George Best Belfast City Airport wants to build a runway extension which would increase the current length of the runway by 470 metres to 2,299 metres for take-off and 2,059 metres for landing. Although the airport claims it has no current plans to allow larger aircraft, a report by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has concluded that there would be nothing to stop huge transatlantic jets operating from it once the runway extension is built.
However, our key concern about the plan if that an extended runway would enable planes to carry larger loads of passengers and fuel, leading to heavier aircraft and greater levels of noise. The proposal would also enable the airport to greatly expand its operations. Indeed, residents in east Belfast would end up with an international airport on their doorstep – a ludicrous scenario when there’s a perfectly good international airport, with plenty of spare capacity, just 30 minutes’ drive away which affects relatively few people.
The CAA, the UK’s official aviation regulator, recently submitted a damning report on the runway extension proposal to the Planning Service. In its report, the CAA:
· highlighted the fact that, if the runway extension went ahead, there would be little to prevent huge aeroplanes, such as A310 Airbuses and Boeing 757s, from using the airport
· concluded that the methodology used by the airport to calculate the likely additional noise impact resulting from a runway extension was misleading and had seriously underestimated the potential scale of the problem
· took the airport to task for failing to provide sufficient detail on its future air traffic forecasts in stark contrast to other UK airports making similar planning applications
· said the airport appeared already to have “substantially breached” a key recommended limit on aircraft noise levels
More recently, the Planning Appeals Commission, which is holding a public inquiry into the airport’s runway extension proposal, announced that it’s not prepared to go ahead with the inquiry until the airport submits more, better quality information.