OK folks, let's get a grip before hysteria takes hold.
There have been mutterings in the undergrowth for a while, and now ITV Meridian are obediently repeating the carefully leaked PR drivel. BAWC are going to save the whole of south-east England from flight congestion by, er, moving their flights from one part of the south-east to another.
Hmmm... well, first of all, we've been here before. In February 2009, BAWC pounced on an unsuspecting and unprepared TDC and tried to bounce them into allowing BAWC to schedule night flights if they moved their operation from Stansted to Manston.
TDC complied almost immediately, and were left looking a bit daft when BAWC pulled out just a few weeks later in mid-March 2009. It turned out (as some had suspected) that this had been no more than a ploy on BAWC's part to screw better terms out of Stansted - they were re-negotiating their contract at the time. I wonder if it was a three year contract?
Anyway, fast forward three years, and here we are, déjà vu-ing all over again - BAWC are, allegedly, showing an interest in Manston. The talk is of them "moving their operations". Nobody has so far suggested that BAWC would be buying Manston.
Three years ago, the main spin was jobs, with the then Leader of TDC Sandy Ezekiel (whatever happened to him?) repeating BAWC's line that some 200 jobs would be created. This time round, however, the spin and hype is much more grandiose - by moving to Manston, BAWC will free up so much capacity at Stansted that the south-east will have no need of third runways or estuary airports. Marvellous!
Working on the assumption that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is, I had a look at BAWC's use of Stansted. Their online timetables show that Stansted is used for long-haul freight - these are the departures:
|STN Monday 08:30 CGN Monday 10:50|
|STN Monday 08:30 MAD Monday 15:10|
|STN Monday 08:30 JNB Tuesday 04:40|
|STN Monday 08:30 NBO Wednesday 00:05|
|STN Monday 11:35 DMM Monday 21:10|
|STN Monday 11:35 DXB Tuesday 01:25|
|STN Monday 11:35 PVG Tuesday 23:00|
|STN Wednesday 14:35 FRA Wednesday 17:00|
|STN Wednesday 14:35 ORD Wednesday 21:15|
|STN Wednesday 14:35 ATL Thursday 02:15|
|STN Wednesday 14:50 ZAZ Wednesday 18:10|
|STN Wednesday 14:50 BAH Thursday 04:25|
|STN Wednesday 14:50 HKG Thursday 18:20|
|STN Thursday 10:25 CGN Thursday 12:45|
|STN Thursday 10:25 DEL Friday 06:15|
|STN Thursday 10:25 HKG Friday 15:45|
|STN Thursday 19:45 FRA Thursday 22:00|
|STN Thursday 19:45 PVG Friday 23:59|
|STN Friday 10:20 DXB Friday 21:20|
|STN Friday 10:20 HKG Saturday 10:10|
|STN Saturday 11:50 FRA Saturday 14:15|
|STN Saturday 11:50 ATL Sunday 00:15|
|STN Saturday 15:45 FRA Saturday 18:15|
|STN Saturday 15:45 HKG Sunday 16:55|
|STN Sunday 03:10 FRA Sunday 05:40|
|STN Sunday 03:10 ORD Sunday 09:50|
|STN Sunday 03:10 IAH Sunday 14:05|
|STN Sunday 17:50 FRA Sunday 20:20|
|STN Sunday 17:50 DEL Monday 17:15|
The arrivals look like this:
|ATL Thursday 04:15 STN Thursday 17:05|
|ATL Sunday 02:15 STN Sunday 15:05|
|IAH Sunday 18:30 STN Monday 09:15|
|ORD Wednesday 23:15 STN Thursday 17:05|
|ORD Sunday 11:50 STN Monday 09:15|
|BOM Saturday 18:05 STN Saturday 22:10|
|DAC Thursday 00:40 STN Thursday 08:00|
|DAC Friday 23:40 STN Saturday 07:00|
|DEL Thursday 04:30 STN Thursday 08:00|
|DEL Saturday 03:30 STN Saturday 07:00|
|MAA Wednesday 07:10 STN Wednesday 12:20|
|MAA Friday 00:40 STN Friday 06:00|
|MAA Saturday 07:55 STN Saturday 13:05|
|MAA Sunday 23:20 STN Monday 04:30|
|Middle East & Africa|
|JNB Tuesday 19:10 STN Wednesday 11:15|
|NBO Wednesday 02:05 STN Wednesday 11:15|
|HKG Wednesday 20:15 DAC Wednesday 22:40|
|HKG Wednesday 20:15 STN Thursday 08:00|
|HKG Thursday 20:20 STN Friday 06:00|
|HKG Friday 19:15 STN Saturday 07:00|
|HKG Saturday 12:10 STN Saturday 22:10|
|HKG Sunday 18:55 STN Monday 04:30|
|PVG Wednesday 01:10 STN Wednesday 12:20|
|PVG Saturday 02:15 STN Saturday 13:05|
However, and it's a big however, I really don't see how relocating this number of flights from Essex to Kent would remove the (alleged) need for a £50 billion mega-airport in the Thames.
So, dear reader, two little twists of spin to look out for whenever this story pops up:
- Jobs: 58 flights a week isn't that much more than Manston is currently handling - averaging 38 flights a week in 2011. Manston has told the government that it could handle double the current freight tonnage (and 750,000 passengers) with just 23 extra staff. Promises of hundreds of jobs resulting from BAWC's presence should be taken with a large pinch of salt - it's just as well we're so near the sea and salt is plentiful.
- Congestion: judging by their timetable, BAWC doesn't seem to be such a large operation that moving it from one county to another would shift the national strategic aviation requirements for the coming decades.
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