London’s Heathrow is one of the world’s busiest airports. It is used by over 90 airlines flying to 170 destinations worldwide. The airport has five passenger terminals and a cargo terminal. In the 1950s, Heathrow had six runways, now it has just two parallel runways running east-west.
Heathrow has witnessed strong growth over recent decades, currently handling 68 million passengers and 477,000 flights a year compared to around 48 million passengers and 427,000 flights a year in 1996. In the absence of any increase in runway capacity, this growth has resulted in Heathrow’s runways operating at around 99% capacity compared to its main European competitors which operate at around 75% capacity, leading to increased delays, lower resilience and fewer destinations served.
Heathrow authorities have faced a big problem, whether to build a new airport or to increase the capacity of the existing one by building the 3rd runway and a sixth terminal. Of course, the second way needs less investments and easier to accomplish, but needs more political and social solutions as there are too many people standing against it. On the one side there are economic benefits, on the other is environmental impact, increasing noise level and discontent of the people living on the area close to the airport.
Lack in free space is found in the history of Heathrow. Heathrow’s underlying problem is that it has been in a wrong place all along. The 62 year olds airport is hemmed in by residential areas on all sides.
Heathrow’s unsuitability as a big commercial airport goes back to its origin as a base for fighters during the second world war. It was built to the west of London, to be less vulnerable to enemy bombers, and was laid out with up to nine runways radiating from a cluster of buildings, including air control in the center. A good design for military aviation proved hopeless for a civil airport. Only three runways survived, of which just two (running east to west and generating most noise blight because of prevailing westerly wind) proved suitable for regular use.
As demand for air travel has risen and risen, governments have attempted to relieve Heathrow by diverting traffic to other airports close to London. Gatwick came first in late 1950s; Stansted followed in the 1970s. Both are now as full as Heathrow.
Expansion looks like the obvious answer to the problem. Heathrow is beyond full, and a new runway and another new terminal would provide a bit more room. Moreover it is demand of BAA, the airport’s owner, and the airlines, especially BA, which holds more than 40% of take-off and landing slots at Heathrow.
The proposition is for a 2,200 meter runway to be built north of Heathrow by 2020. This would almost double the number of passengers passing through one of the world's largest airports and increase the number of flights from 470,000 to 700,000 a year.
Any such plan is bitterly resisted by the residents’ groups. They contend that the local noise and air pollution caused by Heathrow already amount to an environmental disaster that expansion will only worsen.
Aviation has significant local environmental impacts, especially on those living close to airports or under flight paths. The most prominent local environmental impacts of aviation are generally considered to be noise and local air pollution, which can in turn impact on health. The volume of negative factors is increasing due to the increasing demand for air travel in the country.
The environmental impact of aviation occurs because aircraft engines emit noise, particulates, and gases which contribute to climate change and global dimming. One of the ways to reduce the role of aviation in global climate change is to use modern jet aircraft which are significantly more fuel efficient and less pollutant. Other opportunities arise from the optimization of airline timetables, route networks and flight frequencies to...