Regional airports' 100million landmark

MORE than 100million passengers a year are now using Britain's regional airports, it was revealed today.

MORE than 100million passengers a year are now using Britain's regional airports, it was revealed today.

Flights from the airports are growing faster than those taking off and landing at London airports.

The Civil Aviation Authority said it was the first time the 100m figure had been reached and this was three times the number of people using the regional airports in 1990.

Officials at National Air Traffic Services, which controls aircraft flying through controlled airspace, has already said it needs major changes to airspace to accommodate growth in air travel, particularly the boom at smaller airports.

People in Suffolk, which is criss-crossed by hundreds of jets every day, are growing more concerned about noise from aircraft and by proposals which could see numbers increase dramatically over the next decade.

The Evening Star's Air Fair campaign wants a limit on the number of flights over the county with a full review of flightpaths, and an investigation into the pollution being caused by the jets - both the impact on the ozone layer and on the environment at ground level.

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Harry Bush, CAA group director for economic regulation, said: “Regional airports have continued to develop new services rapidly and have put themselves firmly on the map as gateways for travel to and from the regions they serve.

“There are connections to business as well as leisure destinations in Europe and further afield - including services to hub airports in Europe, the US and Middle East which allow numerous onward connections.”

CAA surveys show many more passengers are now flying direct to their ultimate destination from airports closer to their homes than using Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick or Luton.

Traffic growth at regional airports was slower last year at four per cent than the three previous years - between nine and 11pc each year - but this was still greater than at London airports, where traffic was up 2.5pc.

Regional airports are now actively competing both with neighbouring airports, and most are aiming to develop a full range of services to leisure and business destinations, with a mix of short and long-haul services, scheduled and charter, and encouraging inbound as well as outbound passengers.

Do you think too many planes fly over Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Growth of regional airports

Regional airports have continued to grow at a faster rate than London airports, and in 2006 handled 42pc of passengers at UK airports;

Strongest growth is in international scheduled services, where passenger numbers have doubled between 2002 and 2006;

Eight regional airports now offer daily scheduled flights to 12 or more international destinations, whereas only Birmingham and Manchester did in 1990;

Six regional airports now offer regular direct scheduled flights to the US and four have regular direct scheduled flights to the Middle East, giving access via these hubs to many points beyond.

Passenger numbers at Birmingham have increased by 159pc to 9.1m in the past 20 years and at East Midlands by 269pc to 4.7m.

At Norwich, the number of passengers has increased 262pc in the past 17 years, and 68pc in the past two years - the airport now handles 745,000 passengers a year.

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