A plan to double the capacity at London’s Heathrow Airport has been masterminded by a former British Airways Concorde pilot, according to a report in the Financial Times.
Although still contentious, the idea put forward by former pilot, William ‘Jock’ Lowe, is more likely to be politically favourable than other methods of overcoming Heathrow’s capacity problems that have been put forward, as it involves lengthening existing runways rather than constructing new ones. Even so, the virtual doubling of the present Northern and Southern runways from 3,900 metres and 3,700 metres respectively, to 7,500 metres each, would involve alterations to the M25 London orbital motorway and would still raise several other controversial issues.
With Heathrow’s present infrastructure unable to accommodate any more capacity from the growing aviation market, business leaders and airlines have been critical of the loss of potential business for the UK. Alternative suggestions for new runways at Heathrow, a new hub in the Thames estuary or the expansion of Gatwick airport have all had their detractors.
This latest idea means that one airplane could be taking off at the same time as another is landing on the radically extended runways. Known in the industry as mixed mode, this format could see a doubling of capacity from 70 million to 140 million passengers per annum, as flight numbers could be doubled to nearly 1 million per year from the present 480,000. However, the increased capacity would certainly mean increased volumes of noise from the airport for longer periods of time, which would be certain to draw criticism from local residents for the £7.5 billion plan. In response, Mr Lowe insists that such problems could be overcome with higher aircraft approaches and steeper descents.