First of, let me state for the record that this is not an environmental rant around the Government’s persistence with trying to increase capacity at airports. I’m all for it, even if it does wreck up the environment. We as humans have a thirst for adventure, and we’re going to satisfy it one way or another, and air travel (and within 100 years, space travel) is the best way to get our fix.
Anyway, what with the ever increasing number of aircraft falling out of the sky (see New York, Amsterdam) quite close to airports, it strikes me that at some point, one is going to fall out of the sky into a residential area – you only have to look at the 747 freighter that crashed into flats at Amsterdam a decade or so ago. Heathrow’s approach/departure vectors pass over the city of London, so to increase the number of flights passing over surely increases the chance that one of those might have a problem. What about the 777 that landed ‘a little short’ coming in from China last year?
Someone asked me not long ago where I thought an extra runway for London should be built. My answer was ‘Birmingham’. I wasn’t being obtuse, more thinking differently. My reasoning? Logistically, it could be within 25 minutes of Central London. All you need do is build a high-speed rail line ALA the Japanese. I can’t see the London Underground being much faster. Plus a good % of the country is accessible within 2-3hrs, unlike London which requires a flight connection to get near that time. And there is a reasonable amount of room for expansion. However, I’d like to revise that statement and suggest East Midlands. Similar reasons, but the flight path is reasonably away from built-up areas (Kegworth excluded for this purpose of course!) so apart from the people on the plane, hopefully the worst your going to do is burn up a few trees. To be selfish for a minute, its also ideal for us Midlanders to get too, being only 30 minutes up the motorway, but not increasing the number of flights over my house – not that this bothers me too much either! As for airlines not using it, we just use the ‘Ryanair’ approach and rename it London Metropolitan or something vauge like that – The American’s would certainly believe it.
The runway is already designed to cope with the largest aircraft; DHL, FedEx, TNT and UPS all use the airport as a base, and the Airbus A380 has been certified to land at the airport when they were looking at the A380F.
Of course, like any airfield in the UK, especially in relation to increasing the number of flights will attract significant local (and to a certain extent national) opposition, but in all honesty, I think its the one solution that is the best compromise going.