17 OCTOBER 2016
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In 1979, the then-Gatwick owner, British Airports Authority (BAA), in other words the state, signed a deal with West Sussex County Council not to build a second runway at the airport until 2019. Given it would probably take at least ten years to prepare such an undertaking, it is surprising the airport did not start to implement this scheme with the sale by its owner’s successor, BAA Plc, to Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) in 2009.
The truth is Gatwick does have a second runway, designated an emergency strip. It is parallel to 8/26 and is used generally for aircraft manoeuvring. At 2,500m, it is longer than Luton’s (2,000m) and perfectly OK for most operations.
The main problem is the separation of the two runways, and on the secondary one the management of ground movements. As things stand, for safety reasons they cannot both be used at the same time. But manoeuvring aircraft and those on the main runway do pass.
But just suppose the impediment could be removed. A safety barrier between the pair could be constructed easily and when it comes to windshear (the effect on other aircraft by the primary machine), clever air traffic management might offer landings on one concrete strip and take-offs. The present Gatwick movement limit of 55 aircraft an hour could be raised.
And no actual extra runway.
As far as ground movements are concerned, there is plenty of land within the Gatwick footprint available, although not all owned by the airport.
Gatwick gets its extra flights at a minimum cost and Heathrow is expanded, as recommended by the Airports Commission.
The scheme would at least satisfy the Gatwick investors, who have nowhere to go. From a practical point of view, it will probably take as long to implement as R3 at Heathrow, the two programmes more or less running in parallel.
And in the meantime Northolt is opened up for scheduled traffic as an interim measure, as this publication has long advocated.
Worthy of Baldrick, yes. But it might actually work.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Keith Robinson, United Kingdom
I don't think even Baldric would suggest this preposterous notion.It's a complete Red Herring to suggest it might favour Gatwick's cause! Your supposition merely muddies further the water that already has too many red herrings flopping around in it! Just let Gatwick get on with it - without needing taxpayers money!
Robert Shaw, United Kingdom
So we ignore the safety case and allow simultaneous use of both runways - unbelievable. The runways are too close together to be used simultaneously. Likewise the parallel taxiway adjacent to the emergency runway (08L/26R) if far too close and therefore causes significant problems re ground manoeuvring. Also as the emergency runway is so close to the main runway it has no instrument approach aids, and is therefore a visual runway only, and in periods of low cloud cannot be used.