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.  

 

Regards

 

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

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