Build the third runway at Heathrow airport. And a fourth. Build new runways at London’s Gatwick and Stansted airports too. And then build a helipad directly on top of the homes and gardens of all the selfish, hand-wringing, growth-averse, NIMBY-ish naysayers who think that their decision to live by an airport gives them veto rights over Britain’s economic future.
Chicago’s O’Hare international airport has seven runways. Count them. Seven. Five of these runways run east-west and the other two run diagonally. So long as your aircraft possesses an engine and wheels, there is almost certainly a runway at O’Hare suitable for landing without the need to circle the city in a never-ending holding pattern before finally lining up for approach and touching down an hour after actually arriving.
You can fly in and out of Chicago quickly, efficiently and cheaply because generations of local political leaders – for all their many other faults – have understood that aviation provides a huge boost to the economy, and that a city which makes access and connection quick and convenient for all types of traveller will surely reap the economic rewards.
Nine hours away in London, this common-sense attitude is sorely lacking. Despite the fact that no new full-length runway has been constructed in London or the south-east of England since the 1940s – when we were still digging ourselves out of the rubble of the Blitz – Britain is wasting time, energy and precious economic opportunities debating whether or not to increase airport capacity at any one of several implausible choices in south-eastern England beside the obvious option of committing to London’s Heathrow Airport, the largest and most popular.
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