Heathrow set for big increase in capacity

Exclusive: Potential for 120,000 extra flights a year at busiest airport

Heathrow's capacity problems could be solved without the need for a new runway, as strict rules on take-offs and landings are eased from next month.

Click HERE to see 'Heathrow mixed mode: How it works' graphic

The "silver bullet" solution to the airport's congestion crisis could unlock up to 25 per cent more slots with no extra building. Introducing so-called "mixed mode" flying – under which runways are used for both take-offs and landings at the same time – could allow 120,000 extra aircraft movements each year at Europe's busiest airport.

This would call into question the need for either a third runway or an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary. New rules coming into force on 1 July will increase the number of circumstances in which simultaneous runway use is permitted. Heathrow says this will not for now lead to a net increase in slots, but it is under pressure from the airline industry to extend the scheme to allow more take-offs and landings. The fact that the Department for Transport has agreed to tinker with long-standing rules against "mixed mode" indicates they may be willing to overrule local residents' objections.

Steve Ridgway, the chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, told The Independent: "Mixed mode ... would allow a more efficient use of the existing, overstretched runways at Heathrow."

When working to full capacity – which it does much of the time – Heathrow can handle up to 44 departures and 43 arrivals every hour. Yet its nearest rival is even more productive: Gatwick is the world's busiest single-runway airport by a wide margin, with up to 54 movements an hour.

A study carried out by the air-traffic provider NATS concluded mixed mode could boost Heathrow's capacity by up to 15 per cent – adding 10 million passengers to today's annual total of 70 million. But a spokesperson for NATS said the operating changes needed to achieve that increase would require consultation, and, "it is not therefore an overnight capacity solution".

For Heathrow to achieve the same efficiency for each runway as Gatwick would require a radical re-drawing of airspace in south-east England. Were it achieved, movements could rise by 25 per cent and annual passenger numbers by 17 million.

Additional slots would quickly be snapped up by airlines eager to expand, and would allow more cities to be served non-stop from Heathrow. At present Gatwick and Manchester serve many more destinations than Heathrow.

Airline chiefs such as Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the holding company for British Airways and Iberia, have long complained that they cannot serve key cities in new markets because of slot restrictions at Heathrow. Regional airports in the UK such as Inverness, Leeds/Bradford and Newquay, which have all lost links from Heathrow, could see flights restored.

Looser rules on runway use at Heathrow take effect on 1 July as part of a trial designed to reduce stacking in the skies and delays on the ground. Measures include allowing more overnight flights from North America and Asia to land before 6am rather than "stacking" over South-east England. The world's biggest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, will be directed to land on the departures runway to accelerate arrivals of smaller jets that would otherwise be slowed to avoid the wake vortex from the "superjumbo".

After an experiment this year, Heathrow's owner, BAA, reported: "Few residents interviewed knew about the trial or noticed its impacts." But the tests do not allow any increase in aircraft movements.

A switch to mixed mode would lift capacity without breaching the night-time curfew, but residents of west London could expect noise from arriving aircraft all day long when the wind is from the west – which it is 70 per cent of the time. At present, the arrivals runway is switched halfway through the day's operations.

John Stewart, chair of the anti-expansion group HACAN ClearSkies, said: "The half-day period of peace and quiet would disappear and there would be a plane every 90 seconds all day long."

The Putney constituency of the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, lies directly below the normal flight path for arrivals. Last month she said mixed mode would not be considered in the Government's review of airport capacity – and also ruled out a third runway at Heathrow.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teacher

£130 - £131 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ks1 teacher required for m...

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?