Attack Could Mark End of Aviation's Halcyon Days

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 20, 2001 | Go to article overview

Attack Could Mark End of Aviation's Halcyon Days


Byline: RHODRI CLARK

THE use of civil aircraft as weapons of terrorism in America last week could mark the end of aviation's halcyon days.

For the first time in the history of civil aviation, airlines are laying off thousands of workers. Passenger confidence has been dented before - by accidents or by the general threat of terrorism during the Gulf War - but has always recovered quickly.

Now US domestic airlines anticipate a long-term slackening of demand. Some European airlines feel they will be affected too, even though their security has always been stricter than within the US.

This may be the first sign that the aviation world has changed forever.

Last December - long before the terrorist attacks - the UK Government launched an aviation strategy, which sets out issues for consideration. It is a prelude to a White Paper next year.

All major modes of transport have enjoyed honeymoon periods of almost unrestrained growth.

For cars and lorries in Europe and America that era lasted for most of the 20th Century before concerns about safety, pollution and congestion forced even the car-loving Americans to consider alternatives.

The second half of the 19th Century belonged to the railways, which themselves had eclipsed mail coaches and canals.

The advent of affordable aviation has had a huge impact on shipping and land-based transport, but few governments or politicians have ever questioned its growth.

Most people associate planes with pleasant experiences - foreign holidays - and proposing restraint could be unpopular everywhere except under Heathrow's flight paths.

But pressure group Transport 2000 says air travel worldwide is on course to double from 1995 to 2015 and will increase by five to nine times by 2050. That would make aviation the biggest generator of global-warming gases - which most of the world is trying to reduce.

Director of Transport 2000, Stephen Joseph said, "Aviation has got away with too much for too long. People and the environment will pay the price if we let air travel continue to soar.

"Meanwhile, airlines don't even pay duty or VAT on aviation fuel."

A report for the Green Party last month by transport professor John Whitelegg claimed that every household in Britain was subsidising air transport by pounds 547 each year. It costed the ill-health effects of aircraft at pounds 1.3bn annually.

"It's simply unfair that people who don't fly should subsidise people who do, " said Mr Whitelegg.

Concerns about deep-vein thrombosis on long-haul flights have been in the news recently, as have airconditioning systems which spread germs by recycling air. …

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