“Cleared to Lambourne descend when ready flight level 120.” Welcome words indeed from the controller after a long sector from the far east. With the approach and landing briefing completed and descent under way there is always time for a quick look out of the cockpit at the view. The muddy coast line of the Thames Estuary is not exactly much to write home about but cockpit chatter over more than half a century agrees that one thing it would be good for is a brand new airport.
The orientation is perfectly aligned for east west runways. The majority of approaches would be over the sea and thus generate minimum noise and air pollution and geographically, being east of London it would mean traffic from Europe would not have to overfly London at all.
To pilots it is a no brainer. The Japanese built an island airport off Osaka more years ago than I care to remember and didn’t have any problems they couldn’t handle. So why were the Airports Commission so keen to rule it out early and only had to put it back on the menu when the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, made too many noises? Surely the reason was that Heathrow had already been picked and all that was needed was a lengthy “Enquiry” with endless pages of verbiage to justify the final announcement. The reasons given for ruling out an estuary airport are beyond pathetic, peppered with emotive and negative terminology such as “uncertain, challenging, and unprecedented” and so on.
Do the very wise men of the APC really think that the gas terminal couldn’t be moved somewhere else? Do they honestly believe that wild life would not be relocated or relocate themselves for the most part as has happened in other examples without it being a challenge which is made out to be as big as the Manhattan project. To say that airspace management would *likely mean the closure of the City and Southend Airports “is just another red herring. La Guardia and JFK airports live quite happily together as do countless other closely located airports around the world.
If the APC looked beyond the ends of their noses they would see that the obstacles to be faced in the Estuary have been met and solved decades ago in other competing countries. The APC arguments might make sense in the world of Louis Carrol but should be seen for what they really are, biased, inward looking, without vision and reeking of short termism.
Ultimately politicians will decide. Let us fervently hope they have the courage to rule out Heathrow, add an interim runway at Gatwick and begin work immediately to build a proper twenty first century airport in the Thames estuary to serve the needs of a modern Britain far into the future.