What do you do about a problem called Heathrow?
Does anybody like Heathrow? Not the people who live around it. Not many of the people who travel from it. But after half a century it is still there. Surrounded by houses and sprawling industrial estates wrapped, around by motorways and dual carriageways, Heathrow seems always to be straining to get out if its little straightjacket of land.
I confess I don’t like it. As a regular user, it can be still confusing to me. You take endless walkways to get anywhere whether it to be to get out or to get to your plane’s gate. It seems overcrowded in the older terminals and in the sky. I won’t even begin to contemplate how long I have spent being stacked in the air because there are trying to cram so many landings and take-offs into what seems a pint pot when they need a quart or even a gallon.
Boris Johnson, mayor of London announced some time ago that he didn’t favor expansion but an entirely new airport which, he suggested, should be built in the Thames estuary. At the moment only the Labour government seems committed to Heathrow expansion. Now Medway Council in Kent, the council most affected if a new airport was constructed in the estuary, says it objects. The Board of Airline Representatives says it objects as well. BA, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM-Air France object. Probably Mrs. Smith in Acacia Avenue objects as does the London Institute of Dodgy Decisions Interacting with Transport to Europe. (Luddite)
Having interviewed countless people about airports, I can say there will always be objectors. Whether Johnson’s ideas are praiseworthy or lamentable is only one issue. That Heathrow cannot continue as it is, is the one that must be faced. Vertical take-off passenger aircraft would maximise the use of the existing space but is that practical? Planes that use shorter take-off lengths might be an answer if that is practical. We seem to spend so much time looking at reducing fuel and noise that I wonder sometimes whether there is anybody looking at making better use of the limitations of land and rethinking how planes and airports may work.