Gordon Dewar: New flights have to go somewhere

One million passengers travelled through Edinburgh Airport in each of the last five months. Picture: Ian Georgeson
One million passengers travelled through Edinburgh Airport in each of the last five months. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Today Edinburgh Airport’s much talked about flight path trial has ended – and I realise that for some people it has been difficult.

We’ve worked hard to make sure that the flight path affects the least amount of people. Where possible it flew over rural areas and water – but we could not avoid flying over some communities, and not everyone agrees with the merits of this trial.

What we surely must all agree on is the recent great news showing an increase in the number of tourists coming to Scotland.

Over 15.5 million tourists visited Scotland last year – spending around £5-plus billion. This reinforces just how vital tourism is to Scotland’s economy today and to Scotland’s future economic growth.

Edinburgh Airport recognises the need for and supports greater growth in Scotland.

The initial trial period has allowed us to cut runway traffic and get passengers into the air faster than ever before – resulting in less fuel burn and less waiting on the ground for our passengers.

But not everyone likes it. There are some people, particularly in Uphall, Dechmont and Ochiltree, who feel their quality of living has been negatively impacted by additional noise.

I attended the main public meeting and listened to residents that were unhappy about the trial – and I understand that they have concerns for what we may plan to do in the future.

What we are going to do next is analyse the data and findings from the trial. If we deem the trial to have been a success then Edinburgh Airport would then apply to the Civil Aviation Authority for a full Air Space Change Process.

If we go ahead with this we must ensure that any air space change is justified – the growth in demand for flights to and from Edinburgh to across the UK and mainland Europe combined with the congestion of the present air space suggests that it is justified.

If successful in that application we would fully consult with our neighbouring communities and would aim to show that the air space change we are proposing is the most appropriate fit.

We care greatly about our local standing as we are local ourselves. A huge number of the people who benefit from the 8000 jobs that Edinburgh Airport supports living within 20 miles of the airport – myself included.

The airport has a responsibility to meet the demands of the country – demand both domestically and demand from overseas.

With over one million passengers through the doors at Edinburgh Airport last month – and in every one of the last five months – we are continuing to grow and in doing so will create jobs and make a positive contribution to Scotland’s economy.

We fully support the Scottish Government’s plan to cut and ultimately abolish Air Passenger Duty. This move will further increase opportunities for economic growth – but with increased demand comes the need to make more air space available.

The hard facts are that flights – both at present demand and with the expectancy that growth will deliver a need for more – need to go somewhere.

If we reach a position where there has been an air space change then we will seek to minimise and mitigate any additional noise footprint and that will be done for specific people and properties based on the direct impact they face.

I have today written to every complainant and each of the MPs and MSPs who have been in touch to mark the end of the trial.

My hope now is for a debate about how the airport is to grow in order to deliver for Scotland and at the same time maintain positive relationships with our neighbouring communities.

Gordon Dewar is CEO of Edinburgh Airport