WHAT'S GOING ON? Julian Bay reports:
They say in the UK that experiencing four seasons in one day is not unusual, but apart from the weather ,which has now dropped to near freezing, as the winds are coming down directly from the North Pole, during what was supposed to be our Autumn, the weather has been unseasonably warm, with major retail stores left with mountains of autumn /winter merchandise unsold.
Who wants to buy a coat, when at the beginning of November some people were still wearing t-shirts and eating ice creams?
The sorry state of the UK pound sterling ( triggered by the decision dubbed 'Brexit' to leave the failing European Union club) has finally hit the petrol (gasoline) pumps with UK pump prices now around £1:40 A LITRE (!) and heading even higher. In aviation terms, the continuing slide of Sterling and an expected increase in inflation to 5% has cast all future holiday flight operational budget calculations into doubt. 2017 could see a major holiday inclusive tour firm fold or possibly merge...protect your money, just pay at least £101 of the overall bill with a credit card!
Overly optimistic airline forecasts are now being urgently revisited - by their bankers - coupled with the fact that holidaymakers already thinking the tourist £ sterling and the US $ will be at parity, by the time they physically get to fly, or just decide the expense really isn't worth a candle, and stay at home..
We also have the shocking news that British Airways [BA] are to squeeze in an extra seat on each row of their 777s. No one has mentioned this officially, but the news slipped out during an exclusive 'private' briefing for City types. Hat Tip to the Travel Guru Simon Calder. Should add some 56 extra revenue seats a flight, made easier of course as BA have also cut drastically back on the inflight eats, in a quest for greater profitability and slimmer belt lines.
The row or 'debate' over the London Heathrow extra runway is not at all over, its just beginning, as they seem to have belatedly realised that a major motorway, a virtually gridlocked road network, runs through the very series of neighbourhoods to be annexed and flattened by the airport. So its Spanish owners, - with a large slice of public funding - can build the new runway. Local dire traffic problems will only increase. You have to really wonder, what the grandly named Airports Commission found to spend a cool £20 million of taxpayers money on, to produce just a 400 page report, admittedly with lots of pictures, blank spaces and seriously out of date data.......you read it here first!
That 'can of worms' is unlikely to see a single 'sod cut' for some time, as the whole operation faces years and years of legal challenge and Judicial Review. Lawyers just cannot believe their luck! Christmas has arrived early...
The latest idea is to follow the Fort Lauderdale model of an elevated 'bridge' runway, but I cannot see this working, with respect Fort Lauderdale carries a tiny fraction of the West London traffic, that funnels through and around Heathrow, and with the current terrorist situation, any truck breaking down for whatever reason, underneath the runway section or the open road section, would see an immediate major alert triggered and West London grinding to a halt. Back to the drawing board.
The Egyptian resort Sharm el Sheik has suffered yet another major setback, as the recently rescued Monarch Airlines has ditched plans to reinstate their services to the resort.
However you stack the cards, the aircraft, laden with holidaymakers and their young families, will still have to venture over several conflict and war zones to get there and back.
Who really wants to endanger their families with a holiday at Sharm? The Egyptian Ambassador to the UK is by co-incidence currently defending it on Sky News and offers the 'reassurance' that 'Control Risks' is taking care of security - kind of legalised mercenaries - and that another British security firm 'highly regarded' is now training local security people. Frankly Ambassador, that just underlines the peril, People will remember that for just '20 bucks' a local working at the airport would gently walk you, and your luggage, around , bypassing the security devices, and directly onto the waiting aircraft.... it's not going to fly....
BBC Radio Kent, one of our very popular local radio stations, covers the important front line region surrounding the Channel Tunnel and home to a high number of small airfields, and unmarked grass airstrips, many were former World War II, Battle of Britain airfields.
These days a new battle is underway, so BBC Kent put me in the radio studio, to get my views on how this should be handled from a security point of view.
Consignments of drugs and even people are being smuggled in by light aircraft and even in one case by helicopter. It just takes the guiding light of a few car headlamps, a quick touchdown, a waiting van and away, long before the authorities arrive. Luckily some smugglers forgot the that Kent police now have heat seeking devices on their helicopters, one tracked the escaping van packed with drugs and delivered it into a waiting road block set up by police.
But there is a continuing problem, and it is on the increase.
This is despite tighter e-filing of flights plans and a further electronic message to the border agency (charged for) detailing passengers/cargo. The smugglers however know the border agency is woefully under-resourced, and the few tatty ships patrolling the channel are stretched or out of service awaiting repair!
That hopefully is changing, as international threat and terror levels remain high, the enforced clearance of the Calais 'migrant' jungle camp is expected to put further pressure on those guarding our borders - or not Watch this space!
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581 Aerospace & Incident Management Expert, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com