Monday June 24, 2019

AV8 News Aviation News & Analysis


Airport expansion; UK Commision targets Heathrow & Gatwick

The UK's Aviation Commission, tasked with studying in-depth future requirements and recommendations for airport expansion in the UK, has today published its interim report short-listing Heathrow and Gatwick as its preferred options for expansion.

Three options have been short-listed by the commission;

> A new 3,500m runway at London Heathrow, to the north-west of the existing airport.
> Lengthening northern runway at Heathrow, to at least 6,000m enabling it to allow departures and arriivals simultaneously.
> A new runway at London Gatwick, at least 3,000m

Other solutions considered, but not yet short listed by the commission include; a new runway at Stansted, a new runway at Luton and an airport in the Thames Estury; dubbed, Boris Island, after the london mayor Boris Johnson who has supported the island concept.

The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies is due to publish its final report by summer 2015.

Birmingham Airport, in the Midlands has also failed to make the short-list despite being an obvious oportunity for the south east, and the greater UK. It will eventually be connected to the UK's capital by HS2, the high-speed rail project being touted by the current government. When HS2 is running, Birmingham Airport will be only one hour travel from London.

Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham said; "Our hard work has paid off. Birmingham Airport has today been recognised as an integral piece of the long-term aviation puzzle, supporting the growth of aviation links across the UK, which is a positive step forward for the Midlands economy.

“And whatever the long-term solution, the Commission has also recognised that Birmingham Airport can grow immediately and we will work with the Government on the policy recommendations set out in this report in order to deliver this.

"We will continue to work alongside our stakeholders to ensure Birmingham Airport delivers for local businesses, passengers and the economy.”

Birmingham Aiport currently runs at less than 50% of its available capacity.

Sir Howard was asked in 2012 to investigate the options for expanding the UK's aviation capacity and try to come up with a plan.

He said the Commission's analysis showed one net additional runway was needed by 2030.

"The capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon," he added.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has said that putting a new runway at Heathrow would be a "catastrophe".

Following the commission's report, Mr Johnson said he continued to support the creation of the Isle of Grain airport in north Kent.

"The capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon,"

"A new airport in the inner estuary is the only credible hub option left. By keeping it on the table, Davies is saying you have a choice - between a damaging U-turn or a radical new vision for expansion," he said.

Next year the commission intends to study in depth the true viability of a Thames Esturary airport. Cost estimates put the project at over £112Bn, far in excess of any other options. This aside, it may offer the best long term solution to the 'capacity problem'.


Heathrow airport has for a long time been running at approximately 98% capacity, this is in part due to a night-time curfew on flights and a ban on 'mixed-mode' use of the runways. These restrictions artificially reduce the physical capacity of the facility, but are a necessary restriuction to an airport who so closely neighbours the City of London.

Running at maximum capacity leave little room for recovery, recent weather and Air Traffic Control problems left hundreds of flights cancelled from the airport, as there simply wasn't scope to recover.

Various options for Heathrow expansion have been touted over the years, the following graphic couurtesy of the BBC demonstrates the options that have been reviewed.

Options at Heathrow, credit: BBC News

When the current coalition government came to power in 2010, they scrapped the former governments plan for a third runway at Heathrow.


Gatwick, which actually has second runway - considered only as a spare, has also been short-listed.

The preferred choice at London Gatwick would be a true second runway, parallel to the existing and sufficiently spaced so as to allow simultaneous movements.

Options proposed at Gatwick


We at AV8 believe the scope of the report is limited, and the commitment of the UK Government even more so.

Our contributers regularly operate through some of Europes largest airport and the facts are blatently obvious; the UK is being left behind.

Amsterdam Schipol, and its 6-runway super hub continues to take traffic away from the UK and it's carriers. The picture is similar at other major hubs, including Germany's Frankfurt and France's Paris Charles de Galle.

But this is a self-inflicted injury, restricted airport capacity and now excessive Air Passenger Duty (APD) levied on each passenger by the UK Government now means that travellers look to hop away from the UK to these alternative hubs, and thus avail of cheaper taxes.

Until we see a bold, and unified solution to aviation, the UK is going to be left on the side-lines.

See Also

Sky News:

BBC News:

Flight Global:

UK GOV Airports Commission Interim Report

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