Sunday, 3 October 2010

A380s at Heathrow

This morning I am living under the flight path for landing aircraft at Heathrow airport. I don’t move around but the approach pattern does. We only have to deal with the noise every third or fourth day. I have lived in or around this area ever since I moved to the UK and trust me when I say that you get used to the noise very quickly and I hardly notice it unless I’m standing in the garden trying to speak to someone. BBQs can be frustrating. When the Icelandic volcano was erupting, we had a glorious week of silence. During my recent Scottish retreat, my perceived blissful isolation was broken only twice by the roar of a military jet flying exercises. I felt violated.

A friend of mine was complaining on Facebook the other day about how airplanes flying over Windsor Castle ruins the full force of the historical impact when the racket of modern day invades. This same friend travels abroad several times every year and appears to have forgotten that without the airport and these very same planes, his journeys would be severely more difficult and fewer and farther in between.

And whilst I may protest the noise, I know I am downright pleased as punch when I can make an early morning 7 am flight knowing that one of the world’s largest airports is a mere 6 miles away. We can get there in 20 minutes or 10 depending on the audacity of our taxi driver. Or you can spend an entire afternoon quaffing magnums of champagne whilst enjoying a thrilling polo match on a glorious sunny English summer day and then transport yourself in minutes for a quick hop over to Zurich without missing a beat. (not entirely true but that’s another post)

There has been a debate raging for several years about the addition of a third runway at Heathrow airport. Currently, London boasts the busiest airspace in the world with 2 of its airports, Gatwick and Heathrow in the top ten of busiest airports in terms of number of passengers. Heathrow alone is the third busiest airport in terms of number of passengers which is astonishing considering this country has a population of only 62 million. Airports in slots 1 and 2 are both in the USA (Atlanta & Chicago) a country with a population of just over 307 million. How does that work?

Adding a third airport has been violently opposed my residents of the surrounding neighbourhoods. No surprise there. I’m not too happy of what a third runway would do to my property value. What these protestors forget is that the people, including themselves, need to own that responsibility. If you don’t want another runway, stop flying.

Over 15 million passengers travel through Heathrow during the year. Many of those are merely connecting to other flights. Could a possible solution be to build another airport further away from London which could handle the connecting traffic? The north east of England is in sore need of employment since the demise of manufacturing and a large international airport would no doubt be a welcome employment opportunity for those economically challenged parts of the country.

My family is full of plane spotters. My daughter and husband could quite honestly watch planes land all day. I would rather do just about anything including clean the toilets. But I do learn things by listening to them prattle on. Most valuably I’ve learned that the new A380 Airbus is much quieter when flying overhead than any other older models including the 737 or 777. Not only that, but the plane is huge. Gigantic. It can carry 555 passengers if it is split into three classes or 840 if only one class is offered. By comparison, the 777 can only carry a maximum of 440 with one class and 340 with 3 classes.

So, it can carry more people so it can make fewer flights and it is quieter. My solution for avoiding building another runway at Heathrow airport is simple. Replace all the legacy aircraft with the new A380 and everyone will be happy. The already dwindling wildlife in the area will not be impacted. The airports neighbours will have a wee bit more peace and quiet. The airlines will make more money having to fly fewer flights.

Am I the only one who thinks this is blindingly obvious?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I decided we lived too close to the airport (Isleworth) when my son Luke used to draw aeroplanes with the wheels down! (They were coming in to land whenever he saw them!) They never worried me, having grown up in beautiful Twickenham/Richmond - right under the filght-path... but I do appreciate the peace of our rural France now! Good thinking on the A380 though - makes sense to me!