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  • Writer's pictureGunnar Garfors

A Third Runway, Anyone?

OSL seen from the north. Creative Commons licensed photo by Avinor.

Several airports want to add a third runway, including Oslo Airport Gardermoen OSL, the main airport in Norway. But is that really necessary, or nothing but show-off and grandiosity, or even megalomania?

Let’s look at some numbers. OSL currently has two parallell runways that accommodates 260,000 aircraft movements (landings and take-offs) per year. That means an average of 713 per day, or 40 per hour (given full capacity 18 of 24 hours a day). 40 per hour, divided on two runways, is 20 per runway.

Avinor, a state-owned limited company that operates most of the civil airports in Norway, desperately wants to add a third runway. The company claims that the additional runway is needed due to a projected growth of 2 percent per year in passenger numbers (not in aircraft movements, as most of the growth will be covered by big aircrafts).

A comparison with some other airports may be called for. Hell, let’s even compare with a couple of single runway airports. London Gatwick LGW is one of six commercial airports that covers the British capital, which means that aircraft traffic is fierce and heavily regulated in the area. Gatwick manages 284,000 aircraft movements per year, which is 9 percent more than OSL. But even that dwarfs in comparison with Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport BOM of Mumbai in India. Also a single-runway airport, it managed 1 003 aircraft movements in 24 hours (almost 42 per hour around the clock, which is two more per hour than OSL with two runways operating only 18 hours of the day), and clocked in at almost 321 000 movements in 2018. That is 23 percent more than OSL (reminder: with only one runway).

How about comparing OSL to two-runway airports? The busiest in the world, in terms of passenger numbers, is Dubai International Airport DXB in UAE with 408,000 aircraft movements in 2018. That is 57 percent more than OSL. But London Heathrow LHR boasts even more impressive figures. And as OSL, the main airport of the UK also seeks to expand with a third runway – for much more understandable reasons (although I am not endorsing the third runway at Heathrow either, an extra one at Gatwick and a railway or a hyperloop in-between might make more sense). There are, after all, over 67 million people in the UK, compared with only 5.4 million in Norway. And the two runways at LHR managed 478,000 aircraft movements in 2018, a whopping 84 percent more than two-runway colleague OSL.

Do note that there are two other airports in Greater Oslo: Torp Sandefjord TRF (167 kilometers south) and Moss Rygge RYG (112 kilometers south). The latter of those closed down a few years back due to a lack of traffic.

Perhaps Oslo Airport OSL, and others in its league, should look at effectivity measures instead of moaning and wasting taxpayer money at another runway?

And that is before I have even started talking about the climate. Aviation is far from the worst offender out there, but should still reduce its footprint – as should every other industry out there. Building additional runways sends the wrong signal and is not the way to go.

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