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Runway Extension 6 June 2004

THE Department of Transport is proposing a major project aimed at securing a successful future for Isle of Man Airport in the light of new runway safety restrictions and an expected trend towards the use of larger aircraft.

Transport Minister John Shimmin MHK will seek approval at the June sitting of Tynwald for the spending of up to £1.5 million, (included in this year's Budget Estimates), on the first phase of the scheme, to conduct a full feasibility study, examine options in detail, and prepare a design and planning application. This is likely to confirm the preferred option of extending the Runway End Safety Area (RESA) on the main runway out to sea by about 220 metres.

Under new recommendations from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) that are likely to become mandatory requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), airports are required to provide more space for RESAs at the end of each runway. This will help to ensure that greater safety margins are provided in the event of an aircraft overrun on landing or take-off. In turn, the increased safety margins will ensure that all existing aircraft types can continue to use the airport, whilst also allowing for future growth in aircraft size, without severe payload penalties.

Another factor to be taken into account is the continuing growth in air traffic. The number of passengers through the airport has risen from 292,165 in 1982 to 748,103 in 2003 (an increase of 156% over 20 years) and is estimated to double, to more than 1.4 million, by 2015. A similar trend in the United Kingdom is expected to lead to the use of larger aircraft to accommodate the growth in air passengers, especially at the main, congested airports.

Mr Shimmin explained:

"Creating a larger RESA without extending the airfield would effectively shorten the runway and restrict future operations, particularly if demand for air travel continues to grow and larger aircraft are introduced generally. The Isle of Man needs an airport that is open to as broad a range of services as possible, both for locals flying away business and on holiday - on direct flights to Europe, for example - and for tourists and business visitors coming in.

"Providing an airport that can cope with future trends is vital for the success of the Island's economy and for the quality of life of residents. It is essential that we get this right, which is why the Department is proposing a thorough investigation examining all the relevant factors including market analysis, design, environmental impact and value for taxpayers' money. Much of this information will be necessary in any event for the public planning process that will have to be gone through for any extension of the runway."

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