Friday, 18 January 2008

Planes over London - not a good idea

The near-disastrous crash landing of the Boeing 777 just short of the runway at Heathrow yesterday highlights the danger to the city below that is posed by flights to and from this exceptionally busy airport. What if a plane did crash on London? A terrible disaster, especially if it were densely-populated central London. This is not a far fetched possibility: if I remember rightly, not many years ago a cargo flight from Schiphol airport crashed on to a suburb of Amsterdam. That the victims were mostly impoverished immigrants whose loved ones were not best placed to make a fuss may be why we did not hear a great deal about it afterwards.
We hear plenty from the well-funded PR people in favour of airport expansion, mostly talking about employment and economic benefits, but far less about the arguments against. Such disasters do happen. How do you weigh employment and economic benefits against such a risk - to say nothing of the accumulating weight of the environmental case against air travel?
For my part, my opposition to expansion of capacity at Heathrow has just hardened.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I live near Heathrow and am not at all concerned about the expansion.

I'm now used to the noise of planes (anyway, BAA are offering to insulate the house for free - probably saving us energy costs too :) ).

I think the benefits of air travel far outweigh the costs. Accidents are exceedingly rare, although they tend to be more spectacular than the accumulation of deaths from other causes so garner more attention.
The benefits to our standard of living of air travel are massive, as are the benefits to people all around the world, especially to those poor who are allowed to engage in trade (governments far too often prevent it)

The environmental costs- well, lets use the price mechanism to come up with the optimal amount - tax emissions at cost or use a cap and trade regime.
There's no way you or I or anyone can come up with the optimal amount, the only way is to use the discovery mechanisms of the marketplace.

As for the arguments - all I hear is a stream of anti-airport rhetoric from Hounslow Council, including consultation forms written to lead you to anti-expansion positions.

The Schipol crash was in 1992. It was horrific, I agree, but no reason to reduce air travel, but an opportunity to learn what went wrong and how it can be prevented.