Two aviation stories in one day?
Reports reach us that a major protest is taking place this afternoon near Heathrow.
Now then - the row over a third runway is well-developed. In one corner, pro-expansionists cite the economic benefits to the local area, to London and to the nation of improving an airport that is 98% full. The argument seems pretty water-tight to us (ignore the tourism deficit argument, it's fatuous). In the other corner, nay-sayers present a compelling argument that there is no way of reconciling an increase in flights with the absolute need to reduce CO2 emissions in order to try to prevent catastrophic climate change.
It's a complex debate. The row doesn't fall down party lines - all four main candidates for Mayor were united in opposition to the 3rd runway (although Boris backed a toy airport floating in the Thames which enraged the others). The Government is in favour, as long as environmental targets are met. Local residents are mostly against. Last summer's climate camp was a well-organised expression of protest by a pretty unholy alliance of environmental activists, plus local residents - often suburban tories (who happily park their 4x4s at home and use the airport quite a lot as it is).
So how does today's action help progress the debate? What does it add? Very little, it seems - which explains why it hasn't got much advanced media coverage. In short, what seems to be the plan is that lots of people are meeting at Hatton Cross tube station, from where they will walk to Sipson, the village on the proposed site of the new runway.
* Organisers claim 'thousands' of people are turning up, but the pictures don't back that up - and how does that compare against the millions involved in anti-war marches, anyway?
* Some participants have come from as far afield as France and Greece - we hope they didn't fly...
* They are blowing whistles and chanting "Ooh, aye, BAA, we don't want no third runway". Oh yes, like that'll stop them building it. You can almost feel the airport authorities withdrawing the planning application as we speak based on that oratory, can't you?
Now Londonist cherishes the right to protest, and likes a good carnival atmosphere as much as the next blog. But in an age where personal technology means that everyone can be creative and easily share different ideas and activists can therefore come up with something striking, special and news-worthy - how did they end up thinking that a stroll and a couple of whistles would cut the mustard?
UPDATE: The protestors did do more than this, in the end - they formed a big 'no' near the runway, and had a photograph taken from above, see here. It actually looks rather good!
runway pic from Today is a good day's Flickrstream