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Tony Grist

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Flying In The Face Of Reason [Sep. 3rd, 2014|09:22 am]
Tony Grist
Who's to say we'll still need another London airport by the time we actually get round to building one?

(Thank goodness, by the way, that the big, flat foot of commonsense has come down on Mayor Johnson's Ozymandian plan to fill the Thames estuary with planes.)

Because, I mean,  so much could change.

For example:

1. Rising oil prices could knock the bottom out of the industry.

2. People might finally wake up to the fact that they don't all have to be in the same place physically to have a conference or a business meeting.

3. Someone might invent a passenger aircraft that can take off vertically.

4. Or a flying saucer.

5. There might just be a cutural revulsion against flying- with all its inconvenience and unpleasantness.

6. London might cease to be the fly-to destination of choice.

And so on.

It often puzzles me how little change there has been in the aviation industry. The great metal birds that cleave our skies are still built to much the same design as they were when I was a boy. Concorde came and went. I do believe a paradigm shift is due.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: porsupah
2014-09-03 08:58 am (UTC)
Ultimately, I feel people will always want to travel, and as broadly as they can reasonably manage. That's not to say capacity needs will remain entirely predictable.

I feel London's likely to remain the primary UK hub, simply on the basis that economics pushes toward that kind of concentration of routes, for a modest number of larger international (or rather, intercontinental) hubs. With something like 1/6 of the entire UK population in the greater London area, and a great deal of commerce too, it's probably a safe bet that it'll remain the top UK tourist destination for international visitors. (Number two? Bath)

Things can certainly change, of course - if it's easy enough to get from one spot in the UK to another, the ultimate destination within the UK doesn't matter as much, so the airport locations can shift around. Probably not to the point of swapping positions in the list of popularity, but more of a leveling.

I'm keen to see how Skylon develops. The SABRE engine's the revolutionary part, particularly the cooling mechanism, which is required to cool the incoming air down dramatically to a usable temperature, despite the extreme speed. The result is a craft able to place payloads into orbit, without needing to carry nearly as much propellant on board, with consequences for pricing: "the cost per kilogram of payload carried to low earth orbit in this way is hoped to be reduced from the current £15,000/kg (as of 2011)] including research and development, to around £650/kg."

Of course, plenty can happen along the way, but it's an exciting project regardless - the first genuinely new engine design in quite a while. British, too - it'll be interesting to see if it remains so, or gets bought out by the likes of Boeing.

As for a VTOL passenger craft, there was indeed the Fairey Rotodyne. It worked, but funding was cut, leading to its cancellation in 1962. It was apparently very loud on takeoff, unfortunately, but perhaps a new take on it could address that - I'm no aerospace engineer.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 09:12 am (UTC)
I hate flying. I haven't been on a plane since the early '90s.

Is Bath really the number 2 attraction? I'd have guessed Stratford, or Edinburgh or (possibly) York.

Skylon sounds promising. It's time we moved on. Really it is.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2014-09-03 09:03 am (UTC)
If nothing else, the flatness of Boris Island, especially given all of the flooding last winter would surely be the primary argument for building much of anything there I should think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 09:07 am (UTC)
And just think of all the sea birds flying into engines.

Boris just wants to leave a monument behind. Failing a gold plated statue on the North Korean model a shiny new airport will have to do.
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[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2014-09-03 09:13 am (UTC)
Well, he wouldn't be the only politician leaving a monument to document stupidity.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 09:20 am (UTC)
No indeed.

And the next generation- if it has any sense- knocks the statues' heads off and chisels away the cartouches.
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From: artkouros
2014-09-03 12:18 pm (UTC)
Airlines are like buses - they really don't change much, they're part of the infrastructure.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 02:18 pm (UTC)
I suppose.

I think it's time they did.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2014-09-03 03:08 pm (UTC)
I don't think planes will change significantly now. If you think about trains, cars or buses, they evolved quickly in the early years but then once the design was perfected, they've continued much the same with just cosmetic changes. Basically, there is no evolutionary pressure on them to change.

Concorde was an experiment that led to a dead end. To fly that fast, the planes needed to be small so would only ever be for a rich elite. Supersonic flight therefore wouldn't scale up and anyway now it's possible to work on planes, travel time isn't wasted time.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 04:34 pm (UTC)
I suppose the next development in travel will be something radically different- not a super-car or a super-plane but a transporter (as in Star Trek) or some sort of anti-gravity device.

Or how about a time machine?
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2014-09-03 12:31 pm (UTC)
Planning executives also tend to forget in which broke land they live. People earn less, costs for living rise, and they think they still have so much left that they can afford flying to Spain for vaccation every season?
As if Heathrow wasn't big enough.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 02:21 pm (UTC)
They work on the assumption that everything will continue to increase- more flights, more travellers, more of everything.

I don't see the necessity.
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[User Picture]From: matrixmann
2014-09-03 03:37 pm (UTC)
In medical terms they call this "psychosis". Because psychosis is the state when a brain talks the world to what it likes to see and doesn't see what is truly there.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2014-09-03 03:07 pm (UTC)
Flat, island airports have been constructed in Osaka and Hong Kong and seen to work pretty well. I've flown from the one in Osaka a couple of times. It would undoubtedly be better than Heathrow, as take-off and approach could be done over the sea, thus preventing the decibel terrorism that currently afflicts residents of west London. I used to live in Windsor. It was awful - with literally no respite from the racket from 4am to midnight. Besides, Heathrow could then become prime housing development land, and the terminals, with all their retail opportunities and car parking are already in place for a lovely regional shopping mall.

Baz had to fly to Basel this week and had to get a train from Darlington to King's Cross, 2.5 hours, then cross London by tube which took about half as long again. I think there is a case for a northern airport to be made into a proper international hub, to save the south east from more noise and overcrowding. I was thinking Leeds/Bradford, which is reachable in an hour and a half from most of the north of England. It would do more to rebalance the economy than the bloody stupid HS2, which is all about getting more people into London, FFS.
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[User Picture]From: heleninwales
2014-09-03 03:12 pm (UTC)
We always fly from Manchester which has a pretty good selection of destinations. For long haul to places which you can't fly to directly from Manchester, we prefer to fly to Paris or Schipol rather than fly out of Heathrow.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2014-09-03 07:18 pm (UTC)
How often do planes take off from Heathrow? Whenever we go past on the M25 they seem to be passing over head at the rate of something like one every 45 seconds.

I like your suggestion of expanding Leeds/Bradford.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2014-09-03 09:58 pm (UTC)
In the summer it is one take-off every 90 seconds. Grim.
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