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Monday, 1 June 2009


They must be bats, wanting to fly in the dark. Not in the squeaky, blood-sucking sense. Just a bit nutso. Re-tune your ears and minds to human frequencies and I'll explain...

Quick bit of background for newcomers:

At the end of last year, Infratil published their draft MasterPlan, spelling out their hopes and dreams for the coming years. The projected growth in freight and passenger volumes is staggering. Both Thanet District Council and the CPRE were critical of the plan. The document will now rattle back and forth until an agreed final draft is produced, about September 2009.

In a separate but related development, Infratil (who were hoping to win a contract with BAWC) pushed TDC into changes to the Section 106 Agreement at very short notice. These changes would have allowed them a number of night flights to support the BAWC contract. This had the effect of drawing attention to the consequences of increased traffic through Manston. The BAWC deal fell through, and Thanet Council are now starting to draw up a pre-emptive night flying policy that will see them through until 2018.

With me so far? OK. But...

A lot of keen and clever people have spent a lot of time studying planes and airports. Much head-banging, hair-pulling, teeth-gnashing, midnight oil-burning... you get the picture. All this hard work has been condensed down into reports, analyses and presentations which we can all get hold of - we don't have to re-do all that slog.

The aviation group of the Local Government Association reports that “no evidence has been produced by the Government or the aviation industry to justify claims that night flights have an overall economic benefit”. That sentence is worth re-reading and thinking about. The LGA, which covers the whole country, but is focussed on local interests and priorities has a 'Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group'. They've done their homework, they've done their sums, and they've come to the conclusion that night flights don't make economic sense.

The World Health Organisation has found that people's health is damaged if their sleep is reduced or disrupted by noise. This wouldn't just affect those under the loudest part of the aircrafts' noise footprint - it would affect everyone within earshot.

In earlier applications for night flying, promises have been made that flights would be going in and out to the west of Manston, thus avoiding the more densely populated parts of east Kent. The key phrase in all those promises is "weather permitting".

Fact: most of the time the wind in Britain is westerly or south-westerly. Fact: for safety reasons, pilots prefer to land into the wind. So the most sincere of promises, made with the best of intentions, will come to nought if the wind's blowing in the wrong direction. The night flights would be coming in low over Ramsgate and Thanet to land at Manston. Lots of voters, waking up grumpy, needlessly.

Matt Clarke has said that Manston is operating at a fraction of its capacity, so there can be no need for them to operate night flights. There's plenty of available runway time throughout the daylight hours: surely it would make sense to use that up first.

No economic benefit; proven health cost; vote-loser; unnecessary. The Airport Working Group's recommendations on the proposed night-time flying operations from 2010-2018 should be pretty straightforward: don't.

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