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Sun 18 Jan 2009 12:17 PM

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Green versus green

In a month that has seen the UK government come to a decision on the expansion of Heathrow, the debate has centred around two key issues; the environment and of course, money.

In a month that has seen the UK government come to a decision on the expansion of Heathrow, the debate has centred around two key issues; the environment and of course, money.

The environmental argument has surrounded the fact that many residents currently living in the path of the planned expansion, which includes building a third runway, will have their homes destroyed, while noise pollution and CO2 emissions will increase.

The financiers have stated that the expansion is vital for the British economy’s long-term competitiveness within the aviation and travel sectors. CBI director-general, Richard Lambert has described the London airport as a gateway to the world, which needs to be capable of serving the needs of the global sector.

Both arguments have received huge amounts of support and it is clear that the environmental debate is going to become a key trend for the aviation industry in 2009.

Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central will operate six runways once fully open and its bosses will be hoping that the world’s aviation industry will look to the airport for inspiration. In order to do this it will have to adopt a sustainability agenda, although at present it is not clear what this will be.

Due to its sheer size (the airport will be ten times the size of the current Dubai International Airport) it will have the capacity to handle large numbers of aircraft at any one time, resulting in fewer delays. Aircraft will spend less time on taxiways and the latest air traffic control (ATC) technology will mean more aircraft consuming less fuel.

Back in the UK, Heathrow’s environmental protesters have argued that a third runway will be detrimental to air quality and noise levels, but there is also the argument that the environmental work being done to further reduce the impact of flying is often overlooked.

Matthew Knowles, spokesman for the Society of British Aerospace Companies says that protests by small but vocal minority groups do not detract from the facts. “An aircraft today is 75% quieter than thirty years ago and produces 70% less carbon dioxide than 50 years ago. Targets have also been set for new aircraft by 2020 to produce 50% less CO2 and noise than aircraft in 2000.”

Knowles adds that at a time of economic downturn it is the financial facts and benefits that must be looked at.Sarah Cowell is the editor of Airport Middle East.

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