Heathrow’s 3rd Runway


A big row here in the UK is whether or not to allow London’s Heathrow airport to build a third runway or not.  The airport argues that they need to add the runway to keep pace with the demands of the world (Heathrow is currently at 95+% capacity).  People around the airport say it is a bad idea (either because they’ll loose their homes, don’t want the increase of the airport’s carbon footprint, etc….).  Some support building yet another airport around London (there’s already 4 major ones and several other smaller ones).

Yesterday, Prime Minister Cameron announced that he was shuffling government ministers around.  Everyone thinks this is a run-up to the UK Government announcing they plan to back the 3rd runway at Heathrow

Now, the point of this post isn’t to back the runway or not.  All of this talk got me wondering what it would look like.  So, I went looking.  I ended up and found the image at the beginning of this post and an article at the BBC showing the plans.  When I saw this, it wasn’t what I was expecting.  I guess I was thinking they would build parallel to the existing runways–prevailing winds–but I thought it would be connected to the rest of the airport.  Heck, it doesn’t look like you could even taxi to to (if you would even want to).  it also looks significantly shorter than the existing runways.  I guess they are thinking they could off-load local flights to that runway and free up slots on the longer runways for long-haul flights.

Now, I’m not real sure what I think.  I was originally thinking it would be tied to the other parts of the airport and could be used by everyone.  That isn’t what this is.  It is more like a small airport built “hanging off” Heathrow.  But, I don’t think another airport is the answer.  I remember my dad talking about not liking flying into JFK or Newark because of the crowding of the airspace.  I can’t imagine having yet another airport around London.  I also remember him talking about Atlanta (or Dallas) and having to “drive” the airplane 10 miles before takeoff.

Currently, there are some funny–well, I think they are–rules in place.  Like they only operate off of one runway at a time then switch at 1500 to give people under the approach and departure plans a rest.  They also use one runway for takeoffs and one for departures.  I wonder what would happen if they did away with that rule and doubled up:  use both runways for takeoffs and landings.  I’m not sure about things like separation, etc (so this might actually cause a decrease in efficiency). 

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