Letter: How long before a plane crashes on London?

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The Independent Online
Sir: I must thank Christian Wolmar ("How safe is your plane?", 4 November). The world's civil aviation industry must wonder at their luck in that no flight on take-off or landing has crashed disastrously on to a built-up area.

Flight 800 and the Peruvian plane landed in the sea, the 1972 Staines crash was in open land and reservoirs and an American jet not long ago took off ice-bound and landed in a river.

One day a large aircraft will break up in mid-air and land on a conurbation, or will crash land on to it, and the chances are that it will be London, given the absurd location of Heathrow. Our prevailing winds are from the south-west, which means that the landing approach is over the London conurbation, often over the city itself. (I have been on a KLM flight when the pilot deliberately banked over Westminster to afford a night time aerial view for those of us on the starboard side).

When not from that direction, our winds come mostly from the east - hence the layout of Heathrow's two main runways. On easterlies, as when the wind is light, the 747s lumber up into the air over my house or over Brentford. I often speculate on the point at which the results of a catastrophic break-up would be carried by their own momentum beyond my house.

It will only stop once the worst has happened. Terminal 5 will, of course, bring that day nearer.


London W7