SNOW etc
Latest JANUARY 19th 2012

MARCH 1st 2008
The protesters against the plan for a third runway at Heathrow are linking their case to the need to reduce CO2 emissions and noise, but they are wrong. It is essential to progressively reduce both of these, but the efficient running of Heathrow as London's main airport is the best way to achieve them and a third runway will help, not hinder this process.

The number of aircraft using Heathrow is limited by airspace and air-traffic control factors, not ground space and runway space. But these can have a huge influence on efficiency and safety and the way London Airport serves London and its economy.

To reduce the noise we have to move to more modern aircraft, bigger aircraft for intercontinental flights and a new type of approach to the final glide path for landing that involves less power and far less manoeuvring. This will be progressively the case.

To reduce emissions, all of the above apply as well.

Building a third runway will not prejudice the above improvements in any way and will ease certain problems of air traffic control and safety both in routine operations and emergencies.

The protesters are misguided. They should support the new runway and trade their support for more expenditure and acceleration in all sorts of ways to reduce noise, pollution and congestion on the ground and in the air. We need positive solutions that bring sustainable and ecologically sound growth. The purely negative policy of stopping the building of a runway is just not good enough. Efficiency and new techniques and technology, with a real reduction in the carbon footprint of travellers is the way to go.

Individuals can help by reducing flights for their own amusement and using other forms of transport with less carbon consequence when these can suffice.

MARCH 20th 2008
An anonymous air-traffic controller (retired) with 30 years experience has told the BBC that the horizontal separation safety limits are breached too often round Heathrow, due to the policy of packing aircraft as tighlly as possible for landing. While it is right to insist that these limits should nor be breached, the real safety depends on two facors: (1) If a breach does occur is it immediately noticed and (2) can steps be taken to correct the situation. Because the separation minima are designed to leave a very considerable distance betwen aircraft a built-in margin to allow exceptional breaches exists for that very purpose. There is an additional factor that concerns the relative headings of any two aircraft and this is dependent on the proper planning of approach patterns so that aircraft at the same altitude or passing through the same altitude are never appraoching head on or within 90 degrees of head-on.

Because safety depends NOT on the breach of the minima unless this is unobserved and even then on the factors noted above, it is the speed of approach and the angle which is at issue here. However, when it is a case of slotting aircraft into the final approach from opposite sides of the extended centreline, there can be a situation where a small error in timing can present a relatively rapid reaching of the separation limit. Fortunately under these conditions the situation is under the control of a single controller who becomes instantly aware of any conflict. I note thay the instances he is talking about are not classed as 'airmiss' or 'airprox' by NATS, so clearly not a real risk but a technical breach which was noticed and corrected and the orror in procedure pointed out to the controller in question..

However, this resinforces my point that it is ATC limits that will stop Heathrow from continuing to increase its movements, so there is no point in protesting about a third runway which will make the current number safer. A change in the way aircraft are marshalled for approach is also on the cards which could benefit air trafic and also London residents.

The failure of the baggage loading and retrieval system at the new Terminal 5 must be one of the least surprising events of the century, but nevertheless in view of the inability of the management to explain it or passengers to expect it, a few words are in order here. It is important that we understand what happened here as similar things are going to happen more and more in the future in all sorts of arenas when we deal with large numbers of people and systems.

Three items to note at the start:
1. All new terminal buildings have been chaotic wherever and whenever they have been opened if this has been at a major international. hub already working at full capacity. Staff training and experience is a factor here.
2. The baggage system at Heathrow and most other airports, even when well run-in, is a critical and vulnerable system subject to a variety of human-machine interfaces. That they work adequately is the result of long periods of trial and error and the tacit acceptance of huge amounts of error, the evidence of which is brought to our attention daily by they amount of lost and misrouted and stolen luggage that results from its forced operation in synchronicity with aviation imperatives driven by on the one hand inflexible rules and on the other arbitrary conditions such as weather, road traffic anomalies and world-events.
3. All human progress is by trial and error. A full scale real trial of Terminal 5 could not be simulated because the arbitrary human element is incalculable and its interface with technical systems and reaction to technical hitches cannot be simulated by volunteers and trained experts standing in for humanity in all its infinite variety.

In the case of an international airport in the 21st century we have to add some extra ingredients which render the opening of a new terminal without serious problems impossible. These are the requirements of (1) Health and Safety and (2) Security, both of which have been required to be absolute. These two requirements are at the same time politically mandatory and physically impossible when dealing with a human input with an uncontrollable flow rate driven by a rigid timetable.

An operation such as Terminal 5 cannot be designed and put into operation in complete working order when it has to satisfy competing demands from uncompromising authorities, until there has been confrontation and negotiation on the technological and human level that will result in practice with an acceptation of imperfection at those levels which are not considered obviously life-threatening or inacceptable to consumers in a competitive world. Of course what 'consumers' fancy in the way of choice and privilege may vary. I have just watched 25 hours of THE WORLD AT WAR (Narrated by Lawrence Olivier) and about 6 hours of Attenborough's SECRET LIFE OF PLANTS.  I think anyone less than 70 years old should be forced to do the same before being given a passport.

None of the above in any way relieves those responsible for the opening of Terminal 5 and the staffing of its systems from the fact they screwed up, some much more than others. There could of course be no overall control for reasons I have explained above if you have been paying attention.

The most amusing news of today is that Mr Cameron, the leader of the Tory party, feels it is humiliating! Mr Cameron's utter irrelevance to this issue is supreme. Were he never to have lived it would not mke the slightest difference to the likelyhood of Terminal 5 opening smoothly or operating smoothly or not at any time in the future. As for his feeling humiliated, you have to be certain kind of performing prick to be 'humiliated'.. Those who actually do things can feel annoyed, and apologetic for those who have been inconvenienced - that's about the limit.

 In case I did not make the point clearly enough, for the problems that arose with the baggage system to be overcome in time to avoid the accumulating catastrophe we have just witnessed, BA and BAA would have needed fully trained and highly dedicated staff manning the system at every level. But no doubt they thought they had designed a system to get round the problems they had become accustomed to, which was very far from the ideal I have described, and thereby function with only a few highly trained and dedicated staff and a mix of casual or even hostile employees with unresolved industrial relations issues. There is no way that such an inadequte team could deal with what happened at T5. There is a latent Luddite in many.

MAY 21st 2008

The reservations listed in the report cited below are reasonable. In general, airport expansion should be on hold until these matters have been resolved. However this does NOT apply to Heathrow as we already have a situation which requires a third runway as soon as possible.for reasons which cannot be eliminated or mitigated. These apply to Heathrow as an airport and London as an aviation hub, a capital city and an industrial and regional centre.

Aviation impacts 'hotly disputed'
By Roger Harrabin
BBC environment analyst

UK ministers have been urged to halt airport expansion until the true costs and benefits of the proposed increase in flying are properly understood.

The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) have been examining aviation policy for a year.

They conclude that so much fundamental data is disputed that an independent inquiry is needed to sort it out.

The government said it had serious objections to the report's findings.

A statement from the Department for Transport (DfT) rejected the notion that a further three-year debate, as requested by the SDC and IPPR, would serve any useful purpose.

Among the main areas of dispute are:

The SDC/IPPR report said all the uncertainty had eroded people's confidence in government policy.

They want to see a full investigation - and airport expansion frozen until it is completed.

Despite its uncertainties the report does feel free to make one solid observation.

It says: "Clashing government priorities across different departments and agencies - including promoting economic growth, meeting future travel needs, protecting the environment, addressing climate change, and ensuring the health and well-being of communities - are contributing to a lack of coherence across government."

Listening commitment

Hugh Raven, SDC commissioner, said: "The SDC and IPPR held meetings with the government, the aviation industry, academics, NGOs and citizens' groups over a period of a year.

"While we expected to find areas of conflict, we were unprepared for the level of fundamental disagreement over the data underpinning the government's whole aviation strategy.

"Until some basic questions are answered, the UK cannot be in a position to make major decisions about the future of air travel.

"The government must live up to its commitment to listening to voters' concerns, and ensure we make the best possible decisions for everyone involved."

Simon Retallack, associate director of the IPPR, added: "It is vital that the evidence is looked at again through an independent and widely supported process. Establishing a special commission to do that provides the government with the best way forward."

Serves 'no interest'

But a DfT spokesperson said it was "simply wrong to claim that there is a consensus that the evidence base is flawed".

"We strongly believe the aviation industry must play its part in meeting its environmental costs which is why the government championed the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. But given the government has conducted a widespread debate over the last six years, deferring a decision in favour of a further three-year debate as this report suggests is not a serious option."

And Michelle Di Leo, director of the aviation lobby group FlyingMatters, said: "The Air Transport White Paper was based on 13 months of public consultation and 500,000 responses.

"To completely review that policy would create uncertainty and planning blight for communities around airports in the UK - that would be bad news for everyone not to mention the taxpayer who would have to foot the bill."

OCTOBER  12th 2008
It can be stated with confidence that the baggage system at Heathrow Terminal 5 is now operating as it was designed to. There have been no significant changes, apart from enough trained, competent and willing staff to operate it. The rest of the modernisation should proceed with fewer hiccups.

A new runway is needed. Global warming is not a factor that should affect the implementation of these improvements. The equations are more complicated than those who think  it is are aware.

JANUARY 14th 2009
The government has taken the decision to go ahead with the third runway at Heathrow. They have taken it for the right reasons. The environmentalists have had their say and been listened to. I only hope that the UK government will apply climate control thinking properly to their plans to recover from the current resession.

David King is right, Ruth Lea is wrong. If we try to compete by aping the irresponsible policies of Italy, Poland and even Germany, that is the same as shutting our eyes to the mad banking competition that took us to global bankruptcy. If the building of a new runway at Heathrow was part of such thinking I would be violently against it, but I can assure readers that unless Heathrow were to be abandoned and rebuilt elsewhere (not possible now), the only good solution includes a third runway. Never forget - London first grew because of the Thames, and London was key to the growth of Britain. It grew again because of its airport and is dependent on it.

Technological mastery of the airport and sustainable air travel is the way forward. I am in no way taking the view that more travel for more people is the inevitable future. We can either have more people and less travel for each, or fewer people, or replace real travel by virtual travel, or or any appropiate combination of the above. We can either control the climate or have the climate control us, as it did quite properly in the previous evolution of humanity. The universe being perfectly self-designing, whichever happens will be for the best however much it hurts.

OCTOBER 11th 2009
News is leaking out that BAA, looking at the possibility of a Tory government or hung parliament and the troubles of the recession, are putting the 3rd runway on the back burner. No doubt some will think it will be abandoned but this would be a mistake. The idea that it is contrary to measures to control and arrest climate change is completely mistaken.

DECEMBER 20th 2010                                                     SNOW

Equipping the whole of the UK for frequent snowfalls is one thing, making sure Heathrow can operated in snow and extremely difficult icing conditions is another. The whole of the UK economy is linked to the efficient operation of Heathrow. It is the major interchange airport for intercontinental flights to the rest of Europe and all UK internal destinations by air road and rail. When it is knocked out, the chaos that results in other European and UK airports and airspace as incoming aircraft are diverted is very considerable. For this reason, regardless of what measures are taken nationally to prepare for climate change, it should have been understood a long time ago that Heathrow must have better means than than any other in the entire world to ensure it can handle all types of snow and ice that may occur. A lot of this equipment may remain unused for long periods but we are dealing here with ONE AIRPORT. It must be equipped, not regardless of cost because the cost is not that great. Let us not exaggerate. The excuse that we don't often get these conditions is absolutely irrelevant. I think later Gatwick could be given the same treatment  one day but for God's sake let us do it for Heathrow because we have built an economy that depends on it. We don't need any scientific forecast to come to this conclusion

On another aspect of this issue I have always though that to plan any sort of travel over Christmas was the hight of risk and should be abandoned if there is any likelyhood of trouble. Our whole economy is becoming more vulnerable year on year as it is ever more transport oriented. This is an error made inevitable by the supine stance of liberal governments in the face of 'popiular demand'. The luxury of a democracy when it comes to electing our leaders must be balanced by the response of those elected to take tough decisions in the direction of society. Such toughness can only be demonstrated by leaders with a proper grasp of the issues. The UK has in the past and in my opinion still, the two cultures problem. Our leaders are scien tifically illiterate and our scientists are poor at handling the dialogue with economists and politicians. They are terrified of seeming to express opinions beyond strict scientific limits, and so poor at translating from science to optional choices. On top of that we suffer from a popular media that is tuly appalling when it comes to dealing with any technical issues. They appear to rejoice in the ignorance of the public and of their own reporters.
As a result our country is vulnerable to breakdown.

In recent days we have heard journalists suggest the Russia can handle worse weather all the time. NO, THEY CAN'T. They have steam engines and diesels that pull trains at 40 mph. They have nothing approaching the beehive of operations that the daily life of the UK comprises. Canada has about ONE MAIN ROAD which follows the line of the Canadian Pacific Railway and they can try to keep usable, and as a country with major natural resources they have invested massively in snow management to keep their industries running and the roads to these clear. The CPR railway is equipped to handle any amount of snow because that is what it does. It is the world leader. It takes freight and no passengers slowly across Canada.

If we were to decide to use enough salt to keep all our roads clear that would cause an environmental disaster if our winters were to get and stay worse. We have to learn how to behave or we are going to wreck our habitat unless we can come up with technological solutions that are ecologically acceptable.

DECEMBER 24th 2010
As reported below, other countries have there troubles, but this in no way excuses the failure at Heathrow to prepare for emergencies or to realise the effect of failing to clear the snow on the apron, by manpower if necessary.

Snow paralyses transport in parts of Western Europe

Thousands of travellers have had their Christmas plans disrupted by further snowfalls across Western Europe.

Hundreds of flights have been cancelled at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris where 2,000 passengers were moved from a terminal because of snow on the roof.

Brussels airport was also badly hit and Belgians were warned not to drive.

Hundreds of road accidents have been reported across Germany, and in northern Italy heavy rain has caused flooding in parts of Venice.

Unusually high water levels were reported in the Venice lagoon. In the town of Vicenza, west of Venice, people were moved from their homes because of high river levels.

Roof fears

Airport authorities at Charles de Gaulle ordered part of Terminal 2E to be cleared of passengers because of fears that the roof might collapse under the weight of 60cm (2ft) of snow.

In 2004, the same roof collapsed shortly after the terminal opened, killing four people.

The disruption at Charles de Gaulle was also blamed on a shortage of de-icing fluid, and the cancellation of flights led to 2,000 people being stranded at the airport overnight.

The French authorities, struggling to cope with the country's third major snowfall of the winter, said fresh supplies were on their way but would not arrive before Monday.

Air France's head of operations Michel Emeyriat said he was extremely sorry for the delays, adding: "I haven't seen this [situation] in the past 10 years."

Later, AFP news agency quoted the French civil aviation authority as saying that conditions at the airport would return to "normal" by Saturday

So, here are the guys responsible:

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive Officer

Colin was appointed BAA's Chief Executive Officer in 2008. He is an experienced FTSE100 CEO who has led a number of service and industrial businesses in several countries. Prior to joining BAA, Colin was Group Chief Executive of Severn Trent plc, Managing Director of BA Engineering for British Airways plc, and later Executive Director of Lattice Group plc and Group Chief Executive of Hays Group plc.

Nick Cullen, Chief Operating Officer, Heathrow Airport

Nick joined BAA in February 2010. Nick was previously director of business development Northern Europe for CEVA Logistics, and has experience in logistics, supply chain and manufacturing at companies such as DHL, Gap, Diageo, Scottish Courage, Heinz and Mars. His role is critical to continuously improving operations at Heathrow and making every journey better for our passengers and airlines

One has to ask if the background of these men really equips them for the job.  Are they men who have felt the real world of aviation, on the ground and in the air and in the control tower, in their hands and hearts? Or are they just glorified accountants. Anyone with the smallest understanding of physics, meteorology and aviation would, in the current circumstances, have asked themselves 'what if?' concerning a number of probabilities and gone looking for answers. Foregoing a bonus? Both these men should have resigned.


JANUARY 19th 2012
There is now cross party agreement AGAINST a third runway at Heathrow BECAUSE (they say) OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT!
This is lunacy. It will have less environmental impact than any possible alternative, it can be read before any alternative, it will improve safety at Heathrow. Improvements in aircraft and rail connections to Heathrow will make it the right decision from every point of view. Aircraft noise is not an issue at all. Charles Moore talks rubbish on this as usual. Boris's idea is bonkers for too many huge reasons to start to waste your time with.

There can be more capacity introduced at Birmingham and Manchester and better rail connection from both of these to Heathrow. It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that the decision to stop the third runway at Heathrow, taken for completely invalid reasons, IS REVERSED. Since all parties are responsible for this decision, there will be no relative loss of face if it is reversed. Steve Norris is an utter loser and too boring to exist but still staggers around being useless and doing whatever he needs to earn a crust no matter how irresponsible. Dear God, thank goodness the Chinese outnumber us.