Airports, noise and politics are a common mix, but will this become a thing of the past? An historic oddity that we look back on and say, “It’s amazing how things have changed”? That I think is a very real possibility within 10 to 20 years and has significant planning and investment implications. Transport linkages are a major economic contributor. Successful future cities will have well connected and efficient transport systems and airports will be a centre piece of this.
Many cities have airports which are centrally located, most of which face strict controls over the number of aircraft movements and time of day restrictions, or curfews. There is also the battle over developing new green field airports away from populated centres to reduce the noise impact.
Creating new or replacement airports can be a difficult and expensive exercise and may not be required for the reasons being suggested.
Creating new airports away from the population centre has a reduced utility value from that of a centrally located airport and goes against the well-connected transport system required for future successful cities.
With so much investment tied up in these city airports the decision to move is a significant one, and with many airports in private ownership a complex and political issue. A secondary argument is that many of these airports are facing capacity constraints that a second airport would be required anyway, though that assumes existing curfews and movement restrictions apply. New future aircraft have the potential to be exempt from any form of restrictions allowing these airports to accommodate growth above current maximums, further delaying the need for any additional airport.
From the 1960’s to 2010 aircraft noise emissions have reduced by 75% and the EU is requiring that by 2020 a further 50% reduction in noise. At this rate aircraft noise levels could fall below any thresholds to warrant any movement and flight path restrictions.
Developing new airports in more isolated parts of a city have the potential to be an investment failure. The example of Kansai in Japan is a good example of building a new airport away from the population. Kansai was very expensive to build, has high operating costs for airlines and faces significant sinking issues and maintenance. As such Kansai has a reduced competitiveness and will not attract the same level of growth for the city. New secondary airports in close proximity to populated parts of a city may have more economic merit.