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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 17:13 GMT
Head-to-head: The merits of flight
This week's 100th anniversary of the first powered flight is a celebration of flying. But not everybody agrees that the advent of the aeroplane is a good thing.

An aviation enthusiast and an environmental campaigner put their cases below. You can have your say by filling in the form at the bottom of the page.

Dave Calderwood, editor-in-chief of Pilot magazine

The aeroplane is the 20th century's greatest invention. In 100 years aviation has helped transform the world.

Aviation has responded to the needs of people. First came international mail with letters and packages taking days - hours - to get to the other side of the world instead of months.

Flying has proved the only effective way to bring medical services to remote places - the Australian Royal Flying Doctor being the most famous. Countless lives have been saved.

The development of the airliner has made international travel possible for ordinary people, rather than just for the wealthy and privileged.

The aeroplane has proved an effective defence against aggressors.

Britain would be a very different place if the Royal Air Force hadn't beaten off the Nazis during the Battle of Britain.

Finally, aviation has become a huge worldwide leisure pursuit for people who want to fly, whether by parachute - freefall or powered - hang-glider, microlight, fixed-wing aircraft or helicopter.

Andy Critchell, Campaign to Protect Rural England

The future of air transport is at a crossroads. In the UK alone passenger movements have risen from 32 million in 1970 to 180 million a year in 2000. Our 'right to fly' culture is beginning to reveal its true cost to us and to our planet.

Aircraft pump out a cocktail of greenhouse gases directly into the upper atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Yet aviation remains excluded from the Kyoto treaty.

Passenger aircraft are noisy, with night flights a particular hell for some communities.

Research indicates that the number of affected people in England could rise from 277,500 now to over 600,000 in 2030. This intrusion also reaches out into the countryside, many miles from the airport.

Airports themselves are environmentally unfriendly. They are thirsty for water and demand land for new terminals, runways, car parking, access roads, widened motorways, extra housing, hotels and warehouses.

We face a choice. We can rein in the global growth of air transport. We can act responsibly and limit our flying to allow every community the right to peace and quiet, clean air, wide-open spaces and a stable climate.

Or we can allow yet another industry to pollute our skies in the name of profit.

Use to the form below to send us your comments about flying.


Your comments:

Aviation progress goes hand in hand with environmental awareness these days which should be viewed as a positive thing given the benefits aviation has brought many individuals and nations. New types of aircraft will diminish the environmental impact. As for noise, I live under a Gatwick low-level flight path route and have noticed the substantial reduction in noise generated by the newer generations of large aircraft like the 777. For this I thank the air industry. I also still find it awesome watching these machines cruise by so gracefully! Wow! We can DO that?
Clive, UK

It is nice to have a little debate for a change. People don't normally question why airports have to get bigger and bigger all the time, they just accept that is the way it has to be. Nobody seems to question night-flights either, they don't have to happen. Air travel is unfairly cheap because the airlines don't pay tax on fuel. As for the Battle of Britain, surely the whole world would be a better place if we weren't able to fly our bombs into the enemy?
Barry, Cardiff, UK

Air travel obviously provides a means to travel long distances quickly, a seeming demand of our lifestyle; but when are we going to address the enormous pollution that aircraft create? Early morning in Manhattan, we can begin with a clear blue sky, and by early afternoon the skies can be so crisscrossed with jet trails that a sun obscuring haze hangs over the city.
Patricia White Watson, New York NY USA

The comments about the defensive capabilities of aircraft are overstated and, in particular, the reference to the Battle of Britain is inappropriate since absent aircraft there would have been no BoB. Having said that, we have become used to, and I'd be loath to give up, fast passenger transport - roll-on intercontinental high speed trains.
Dave, Brentwood, Essex

Flying for pleasure is out of control and doing needless harm to the environment
Owen Dumpleton, Washington, Tyne and Wear
It is clear that flying for pleasure is out of control and doing needless harm to the environment. I believe we should tax take-off/landing slots at a rate set by competitive tender like the recent radio spectrum auction. We should also tax aviation fuel and ask other countries to do likewise. There are so many taxes that burden healthy activity it would be good to tax something that is actually harmful.
Owen Dumpleton, Washington, Tyne and Wear

Like most technological innovations of recent years, aeroplanes and air travel have both benefits and disbenefits: the benefits include the closer relationships between peoples and cultures, while the disbenefits include noise, congestion, and, recently, disease vectors. In determining the net benefit versus disbenefit, though, we need to examine alternatives. Water-borne commerce is not without its risks, as recent oil spills can attest! On the whole, air travel would seem to be a necessary evil that is here to stay!
Jeffrey A. Thornton, Waukesha (Wisconsin), USA

I think environmental groups need to be careful about how they portray aviation. If you believed some groups you'd believe that England had been totally concreted over, however take a look from the air a green open spaces are for more prevalent than concrete and tarmac. With every technology there is an environmental impact, many of which have yet to be dealt with properly. I would suggest that rather than reign in the right to flight, we need to accept that it is here to stay and forms a backbone to International travel. However, in accepting it, ways of making it more acceptable to the environment must be explored.
James Canfer, Swindon, UK

Andy Critchell is not saying that air travel is a bad thing. He merely thinks that it should be controlled better and developed with the environment rather than against it. I also agree with Dave Calderwood about the value and freedom that air travel has given to us. However, as with many things, greed and short-sightedness have offset the benefits of a fantastic invention.
Bill, Bollington, UK

Ideals are all well and good, as long as upholding them doesn't have an adverse effect on your day to day life, right? Those wishing to curtail the development and expansion of flight would soon change their tune when they couldn't book a seat on a flight to Disneyland, or their mail took weeks not days to travel the globe. And am I the only one who actually knows that aircraft make noise? How does one buy a house near an airport without already knowing this fact? I live near the sea, but don't complain of the cold sea air, noisy seagulls first thing in the morning, or the droves of tourists in the summer... Because I way pretty sure they'd be there when I bought the house.
Garry Gibson, Herne Bay, England

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