Airport opponents challenged on aircraft noise

The Society of British Aerospace Companies is mounting a fight-back against opponents of expansion at Stansted and Heathrow airports in south-east England.

Dr Mark Watson, SBAC senior adviser on corporate environmental affairs, argues that technological innovation in the aerospace industry counters the arguments against airport expansion.

The SBAC's position is that anti-aviation groups are using historical noise data to oppose airport expansion even though the performance of aircraft will be further improved by the time the extra runways have been approved and built.

Watson said: "The current debate over airport expansion at both Heathrow and Stansted is being influenced by biased claims from aviation's opponents. Current aircraft noise emissions are 75 per cent lower than they were 30 years ago and we have set ourselves the target of a further reduction of 50 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020. An identical target has been set for carbon dioxide emissions.

"The future of flying can be demonstrated in the performance of the Airbus A380 superjumbo. It makes less noise at take-off than is experienced inside a moving London Underground train and produces less carbon dioxide per passenger-kilometre than the average car that is exempt from the London congestion charge on environmental grounds.

"The aerospace industry is confident that by the time the new runways at Heathrow and Stansted are built we will have delivered on our own self-imposed targets to cut noise, carbon dioxide and other emissions. Technological innovation will enable airport expansion to be sustainable environmentally as well as economically. Restrictions on the freedom of people to fly to take a well-earned holiday or bring more business into the UK are not the answer."

The Conservative party has said that if in government it would reject a third runway at Heathrow, concentrating instead on building a new high-speed rail line connecting the airport to Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The announcement was welcomed by railway and environmental groups, but British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh said the policy "beggars belief".

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