NATS [National Air Traffic Service] CEO Richard Deakin unwittingly makes the case for the construction at great speed of a Boris Island Airport (Sunday Telegraph July 8th 2012) when in fact he presents an alternative viewpoint designed to halt the development. Mr Deakin says “…you couldn’t have both an Estuary airport and Heathrow [operating] at its current level. The two together just won’t work.”
Julian Bray, who comments on aviation writes: Mr Deakin has started the impossible by opening a whole new series of arguments in favour of ‘Boris Airport’ by highlighting the many negatives and problems NATS currently has to work within (although rightly complaining that Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, hasn’t bothered to consult him on his thoughts, as NATS would have to supply the air traffic control for the new venture)
The truth is that simply the aviation industry has for decades refused to think outside the box, in terms of ground support services, and to a degree has an element of self-serving tunnel vision, it really needs someone like the late Colin Marshall (long held back in the shadow of Lord King) of British Airways - or even the one time aviation activist Peter Villa - back at the helm, of our UK aviation interests.
The road approach from London to and from Heathrow is the equally overworked M4, and part is located on a flyover, as I write that very link is closed as the Highways Agency has alarmingly found some cracks in the ageing concrete structure and promptly weeks before the London Olympics closed it down, they say for five days. We all know that could well drift into weeks as the defective concrete is examined in detail, experts consulted, and some kind of patch up solution negotiated. At least keeping the rout over until after the London Olympics?
London Heathrow Airport as a landlocked aviation citadel is hopelessly hemmed in on all sides, and whatever they try and do in terms of opening new terminals the neighbourhood remains overcrowded, even though NATS have slot times down from a couple of minutes to a matter of seconds.
Astonishingly NATS the privatised government department who control all air movements, now actually boasts that Heathrow with its two runways handles a greater amount of traffic than Dallas Airport, in Texas with seven runways. Heathrow manages 94 movements an hour from its two runways whilst single runway Gatwick tops that with 55 movements an hour.
Simply at the time when BA under Lord Kings authoritarian stewardship swallowed up British Caledonian, a slot was considered to represent one take of and one landing within a three minute window, clearly its all been ramped right up to the very limit.
So if Boris gets his way and the Estuary Airport gets built then it could well take the dubious honour of being the busiest ‘London’ airport and will certainly take traffic away from Heathrow, it should also impact on the City airport, essentially through wind shear and close proximity of high buildings - the so called ‘Shard’ adds another unwelcome ‘balance of probabilities’ hazard – City Airport remains an accident waiting to happen.
So perhaps that is exactly why Boris and his chums should steam ahead with the Estuary option. A 21st century airport with purpose built high speed transport links into London and elsewhere. Market forces will determines if other hubs maintain their level of splots but if Heathrow cuts back on its activity a while section of London will breath a collective sigh of relief.
NATS say many other airports both in the UK and mainland Europe will also be affected by the opening of the Estuary Airport but again not thinking outside the box why would anyone want to base their centre of operations within the beleaguered Eurozone? Something that Willie Walsh of IAG who own British Airways must now also be wondering.
Simply if Boris Island goes ahead there is nothing to stop the transporation infrastructure being put in place now and some new thinking applied.
There is no need for example (apart from revenue generation) to have in future at airports extensive car parks on the airport site; if your luggage can be remotely checked in off the airport, and indeed the whole check in process, desks, people, shopping, bars, customs and security, could be physically located miles from airside. Armed with just hand luggage, and self generated boarding card securely transported then deposited airside.
Gatwick and Docklands already have their driverless trains, a high speed transit cannot be beyond the wit of man. Possibly using the technology, airports already use to automatically route your checked in luggage over miles of trackway. But what ever happens there will be little logic in the final decision, as politicians will wade in at every stage, and in these austere financial times, the money men will want their pound of flesh. But real test will be the airport and services handling of the London Olympics anything less than perfect will have repercussions for many years to come
Contributor: Media, Cruise Line , Aviation, Politics & Travel Expert, Broadcaster & Journalist Julian Bray NUJ, EQUITY UK Landline: 01733 345581 Mobile: 07944 217476 ISDN2 downline +44(0)1733 555 319 (UK HOME ISDN 017 33 55 53 19) G722/APT-X Dual Codecs Glensound C5 SKYPE: JULIAN.BRAY.UK