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Gatwick floats back-up runway for single-aisle departures

London Gatwick airport’s operator believes that introducing routine use of its back-up runway could enable it to accommodate another 10-15 aircraft movements during peak hours.

If development consent was granted the runway could be activated by the mid-2020s, and enable the airport to expand capacity to 70 million passengers by 2032.

Introduction of routine operations on the back-up runway – for take-off only – is one of the scenarios being proposed in a draft masterplan for the airport.

The runway, designated 08L/26R, runs parallel to the main 08R/26L but is only currently used when the main runway is closed for maintenance or other unplanned events.

It is shorter than its companion, with a pavement length of 2,565m, and operations are restricted because it cannot be used in low-visibility conditions.

Last year this runway was used for 3,722 movements – just 1.3% of the total conducted at Gatwick.

While a local government agreement prevents simultaneous use of the main and back-up runways, this pact is set to expire in 2019.

“The airfield would need some reconfiguration and some additional support infrastructure would be required,” says the operator. “However we expect to keep the airport development within the airport’s existing footprint and the airport would remain a two terminal operation.

“Initial indications are that aircraft noise generated by this scheme would be broadly similar to today’s level.”

The operator says that equipping the back-up runway with low-visibility landing capabilities would be “difficult”, and that it would be used only for departures.

While single-aisle types would have access to either runway for take-off, all long-haul aircraft would continue to depart only from the longer main runway.

“This method of using the runways would mean that there would be no change to arrivals flightpaths, although some departing flights would take-off slightly further to the north,” says the operator.

“While in the early stages of exploration, Gatwick is confident the project would remain within the existing airport footprint and existing framework for airport charges,” it adds.

Gatwick’s runways are separated by 198m but the airport operator is considering widening the back-up runway by 12m, which would increase the centreline separation to 210m.

Introduction of the back-up runway is one of three scenarios laid out in the masterplan. The airport operator is also considering using new technology to increase capacity on the main runway, and it remains interested in the longer-term possibility of constructing a new second runway to the south.

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