An interesting aviation statistic

since the last full-length runway was opened in the South East in 1946,

And it seems that it\’s true as well:

Although a truncated runway capable of accommodating short-haul flights was opened at London City airport in the Eighties, all of the full-length runways in the South East that connect Britain to vital emerging markets pre-date the end of the war.

We could possibly mutter something about having a lot of runways left over from the war perhaps but it is astonishing that we\’ve not really added to the infrastructure give the growth in flying over those 70 odd years.

Sure, that we\’ve had the growth without having to add shows that we did have a lot of runways post war but still….an interesting statistic nonetheless.

8 thoughts on “An interesting aviation statistic”

  1. Heathrow had a new runway started in 1953. Being an existing airport I guess this doesn’t count.

  2. I think some of those existing runways have had major development since 1945 – particularly in the article of length.

  3. Another factor is the technological advances in ATC and landing aids and passenger/freight handling which have acted as a multiplier in civil aviation.

  4. Surely Heathrow has fewer runways now than in 1953, even if they are longer? Looking at aerial pics it looks like there were at least 4, possibly 5, intersecting runways. I know for sure there was a third one crossing the other two that got closed about a decade ago.

    Thing is, with three real airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted), at least 1 “holiday only” airport (Luton) plus LCY taking over an increasing amount of the no-stop European and domestic business shorthaul (to anyone who has never used it – do – it is fast and convenient), the London area has more than its fair share of airport capacity. It is a problem that it’s all spread out though, and (with the exception of LCY) a long long way from the city.

    Heathrow’s capacity restrictions are less a problem for Londoners and other Southeasterners than a problem for BA wanting to use it as a base to shorthaul europeeps in for the profitable longhaul flights – here its non-Schengen location puts people off as much as lack of runways.

  5. JamesV: not true on Schengen. Transit passengers generally don’t require visas, because they don’t legally enter the UK (and don’t pass through UK immigration).

  6. The point being that, by the end of WWII just about every possible place for an airfield and a runway in the SE of the UK had one built on it. We’ve been shutting them down gradually ever since. Fly around East Anglia sometime and try and count them, Bernard Matthews made his money building turkey farms on them.

    Those have been retained have, when required, had their existing runways lengthened, the latest being Southend which was extended in the last year to support EasyJet flights which started last week.

  7. “it seems that it’s true as well”

    Sadly, it is not true — 1956 is the year. In 1949 the Ministry of Civil Aviation took control of Stansted “[to] develop Stansted Airport in Essex […] for diversions from London (Heathrow)”. But capital-starved post-war governments undertook no extensive development. Then a ‘miracle’ happened: the USAF (inexplicably) re-acquired Stansted in 1956 and built a long high capacity runway exceeding the specifications of any existing UK airport runway. This never became operational and Stansted reverted to the Ministry of Transport in 1973.

    As well as mysterious, the history the development of London airport is riddled with political deception, Civil Service duplicity and downright lying. Two quotes may serve:

    “Almost the last thing I did at the Air Ministry of any importance was to hijack for Civil Aviation the land on which London [Heathrow] Airport stands under the noses of resistant Ministerial colleagues. If hijack is too strong a term, I plead guilty to the lesser crime of deceiving a Cabinet Committee.”
    Wings over Westminster. Harold Balfour (1972) – Secretary of State for Air 1938–1944.

    “It is quite clear, looking back, that at least from 1953 onwards the assumption was consistently made that Stansted would be the third London Airport. That assumption helped to determine the routing of air traffic, including military traffic… and also helped to determine the distribution of military airfields and other installations.”
    Anthony Greenwood, Minister of Housing and Local Government. 1967.


    Nothing changes: now the preferred tactic is to “bury [bad] news” — this is easy with a press and commentariat besotted with the antic of harlots and varlets.

    As for the tiddlers, we should not mistake Air Transport for a cottage-industry — if so the same fate awaits it as befell the British car industry. Southend, Manston, Luton etc are marginal producers and will have no significant impact on the probable ‘export’ of this industry.

    Boris Island/pen[is]insular is merely the latest reincarnation of the diversionary boondoggle of a political class blithely blind to the concept of opportunity cost and who foolishly cite Japan’s Kansai Airport has their exemplar. Kansai cost $20 billion for 2 runways and Boris is “anticipated” to cost £50 billion. Watch out for the economic snafu: Kansai only loses $560 million in interest every year!

  8. Typo (para.1):
    1957 — “This never became operational and Stansted reverted to the Ministry of Transport in 1957.” The error somewhat reduced the impact…

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