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Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
It was well organised. A group of protesters (the words rag bags have been used by others) homed in at Heathrow. To a lesser extent they focused on Biggin Hill and Farnborough, important general aviation (executive business) airports, both mainly serving London.
That the gathering was a flop is neither here nor there. We respect the protesters for their views. Fortunately in this country we live in a society that allows for non-violent protest.
The aim was to raise awareness of the noise and pollution that aircraft produce, with not much noise and very little pollution. The fact that the gathering only attracted fewer than 1,000 people, according to the police, speaks volumes for the actual interest shown.
That the BBC put some effort into highlighting this assembly does pose questions about the Corporation and the use of its news gathering resources. The BBC's argument would probably be that they expected confrontation and disruption. Our argument is the same when ABTN sends a reporter to a non-story: we cut our losses and go.
Let us put aircraft noise and emissions into perspective.
We are all concerned with the future of the world and its environment, but as was the case with the Greenham Common protestors of yesteryear, this current campaign group is ill-informed and using its energies in the wrong direction.
The aerospace industry has worked tirelessly over the last 30 years to reduce both emissions and noise and make aircraft more efficient. Mature readers may recall the black plumes of smoke by the early jets such as the Boeing 707 and the original Airbus A300 aircraft.
Statistics from the Stern report show that global air transport is responsible for 1.6% of emissions. Power generators produce 24% of green house gases and the total of all forms of transport 14%. Between 1960 and 2000, engine technology led to a 70% reduction in aircraft fuel consumption.
To put that into perspective, for a ten-aircraft fleet this improvement is equivalent to planting 6,800 acres of trees every year.
The world”s major engine manufacturers, including General Electric/CFM and Rolls-Royce, are spending huge fortunes to reduce their impact on the environment and have to deal with extremely tough environmental regulations.
The new Airbus A380 is the world”s most fuel efficient large aircraft flying today. It consumes 2.9 litres of fuel per passenger per 100km, bringing the figure into the realm of a small family car and considerably better than the popular 4 x 4s. This aircraft and indeed Boeing”s new 787 are twice as quiet as their predecessors such as the 747.
By contrast Chinese coal fire power station construction will be increasing by a huge 500 units per year.
ABTN is part of the air travel industry. We call upon others in the media to make sure that the reasonable voice of aviation is heard during these difficult times. The argument should not be one sided.
We are making our efforts. For July and August ABTN has featured two very senior men in the industry articulating their views on the issue in ON THE SOAPBOX. Eric Bachelet is president and chief executive officer of engine manufacturer CFM International and Mark Wilson, chief executive British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA). They made their points succinctly and with skill.
Our protagonist for September is one of the most outstanding and respected members of the air transport business around today. He will most certainly talk about the airlines and the environment.
The Heathrow protest was not a total failure. It was for its organisers, but not for the airline industry and in particular those involved in business travel. What it did do was highlight just how important aviation is to the British economy and the role played by the lesser London airports in providing facilities for senior management travel. We, the supporters of air and business travel (note our use of the lower case), need to be alert to put our case over and ensure that our voice is heard. All we ask for is balanced coverage.