heathrow future in spotlight, and battle lines drawn up, as lockdown eases
1st July 2020 (Hillingdon Times)
Public enjoying peace and tranquillity from absence of Heathrow flights
Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive. 49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow.” The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.
BA shifts short-haul operations from Gatwick to Heathrow
Jun 30th 2020
British Airways is to move all its short-haul and domestic operations at Gatwick to Heathrow until September. A “small number” of long-haul BA services will fly from Gatwick from mid-July as outbound UK air travel begins to resume, but the bulk of its ex-London programme will fly from Heathrow. BA said the move would cut costs “at a time when demand is yet to return” and travel restrictions remain in place. They say that throughout July and August, we’ll be consolidating our Gatwick and Heathrow short haul flying to operate from our Heathrow base.