Cambridge Airport Safety – a Pilot’s Perspective

cambridge_airport11:00 Monday 9th June 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

NEWSREADER: The MP for South East Cambridgeshire believes that Cambridge Airport has accepted some of the allegations put by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s report which highlighted some safety concerns. Whistleblowers and leaked management emails have highlighted concerns about equipment failures and the state of the runway. Bit Jim Paice says the airport is a major boost for the city.
JIM PAICE: Your reports repeated Etihad’s comments, which is obviously they’re now going to seek reassurances. Clearly any new airline thinking of coming into Cambridge would want to do the same. But should they expand? Yes, in my view it is a tremendous facility. We can have flights in and out of our own airport, particularly for business purposes. It must do the whole of Cambridgeshire a great deal of good. So I am certainly not suggesting that we shouldn’t have flights from Cambridge. We just need to make sure they’re safe.
NEWSREADER: Cambridge Airport said that safety above all is of paramount importance.


11:20 Monday 9th June 2014

ANDIE HARPER: I’ve had an email from John, who’s .. and this is what he says:

READS EMAIL: I have been listening to your report on Cambridge Airport with interest. I am a commercial airline captain, not based at Cambridge Airport, but living in the city, and I’m heavily involved with flight safety in the UK. I cannot comment about the internal memos which have been referred to in your report; however I can say that Cambridge Airport, like all other licensed commercial airfields in the UK, is regulated and audited by the CAA. It meets the required safety standards laid down by the EASA and the competent authority the CAA.
I have operated many jets and turbo-prop aircraft from Cambridge Airport, and never encountered any form of safety issue. The majority of areas of concern you have highlighted in your report apply to 99% of commercial airports in the UK. Every airport suffers from a certain number of air proxies and air space infringements over a given period of time, and it includes Stansted and Luton, not just Cambridge. Equipment failures happen from time to time at most airports including Heathrow. This is the reality of aviation, and mitigation is built into most airport SOPs. All airfields and airports require runway maintenance, just like every road in the UK. This is not abnormal.
I have operated jets worth in excess of £20 million from Cambridge, and I have never had any damage as a result of the condition of the runway. If we thought the airport did not meet the required safety standards, we would not risk using it. Aviation is a vital asset to the growth of our economy, and we cannot afford to lose yet another active airport. The airspace in the London TMA .. (ASIDE: Lots of initials flying around here) .. is becoming increasingly busy and is running at full capacity. Yet we are turning airfields in the east of the country, an area with low airspace usage, into housing estates. We will run into huge problems in the future, due to lack of airfields and usable airspace. And this is a fact.
In my opinion the crime of the century is turning Alconbury airfield into a housing estate. Due to Alconbury’s location in an area of unused and quiet airspace, it’s location as far as transport infrastructure is concerned, and its current facilities, a perfect 9,000 ft runway and associated ramp-space, it is criminal to destroy this already existent asset. Property developers call the shots. And I’m guessing this is what lies behind the latest report.
Come on! Give Cambridge Airport half a chance. It has an excellent safety record. Aviation is not the root of all evil. Without aviation, all of your listeners would have very different lives. And that is not in the positive sense. We will look back in 20 years and regret the decisions of today.

ANDIE HARPER: And that is from John, who is an airline pilot.

CAA: Civil Aviation Authority
EASA: European Aviation Safety Agency
SOP: Standard Operating Procedures
TMA: Terminal Manoeuvring Area