25 JANUARY 2016


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Article from BTNews 25 JANUARY 2016

COMMENT: Yes Prime Minister

Northolt and Davies

We are now into 2016.   

Business Travel News  would like to restate its belief that RAF Northolt, an under-utilised and valuable national asset, could play an important role while the Prime Minister deliberates on a new runway for the South East.  (See http://www.btnews.co.uk/article/9484)

Mr Cameron has been selective when it comes to air transport, the latest delay on the third runway dilemma not winning him friends in the commercial world, or indeed the airlines.  He has been supportive with the Regional Air Connectivity Fund but that is short-term with limited value.

The Davies Commission decision is vital but so is the immediate position for the regions and their connections to and from London, and the world at large at Heathrow. 

RAF Northolt, its civil enclave operated by London City Airport, needs a change of use to enable scheduled services to return, offering a link from less connected regional conurbations to the capital.  Utilising modern planes this would mean aircraft making less noise for the Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency, business for the local community, and a substantial increase in aerodrome revenue.

Last October Saad Hammed, CEO of Flybe, wrote to Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, with a detailed proposal for airline operations. 

The response was typical civil service, a throwback from “Yes Minister”.

“While there would be some associated challengers, they may not be insurmountable and would be subjected to a detailed feasibility assessment.” (which in simple terms means “let’s delay a decision”).

The Minister also went on to quote the Davies Commission “For the Heathrow Northwest Runway scheme, advice from NATS has identified a high likelihood that the new runway would have significant operational impacts on RAF Northolt”. 

Frankly this is another red herring. R3 is at least 15 years away and one scenario closes Northolt altogether. 

Sadly the proposal does not seem to have reached the Chancellor’s ears.  Back in July his message to  Runways UK  was very positive.  He supports the sector. 

Flybe’s reaction to the MOD has been muted with no media briefings nor sustained PR. Paul Simmons, commercial director, and keen on the scheme, has gone and an announcement of a replacement awaited. Flybe will provide its third quarter financial results on Thursday (28 January).  Perhaps questions can be asked of Simon Laffin, chairman and former Safeway land director.

Saad Hammed, it would appear, has written to the PM as a follow-up to the airline’s proposal and MOD response.  Mr Cameron is a user of both the regional airlines and Northolt.  While the Cabinet Committee ponders over Davies he has an opportunity to really be positive where UK airlines are concerned, and the British regions. 

Northolt is a win-win situation for the PM, the local community, the Provinces, and the Chancellor.  A quick go-ahead decision should be taken now!  No more “Yes Minister”.

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All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Anon , UK

A really strong argument by the editor. Do you have any comments on the argument between CAA and MOD oversight: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/11924573/Queens-airfield-is-not-safe-for-planes-secret-MoD-files-show.html

Graham Stephenson, UK

Northolt can pay for itself and create jobs and would be a shot in the arm for the economy of the country - is Mr Osborne not listening? It is just what is needed immediately to ease pressure and produce considerable short term benefits.