Flybe calls for flight increases at Northolt
Airline urges move in wake of Heathrow decision
A MAJOR regional airline has renewed its calls to increase the number of commercial flights at RAF Northolt in the wake of the government’s decision to back expansion proposals at Heathrow Airport.
Flybe said the government should increase flights at the air force station in Ruislip ‘to fast track the benefits of regional connectivity’.
On Tuesday October 25, Prime Minister Theresa May and the cabinet backed expanding Heathrow by building a third runway to increase flights to up to 700,000 a year.
A statement from Flybe, released on Tuesday, said: “Flybe has been encouraged by Heathrow’s recently announced plans to support regional flights and wants to see these plans progressed.
“Without such flights, the UK regions will miss out on much-needed connectivity to the capital and to long haul destinations via Heathrow.
“In the interim, Flybe believes the government should allow scheduled commercial flights to and from RAF Northolt to fast-track the benefits of regional connectivity.
“The new capacity at Heathrow will take a decade or more to build and Northolt is available right now.”
Commercial flights at RAF Northolt are currently restricted to 40 per day under National Air Traffic Services guidelines and are normally restricted to 8am to 8pm.
In 2013, the government announced it would be increasing the self-imposed cap on commercial flights from 7,000 to 12,000, in order raise more money from the site.
The increase was expected to take around three years with the total movements, including military, to reach around 17,500 this year.
There is no cap on the number of military flights.
The Ministry of Defence declined to comment on Flybe’s calls to increase flights, but a spokesman did say: “RAF Northolt has spare capacity and therefore, as per government policy, permits commercial aircraft to use its facilities.
“For the future, wider government decisions on south-east aviation and runway capacity will inform any decisions regarding Northolt flying operations.”
North Hillingdon resident Anna Williams has penned a letter criticising Hillingdon Council for not attempting to intervene when the number of commercial flights increased to 12,000.
The 67-year-old retired lecturer has called Hillingdon ‘a failed council’. Ms Williams, who has lived in the borough for 35 years, said: “When the number of commercial jets at Northolt aerodrome increased from 7,000 to 12,000, this council failed to become involved at any level.
“This was justified by a naive interpretation of military jurisdiction – that the operating procedures of the MOD could not be challenged even though the majority of flight movements are commercial and a major health risk to residents was imminent.
“The double standards with its actions over the third runway are glaring.
“The effects of pollution and aircraft noise – heart and respiratory disease and shortening of life – on residents and their children are now well documented and are becoming increasingly unacceptable to the public.”
She said her concern now is commercial flights will increase without consultation and that residents would not be given the time to try to challenge any increase.
The Gazette has approached Hillingdon Council for a response.