British lawmakers set to vote on Heathrow Airport runway plan

Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport but is now operating at full capacity, and a £14 billion plan to build a third runway faces opposition from local communities and environmentalists. (Reuters)
Updated 25 June 2018
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British lawmakers set to vote on Heathrow Airport runway plan

LONDON: British lawmakers will vote on whether to build a new runway at London’s Heathrow Airport on Monday, potentially paving the way for the airport’s expansion after decades of delays and policy U-turns.
The government is expected to win the vote, although the result could be close on the issue which has split lawmakers regardless of their party lines, with some opposed to the extra noise and air pollution it will bring to London.
Heathrow is Europe’s busiest airport but is now operating at full capacity. A £14 billion plan to build a third runway faces opposition from local communities and environmentalists, but its backers say it is needed to enable new trade links and help secure economic growth.
The decision to expand Heathrow follows almost half a century of indecision on how and where to add new airport capacity in densely populated southeast England. If it goes ahead, it will be the first full-length runway built in the London area for 70 years.
Despite the opposition, which saw the resignation of trade minister Greg Hands from the government last Thursday, the vote is expected to pass because the opposition Labour party said this week its MPs will be given free rein to vote with the government.
However, if the Scottish National Party votes against the government, which the BBC reported was a possibility, it could make the outcome close.
Heathrow’s most high-profile opponent, Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, who once said he would lie down in front of bulldozers to stop the expansion, may be out of Britain on Monday and so not attend the vote in parliament.
Even if lawmakers approve the plan, it could still face a legal challenge from a group of local councils, and last week, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he would join the action against the third runway if parliament voted to approve it.


Rolls-Royce unveils hybrid flying taxi at Farnborough

Updated 1 min 16 sec ago
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Rolls-Royce unveils hybrid flying taxi at Farnborough

  • Rolls-Royce hopes to manufacture a prototype version of its electric vertical take-off and landing vehicle within the next 18 months
  • Rolls-Royce is also researching an all-electric product but that is not as advanced as the EVTOL offering
FARNBOROUGH, United Kingdom: British engine maker Rolls-Royce revealed plans this week to develop a hybrid electric vehicle, dubbed the “flying taxi,” which takes off and lands vertically and could be airborne within five years.
The London-listed aerospace giant, which is based in Derby in central England, showed off the plans at the Farnborough Airshow for the first time, as other players also rush into the market segment.
Rolls said it hoped to manufacture a prototype version of its electric vertical take-off and landing (EVTOL) vehicle within the next 18 months, and could potentially take to the skies in the early 2020s.
The Rolls-Royce EVTOL plane will seat four or five people, with a flying range of 500 miles (805 kilometers) and a top speed of 200 miles per hour.
“In this market, you will see something like this flying within three to five years, and we will demonstrate the system in two years,” said Rob Watson, head of Rolls-Royce’s electrical team.
“At the end of next year we will be flight ready,” he said at the group’s Farnborough chalet.
The hybrid vehicle, which has so far cost single-digit millions of pounds to develop, will use a traditional gas turbine engine with an electrical system wrapped around it.
Rolls-Royce is also researching an all-electric product but that is not as advanced as the EVTOL offering.
“There is an emerging market for all-electric planes but we believe that you need a level of requirement that an all-electric system cannot really provide today,” Watson said.
“So, all-electric is the way to hop around within a city, but if you want to travel 200 or 300 miles, if you want to run London to Paris, then you are going to want to run something that will give you that range.
“So we think you will see hybrid propulsion systems starting to make this market.”
Rolls is not alone in the hybrid “flying taxi” marketplace.
Other companies researching the sector include US taxi-hailing company Uber, the Google-backed Kitty Hawk project, Lilium Aviation in Germany, Safran in France, and Honeywell in the United States.
The aerospace sector’s push into electric propulsion has drawn comparisons with the automotive industry, where electric cars are gaining ground in terms of popularity and performance.
“Think of it like the car industry. Historically everybody had an internal combustion engine. over time you add more electric capability to it and then you start to see electric cars,” added Watson.
“In the same way, we are introducing a hybrid propulsion system into this market because we think it gives you that range and capability.”
David Stewart, aviation and aerospace adviser and partner at Oliver Wyman, said that the aerospace sector was facing pressure to become more environmentally friendly.
“I think that electrical propulsion is a potential disruptor to the way things are powered,” said Stewart, who will speak at Farnborough on Tuesday.
“We are quite a long way for electrical power to be a replacement for kerosene, but never say never.”
He cautioned that Rolls-Royce’s flying taxi concept was in reality a development platform to test the new technology.
The real market opportunity will likely be a scaled-up version of 10-15 seats that can serve a wider variety of applications, according to Stewart.
Watson added: “Over time you’ve got more electrical capability for bigger and bigger aircraft — and that’s really what we are thinking about today.
“We are learning today about the technology that we will need tomorrow.”