Professor Keith Hayward, the Royal Aeronautical Society's Head of Research offers his commentary on the RAeS 'The Future of Heathrow - the challenges and opportunies ahead' seminar organised by the Society's Air Transport Group on 23 May. [caption id="attachment_4186" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="What future for Heathrow?"][/caption] A first reaction to the Society’s half-day seminar on the future of Heathrow airport was that we had been over this ground so often before. Following a more measured consideration of the event, it was a useful revision of key issues from the airport operator’s, the airline users' and the regulator’s perspective. There is a good chance of a better medium term - even if we have to accept a number of critical limitations: no third LHR runway; that public transport access, especially to the English Midlands and Northwest will not radically improve in the short term; and that operating a London airport triad offers little additional value. But LHR’s programme of terminal renewal and a more sensitive view of customer care will make a difference on the margin. A more sophisticated regulative framework and technological improvements in ATM and aircraft noise/emissions will give a bit more elbow room on the resilience front. But longer term, there is still the basic political issue - there are few votes in expanding UK aviation in the South East and not many more in the UK as a whole. While aviation tax revenue is a cash cow larger than duty on tobacco and booze, little attention is paid to the cost to the UK economy as a whole of lost income from tourists and business that is driven elsewhere. In short, the complexities of UK civil aviation and London’s specific predicament was, as one speaker noted, “too difficult to deal with,” with government again hiding behind another set of consultations. [caption id="attachment_4187" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="Heathrow has boosted its customer care - but capacity restrictions continue."][/caption] So nothing new, but it is essential that the aviation community continues to state the obvious – UK civil aviation must be sustainable but it also needs fair treatment from government for wider economic benefits. Read Professor Hayward's incisive analysis of the aerospace industry every month in Aerospace International magazine.

Keith Hayward
24 May 2011