Jutlander
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Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:14 pm

I have calculated the average length of the longest runway for a number of European countries, looking at all airports with commercial airline service that means anything. What struck me is that the UK and Ireland have a very low average runway length.

So far I have:

Denmark: 2963 meters
Germany: 2952 meters
Belgium: 2918 meters
Netherlands: 2850 meters
Austria: 2845 meters
Poland: 2712 meters
Ireland: 2462 meters
Sweden: 2446 meters
United Kingdom: 2376 meters

Sweden I can understand since a lot of airports are used for domestic flights which don't require much runway length. But the airports in the UK and Ireland all have a lot of international flights, even those with short runways. The UK also has by far the highest number of runways below 2000 meters.
 
Jutlander
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:15 pm

By the way, here are the full statistics:

Denmark
CPH 3600
BLL 3100
KRP 3048
AAR 2777
AAL 2654
EBJ 2599
Average 2963

Germany
FRA 4000
MUC 4000
CGN 3815
HHN 3800
HAJ 3800
HAM 3666
SXF 3600
LEJ 3600
STR 3345
FKB 3060
TXL 3023
DUS 3000
FMM 2981
DRS 2850
NUE 2700
BRE 2634
ERF 2600
RLG 2500
KSF 2500
NRN 2440
FDH 2356
PAD 2180
FMO 2170
GWT 2120
SCN 2000
DTM 2000
Average 2952

Belgium
LGG 3690
BRU 3638
OST 3200
CRL 2550
ANR 1510
Average 2918

Netherlands
AMS 3800
EIN 3000
MST 2750
GRQ 2500
RTM 2200
Average 2850

Austria
VIE 3600
GRZ 3000
LNZ 3000
SZG 2750
KLU 2720
INN 2000
Average 2845

Poland
WAW 3690
KTW 3200
RZE 3200
GDN 2800
KRK 2550
LUZ 2520
POZ 2504
SZZ 2500
BZG 2500
LCJ 2500
SZY 2500
WMI 2500
WRO 2500
IEG 2500
Average 2712

Ireland
SNN 3199
DUB 2637
NOC 2340
ORK 2133
KIR 2000
Average 2462

Sweden
LLA 3350
ARN 3301
GOT 3300
NYO 2878
MMX 2800
VST 2581
KSD 2516
KRN 2502
OSD 2500
UME 2302
JKG 2203
NRK 2203
LPI 2130
VXO 2103
SFT 2100
SDL 2090
VBY 2000
AGH 1945
BMA 1668
Average 2446

United Kingdom
LHR 3660
LGW 3316
BHX 3052
MAN 3050
STN 3049
PIK 2986
EMA 2893
DSA 2893
BFS 2780
NQY 2744
GLA 2665
EDI 2556
CWL 2354
NCL 2329
MME 2291
LPL 2285
BOH 2271
LBA 2250
HUY 2196
LTN 2162
BRS 2011
LDY 1969
ABZ 1953
INV 1887
SEN 1856
NWI 1841
BHD 1829
SOU 1723
JER 1706
GCI 1583
LCY 1508
Average 2376
Last edited by Jutlander on Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
 
32andBelow
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:15 pm

Is it possible a lot were built during WW2?
 
Karlsands
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:17 pm

Low elevations and temps for the most part as well , makes operations practical
 
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PatrickZ80
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:29 pm

32andBelow wrote:
Is it possible a lot were built during WW2?


That's true for a lot of airports in mainland Europe as well, however they were expanded over time.

Karlsands wrote:
Low elevations and temps for the most part as well , makes operations practical


The elevations and temperatures in mainland Europe aren't that different, still there's a big difference.

I think there's some kind of difference in attitude. The British might think "as long as it works" while the Europeans are more like "be prepared for the future".
 
Norlander
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:30 pm

Karlsands wrote:
Low elevations and temps for the most part as well , makes operations practical


Not compared to Denmark and The Netherlands...
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konrad
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:37 pm

I am surprised to see SNN with just 3199 meters.
 
Jutlander
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:48 pm

PatrickZ80 wrote:
I think there's some kind of difference in attitude. The British might think "as long as it works" while the Europeans are more like "be prepared for the future".


I think that too. Build it before you need it or build it after you need it.

konrad wrote:
I am surprised to see SNN with just 3199 meters.


And what's wrong with that?
 
YIMBY
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:50 pm

While longer is better for safety, would be nice to compare with realistic runway requirements for typical existing or putative flights from given airports.

While City and Antwerpen are clearly runway-constrained, are there other airports where the runway length is the critical limitation?
And is there any major short-runway airport without other airport with longer runway within a reachable distance?
 
flipdewaf
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Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:56 pm

Look at the number of airports to choose from, particularly in the uk compared to the other countries.

There are basically only 3 airports in the uk that have significant long haul operations LGW, LHR and MAN. The others are mainly European holiday and feeder airports.

If Europe had a worse railway network and needed more feeding airports then I’d wager that the overall average runway length would be lower. Britain is quite congested in terms of small villages surrounding airports making expansion difficult.

Fred


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Last edited by flipdewaf on Wed Mar 13, 2019 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Image
 
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lightsaber
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:05 pm

flipdewaf wrote:
Look at the number of airports to choose from, particularly in the uk compared to the other countries.

Airports with Runways at 4000m+: 2, in Germany
Only Germany has more with 3009m+ (10 vs. 5 for UK).
Germany has a bunch (7) at 2500m +. But many are converted cold war bomber bases. In the UK, I'm not aware of any not still active military (at least reserve).

Lightsaber
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JamesCousins
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 8:57 pm

Short answer, the UK (England particularly) has a LOT of airports (especially when you consider the actual geographic size of the UK). A lot of these airports are smaller and only support short & medium haul operations - thus runways don't need to be longer. I don't know about continental Europe, but the UKs airports are all (for the most part) owned by private companies, more conscious of spending unnecessary costs on say a larger runway, to protect the bottom line.
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BasilFawlty
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 9:49 pm

Lots of hills in the UK, take airports like BRS, LBA, or LTN for example, not an easy task to extend runways there.
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B1168
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:00 pm

flipdewaf wrote:
Look at the number of airports to choose from, particularly in the uk compared to the other countries.

There are basically only 3 airports in the uk that have significant long haul operations LGW, LHR and MAN. The others are mainly European holiday and feeder airports.

If Europe had a worse railway network and needed more feeding airports then I’d wager that the overall average runway length would be lower. Britain is quite congested in terms of small villages surrounding airports making expansion difficult.

Fred


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That is totally true. UK, unlike the US does have fine railroad system to cover domestic travel needs, and those pond crossings that require longer runways certainly didn’t exist back when they were built.
Well... as long as they are able to send an A321LR/A220-300/737 MAX 8 across the pond, they are all good for now.
 
airbazar
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:00 pm

Simple answer: You build long runways only where they are needed.
The more important question is why all those other countries have so many seemingly unnecessary long runways?
 
Chaostheory
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:21 pm

Field length isn't or at least wasn't much of an issue for most of the regional airports as narrowbody takeoff weights rarely exceed(ed) 70t. When I was flying UK short haul, runways with displaced thresholds and therefore shortish landing distances and the higher brake temps were more of a concern than the take off distance.
 
A380MSN004
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:34 pm

France is missing with loads is very long runnway such as Cdg tls vatry istres etc
 
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Revelation
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:13 pm

Size matters?
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FriscoHeavy
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:59 pm

A380MSN004 wrote:
France is missing with loads is very long runnway such as Cdg tls vatry istres etc


Huh? Can you please repeat that in a coherent sentence, please.
Whatever
 
uta999
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:17 am

The UK also has some pretty strong prevailing westerly winds, and most surviving runways tend to be in that general direction.

The short cross-wind runways having been built over long ago.

LHR has two near 12000’ runways having been extended a few times. Part of that is undershoot, so only used during the take-off roll.
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Cunard
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:37 am

FriscoHeavy wrote:
A380MSN004 wrote:
France is missing with loads is very long runnway such as Cdg tls vatry istres etc


Huh? Can you please repeat that in a coherent sentence, please.


I would hazard a guess that the poster is French hence English not being his mother tongue!

Perhaps I could type it for you in a more coherent manner.

''France is missing loads from the list with very long runways at CDG, TLS, XCR, Istres, etc although I don't know why Istres was added as it's a military airport near Marseille with no commercial flights.

If that's not what was it was intended to be well I agree can we please have it repeated in a more coherent sentence :-)
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SheikhDjibouti
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 12:54 am

lightsaber wrote:
Germany has a bunch (7) at 2500m +. But many are converted cold war bomber bases.
In the UK, I'm not aware of any not still active military (at least reserve).
Lightsaber

The term "not still active military" leaves me slightly puzzled, but I took a hint from you mentioning converted cold war bomber bases, and came up with the following.

In all probability most UK airports are ex RAF stations. Some were handed back to civil ops immediately at the end of WWII, possibly with no more than simple grass runways. Others received major investment including long concrete runways, either for heavy bombers in WWII itself, or for jet fighters /bombers in the cold war years after.

PIK - formerly mixed military/civil, with ongoing investment provided by both RAF & USAF at various times up until 1966.
NQY - ex RAF St Mawgan (long runways due to being a Nimrod base until 1992)

STN - ex USAAF B-26s (WWII)

EMA - ex RAF Castle Donington
BFS - ex RAF Aldergrove
MME - ex RAF Middleton St George (Jet fighter units, including EE Lightning until 1964)
LPL - ex RAF Speke
In 1940, one day before John Lennon was born, Flight Lieutenant Denys Gillam took off in his Hawker Hurricane from RAF Speke to be confronted by a Junkers 88 passing across him. He shot the Junkers down while his undercarriage was still retracting,

LBA - ex RAF Yeadon
HUY - ex RAF Kirmington (Avro Lancaster base)

On of the clearest examples is DSA aka Doncaster Sheffield Robin Hood Airport (DSA 2893m)
The clue here is in the opening date (2005)
Prior to that it was RAF Finningley, and that nice long runway was to accommodate this magnificent beast.
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ro1960
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:11 am

Just curious : what motivated the choice of countries for this comparison? France, Spain, Italy... left out, why?
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LAX772LR
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:18 am

FriscoHeavy wrote:
A380MSN004 wrote:
France is missing with loads is very long runnway such as Cdg tls vatry istres etc

Huh? Can you please repeat that in a coherent sentence, please.

Ever consider that English might not be the first language?

It's not as though his sentence is hard to follow:
"France isn't on the list, despite having very long runways at places such as Roissy, Toulouse, Vatry, Istres, etc"
I myself, suspect a more prosaic motive... ~Thranduil
 
eidvm
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:01 am

Well in Ireland’s case, no ex-military airfield with long runways are used as civilian airports now, and the one military airport we have has quite the short runway as it never needed to accommodate large aircraft due to Ireland’s Neutrality policy we’ve never needed a large Aer Corps.

Secondly Dublin’s runway is artificially shorter than it should be due to lobbying during its construction from SNN airport that there was no need for a long runway in Dublin as flights would have to stop in SNN anyways prior to flying the Atlantic back during the stopover days and didn’t want to see Dublin with a runway long enough to enable a direct flight to the USA, back in the days when the 707 and 747 were the backbone of Aer Lingus’ Transatlantic fleet which required much longer takeoff runs than today’s modern aircraft used. The new north runway under construction should fix this and will come in at a length of 3,200m, but will impact the initial operation of the A321NeoLR of Aer Lingus. Amazing how political decisions made in the 1970’s/1980’s are still having operational impacts even now 40-50 years later.
 
mutu
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:10 am

Well UK average is distorted a little bit by JER and GCI which are small airports on small Channel Islands. Not really much scope at all or need for more.

LCY is also a special case at present given it was built for convenience for business travel originally and is hemmed in by rivers and tall buildings despite being relatively new. It is short but fit for intended purpose (even though it is increasingly popular with leisure travellers as well now)
 
Boeing74741R
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:12 am

BasilFawlty wrote:
Lots of hills in the UK, take airports like BRS, LBA, or LTN for example, not an easy task to extend runways there.


It's not just those either. LPL is on very low ground, but to extend it's 7,500ft runway is probably going to be difficult as you have the River Mersey at one end within a short distance of the runway, whilst at the other there's a bit of land but there's a village directly underneath the flight path whose residents you can bet will fight very hard against any runway extension. Residents of Runcorn and Widnes and other villages in the surrounding area might have an opinion as well if a longer runway means planes are going to fly over at lower altitudes than present. It's one reason why flights taking off from MAN using 23L/R take a right-hand turn shortly after take-off as it avoids flying over Knutsford. A growing number of quieter, new generation jets isn't going to be enough alone to get their backing.

Mind you, given that LPL doesn't handle regular long-haul flights and with MAN being nearby that handles long-haul flights, I can't see a need for LPL's runway being extended any time soon. I'd say any major investment would be better spent on the terminal building.

My view on the long runway question is that there's a small number of airports that could use a longer runways (EDI, GLA and NCL come to mind), but the bigger need is for a third runway at LHR, but that's still years away.
 
uta999
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:19 am

LGW (26L/09R) could probably do with another 2000' to the west, but the terrain rises, so that cannot happen until a second runway is planned. And we all know how well that will be received!

A second runway at STN might be 12000' but aircraft design by than could have changed.
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debonair
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:21 am

BasilFawlty wrote:
Lots of hills in the UK, take airports like BRS, LBA, or LTN for example, not an easy task to extend runways there.


True, but in my opinion the fault is clearly with government - LGW, LHR etc. runways should have been extended or rebuild many decades ago. The infrastructure of airports (especially those of BAA heritage) is a clearly a mess and should have been targeted by previous governments.
 
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Spiderguy252
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:28 am

There's clearly no 'Go Big or Go Home' mentality in the UK.

And they colonized us too - so we're messing around with labyrinth cities, ring roads, and whatnot.
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kaitak
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Re: Why such short runways in the UK and Ireland

Thu Mar 14, 2019 10:47 am

eidvm wrote:
The new north runway under construction should fix this and will come in at a length of 3,200m, but will impact the initial operation of the A321NeoLR of Aer Lingus. Amazing how political decisions made in the 1970’s/1980’s are still having operational impacts even now 40-50 years later.


You're absolutely right about the current runway being kept at a shorter length than it should have been, because of opposition from the SNN lobby - a shameful act of wilful nobbling - mere "shortsightedness" or "lack of vision" (of which there was plenty) doesn't cover it. There is actually a statement in the Dail records to that effect.

As it happens, it's not such an issue now; Cathay's A350s fly n/s to HKG and the new EI A321s shouldn't really have much of an issue with the current runway; EI's A330s fly to LAX and SFO. Not sure if they have any capacity constraints due to the runway length (maybe in the high summer season?).

The new runway should allow some more long haul flights - Singapore will probably be one of them; should have happened years ago.

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