It’s about time aviation issues were discussed frankly and subject to some common sense

Dear Sir or Madam

Gatwick Airport is in the wrong place geographically to function properly not only as an airport, but as a sustainable aviation business, and this is why it can’t be trusted to play by the rules.

It is in the wrong place both in relation to the country as a whole, being further south of Heathrow and London with all the transport turmoil that entails, and in relation to Heathrow there are two key things I would like to draw your attention to, namely:

1/ Expansion at Gatwick would impede the flights at Heathrow and vice versa causing worse potential environmental impacts.

The most important single fact is that Britain is in the north, and most planes approach our airports from the south from the rest of the world. Since Gatwick is south of Heathrow, Heathrow planes must fly above Gatwick ones. Therefore:

  • Gatwick planes must fly lower than Heathrow ones for longer – causing more significant noise impacts to residents below
  • Heathrow is in the way of Gatwick using full airspace, meaning Gatwick can’t implement full PCN under EU airspace rules and must concentrate its planes east and west over Kent, Sussex and Surrey  – causing more noise misery to residents below in ‘noise ghettos’.
  • Residents in Kent Sussex and Surrey are subject to noise and pollution from both Heathrow and Gatwick planes
  • Gatwick departure and approach patterns, if expanded, would further impede existing airspace choices for Heathrow effecting PCN efficiency and reducing flight safety overall.

2/ Gatwick already flouts the rules because it’s a struggling business model which does not bode well for future public health issues and Climate Change restraints

In fact Gatwick depends on Night Flights for its business model in competition with Heathrow, and Night flights are the single most damaging mode of operation to the health and wellbeing of those overflown.

  • Gatwick widened its approach swathe and increased concentrated traffic using PNAV then lied repeatedly about doing so to both Government and the public (it maximised throughput for profit above all other considerations, even flight safety)
  • Gatwick has repeatedly acted against providing respite to residents – it can’t, it doesn’t have enough airspace (see above).
  • Another runway at Gatwick can’t operate efficiently with the larger plane sizes increasingly being used to reduce plane flight frequency because its runways would be too close together (the Gatwick airport site is too small).
  • In advance of the expansion decision Gatwick has just announced, without consultation, that it will reduce landing fees for night flights to effectively encourage increased use of them. (This is clearly a for-profit business decision in view of Heathrow competition and a blatant disregard to the known, major health effects of Night Flights on human health.)

Expanding either Gatwick or Heathrow doesn’t just come down to simple numbers of people overflown. It is also a matter of how significantly flights effect those overflown i.e. how frequent, noisy and disturbing the planes actually are.

If Gatwick is allowed to expand, its planes will impact more people significantly than if Heathrow is expanded for all the reasons as set out above.

In the face of the increasing demands of CO2 reduction and climate change, it is likely that more ethical and safe modes of operation will be demanded from aviation.

Gatwick is completely unable to respond ethically and sustainably like this as well as stay viable as a profit making business. Gatwick expansion would be a disaster in terms of noise, air pollution and safety impacts.

However – it’s not that Heathrow expansion is a viable option either. Far from it. In view of the fact aviation business use has been falling for years, that air travel is likely to become much more expensive in the very near future, and that Stanstead is operating half empty – common sense dictates the whole issue of aviation for Britain as a whole is more complex than the simplistic rhetorical set up of Heathrow vs Gatwick. It’s time for more direct and radical Governmental intervention in this market model or the whole issue of expansion needs kicking into the grass for good.  




One of the thousands significantly overflown in Tunbridge Wells more than 20 miles away from the Gatwick Airport site

Two Degrees of Knowledge So Far

Someone once pointedly turned to me in a meeting on aviation expansion and said “Marxism doesn’t work. It doesn’t take account of people’s needs.” Maybe he thought I was a Marxist or something. Actually I don’t know how exactly I might label my political beliefs. But my key belief is that some form of global socialism is needed to redistribute resources and curb the individualistic tendencies that people, who on the larger scale become countries and corporations, are prone to.  Only some form of global socialism will save mankind from self-destruction on a finite planet.

Some newspapers today report that global temperatures will likely rise beyond the crucial 2C limit that would herald, according to today’s Guardian, ‘catastrophic changes to food production, sea levels, fishing, wildlife, deserts and water reserves.’ We are already witnessing dead zones in the sea.

Unfortunately, what we are hearing about climate change at present is largely in the hands of the corporate media. And it is increasingly likely that ‘the people’ will hear less and less about major global changes caused by climate change in future. As a case in point, take the fact that the major media moguls are moving big time from print to internet based forms of opinion making. Well known climate sceptic Murdoch has recently bought both National Geographic as well as an internet based and intellectually pervasive advertising company called Unruly Media.

About half the world resources are currently in the hands of one hundred or so people who own large corporations, like the media, and make deals at Government level globally such as TTIP or TPP etc. As publicized by Wikileaks, one aspect of TTIP is to restrict public access to information.

And this is why I note the very interesting front page article of Le Monde Diplomatique for October on my blog today and urge you to read it. It is called ‘Big Media versus the people’ and written by Serge Halimi.

Corporations and country states very effectively systematise and thereby mechanise the asset stripping of nature and pollution of the planet. My friend at the meeting seemed to suggest that our current system of Capitalism meets the needs of the people. Perhaps the need in question is that we should not come to know the way we are going to die?

The State of Things – UK has highest deficit for 24 years

George Osbourne was looking quite worried and distracted at last week’s PMqs. The unblinking vacancy plus head lolling as he sat on the front bench beside Cameron can’t be anything to do with Jeremy Corbyn because the media are fully on side in condemning the Labour leader eg for riding a ‘Chairman Mao’ bike (Times). Perhaps Osbourne’s condition had more to do with being stressed over the latest deficit figures – officially the highest for 24 years (see Independent today). The truth is, that ‘boom and bust’ hasn’t gone away, its just that every bust goes more global.

The £375,000,000.000 that the Bank of England has shoved into the economy since the financial crisis via Quantative Easing so far hasn’t really made much difference to The State of Things, there’s still not much money around apparently. Inflation remains low and interest rates – well – personally, I’ve been struggling to understand why some people say they will rise soon while just as many others say they will fall further.

Seems to me this interest rates/inflation issue, while partly a result of global changes, definitely has something to do with the reasoning behind why the banks now want to abolish money all together. From reading  via @richardjmurphy who deconstructs the Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane’s latest comments, the only way that the Bank of England sees it can increase Britain’s inflation rate to the desired level (3% and more recently revised to 4%) is to buy (in other words pay off) the UK Government’s debt. This will presumably allow the Government to spend more to increase money in circulation, which then could lead to an inflation rise. Only trouble is, while keeping up the pretence in doing this that the Bank of England would do this for sound economic reasons as an independent company etc and importantly, to stop it going insolvent – interest rates would need to go negative – the bank would take money from bank accounts. That’s my understanding. Which makes abolishing cash is important: because you wouldn’t want people to be able to stop keeping their money in a bank would you?

A bit of a desperate scheme though, the kind that might keep one a bit distracted and wide eyed with thinking about how one might sell that to the British Public and still be the next Conservative leader.

Assuming the Conservatives make moves to abolish cash and there are negative interest rates, surely – despite all the frames of language reference –  this would actually be a form of Government taxation wouldn’t it?

And what about the sustainability of such a system in an increasingly volatile world?

Forget the Stick Mr Osbourne We Need More Carrots

More planes won’t solve transport they are part of the problem that’s keeping UK productivity low: pollution, congestion, and decreasing everyday quality of life. What’s more, there is an increasing sense of dispossession and resentment as people experience less and less control over changes occurring around them.

Having a holiday somewhere more idyllic once or twice a year does not fix this.

George Osbourne is currently relaxing planning rules like some Neoliberal Demigod. There will be automatic building permission on brown field sites and penalties for Councils that don’t meet house building targets: houses are to be built regardless of objections from residents, however justified these may be. And so the political stick keeps beating us:
No long strategic planning (whack). Development (whack). More people (whack). Pollution (whack). More lack of long term strategic planning…

Unfortunately for UK taxpayers, the bottom line for a good, long term transport policy is that it works as a whole. Getting to work is a real issue for many people. Our rail systems, even in the Southeast, are seriously underdeveloped and over used, not to mention too expensive. Wasting hours in a car watching someone else’s bumper is an everyday reality. I now find myself incandescent with rage that the Government are still considering throwing loads of taxpayer’s money at the aviation sector- which a recent study shows is mainly benefitting just 15% of the population on leisure trips. Most of the frequent flyer trips are to tax havens.

Plus Cameron is still apparently considering Gatwick expansion! The facts are stark when you look at them:

Heathrow (current capacity 65m passengers per year)
– access to M1, M3, M40,M4, A3
– 3 junctions from M25
– major road links into central London – M4, A4
– Victoria line.
– Heathrow Express.
– Heathrow Connect.
– Cross Rail (soon to be completed).
– HS2 spur to Heathrow – planned
– Bristol link – Government pledged up to £500 million to link Bristol with Heathrow.

Gatwick (forecast capacity 95m passengers per year)
– access to M23
– one junction from M25,
– access to central London A23
– one rail line (London to Brighton and already over capacity)

Margaret Thatcher, who few would criticise in terms of free market principles, once put it well when she said: “We should always remember that free markets are a means to an end. They defeat their object if by their output they did more damage to the quality of life than the wellbeing they achieve by the production of goods and services.”

Making a judgment about when it is right to pursue growth and when the consequences are too negative for it to be worth it is something one can observe when looking at bacterial growth in a petri dish. Applying a stick to this process does little to change the outcome.

Gatwick Drops Safety Standards for Profit

From aviation and on the eve of the general election, a clear example of corporate power- the sly force perhaps behind most of the problems people experience in Britain today. It has emerged that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) under the Chairmanship of Dame Deirdre Hutton, Google defined ‘Queen of Quangos’, allowed Gatwick Airport to reduce its flight safety standards. At the same time, the CAA maintained that the changes to flightpaths were actually in the cause of safety improvements, which is in fact the opposite of the truth. It is often the case that large organisations, including Governments, name a process or policy by the opposite of its primary effect with the sole purpose of confusing and misleading the general public.

The CAA is yet another formerly public body that was part privatised. It was set up with a remit to protect the public but now simply operates as part of the aviation industry PR machine.

When Gatwick Airport Ltd proposed its ‘stabilisation trials’ (otherwise known as ACD55 trials), the CAA together with NATS where told to ‘revise’ the vectoring choices for flight paths: and they did, without question, without any public consultation taking place. To the east of Gatwick Airport this means Gatwick’s planes now routinely fly straight over the more heavily populated area of central Tunbridge Wells. The reason given for this change was to reduce the number of ‘fly-arounds’ for the airport. When planes are made to stay in the air longer, circling downwards in a stack, it’s a known safety issue that can lead to unstable approach patterns for planes. However, suspicions about this stated reason behind flight path changes were fuelled when Gatwick Airport Ltd consistently refused to reveal historic information showing the proportion of fly arounds due to the runway not being clear versus those due to unstable approaches.

Now there is incontrovertible proof of something long suspected – the proportion of fly arounds at Gatwick Airport actually increased to 0.39% from an eleven year average of 0.34% as a result of the ‘stabilisation trials’; the vast majority of these unstable landings are because the runway has not been clear. Gatwick is a busy airport but it has not yet reached capacity. Simply put, Gatwick wanted these flight changes so that they could increase the number of plane landings during the more lucrative landing slots – more planes per hour at certain times of day – to increase company profits. So once again the ‘stabilisation trials’, unlike the name of them suggests, were a process whereby Gatwick Airport could achieve more unstable planes, not less.

Gatwick Airport Ltd is owned by a hedge fund and pays no Corporation Tax in Britain. Its CEO, Mr Stuart Wingate, recently sent an open letter to resident associations and councils around Gatwick Airport explaining that the changes in the flight paths are in respect of Government policy.

I believe him.

(For more information on this issue please go to )

Fact: Most People Do Not Want Loud Noise, Air Pollution & Climate Change

A letter from Stuart Wingate, Gatwick Airport’s CEO, is published in the Financial Times today. It is Putinesque in its deception. Mr Wingate says, basically, that Heathrow is an unpopular choice and therefore, his airport is the popular choice for expansion in the South East.

Indeed the way in which the Government has framed the Airport’s Commission objectives forces people to choose between Gatwick or Heathrow, and by doing this each and every individual or organisation taking part is effectively agreeing to airport expansion in the South East at all costs. The reality is that given the choice, people disagree with large scale destruction of trees and wildlife and value more natural surroundings, especially during leisure time with family and friends (when we are more likely to notice the absence of these valuable things). New housing estates are short on spaces where children can play and generally speaking, people prefer diverse soundscapes and cleaner air. We do not enjoy sitting in traffic queues for hours on end. Whats more we would also like to live longer, healthier lives. Yet the aviation choice for Britain we have been given, supported by the narrative in the mainstream media, means either airport can say they have our complete support. If we voice an opinion we are divided between two evils, and then that winner in the ‘race’ Mr Wingate refers to will be packaged as the people’s choice. How wrong that is. It’s a NIMBY competition and the only winners are the money men who buy and sell not only shares but human lives.

Add up all the people and organisations opposed to either Heathrow or Gatwick expansion and you see the real story here.

People in the South East of England do not want more planes and will not feel benefit from them.

For the record, the following is a list of all the organisations and resident’s associations who do not want Gatwick to be expanded:

Local councils that oppose a new runway –
West Sussex County Council * Kent County Council * Mid Sussex District Council * Crawley Borough Council * Horsham District Council * Mole Valley District Council * Tandridge District Council * Tunbridge Wells Borough Council * Horley Town Council * Wealden District Council * Surrey County Council * Sevenoaks District Council *

Senior MPs that oppose a new runway –
Gatwick Co-ordination Group consists of six senior MPs – Crispin Blunt, Sir Paul Beresford, Sir John Stanley, Sam Gyimah, Sir Nicholas Soames, Charles Hendry, Nick Herbert and informally Rt Hon Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister.

The public health time bomb of Government policy

Actually scratch that last post about the health time bomb as a result of Government policy on Fracking and aviation expansion (and come to think of it a whole range of other policies, particularly transport policies, that result in high levels of pollution). And neither shall the polluting industries themselves be blamed -after all they are just in pursuit of profits. I’ve just realized that the health time bomb in question will of course be deemed the fault of the NHS! Either that or perhaps some quango headed by the likes of Denise Hutton will take the rap together with a few minorities suffering from unsavoury lifestyle choices like poor people, foreigners and fatties etc

We all know we’re unhealthy for a reason, and maybe we’ll serve our country better dying young?

The only political party saying no both to fracking and more runways are the GREENS. They are also the only party proposing to actually change transport policy with a view to reducing congestion, decreasing pollution and placing emphasis on improving quality of life.