Page last updated at 12:06 GMT, Friday, 14 November 2008

Airport seeking runway extension

George Best Belfast City Airport
The airport hopes to fly to new European destinations

A planning application to extend the runway at George Best Belfast City Airport has been submitted.

If granted, it would extend the runway by 590 metres in the direction of Belfast Lough.

The airport's chief executive Brian Ambrose said it would allow planes to fly further, to new destinations in Europe and the Mediterranean.

Mr Ambrose said it would not involve an increase in flights or a change in the opening hours.

"A longer runway will allow a longer take-off and landing distance that will facilitate aircraft to carry full fuel loads and maximum passenger numbers, which at present is not possible.

"We have made no secret of our ambitions to fly to a select number of European destinations, which, if the runway is extended, will undoubtedly improve customer choice and value," he said.

"We would like to make it clear that we have no intention of introducing 'wide-bodied' aircraft to our airport.

"Thus the size of the aircraft currently using the airport will not increase."

'Nightmare'

However, Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) said the runway extension would constitute an "irreversible nightmare" for east and south Belfast.

"The runway extension will enable airlines to fly aircraft with heavier fuel loads - that means jets will be noisier and will fly lower," the group's Fiona McKinlay said.

"Whatever assurances the airport may provide, the fact remains that there's nothing to stop airlines using big jets on all 48,000 of its permitted annual flights.

"And there's nothing to stop a large proportion of those aircraft flying over people's homes."

Ms McKinlay called on Environment Minister Sammy Wilson to hold a public inquiry into the plan.



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