Pilots fear new runway is too short
Coveney urged to intervene amid warning jets bound for China will have their capacity cut
Irish pilots are concerned that the new runway at Dublin Airport will be too short, limiting trade and travel to China and other destinations in the Far East.
Construction of an additional 3,110m-long runway is under way and is due to be completed by 2022. Planning permission was granted in 2007, but pilots now fear this decision will have a detrimental impact on Ireland.
The Irish Air Line Pilots' Association (IALPA) has contacted Tanaiste Simon Coveney to warn against the runway plans.
It criticised Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) for pursuing a plan to develop a "sub-optimal" runway and appealed to Mr Coveney to intervene.
In a letter seen by the Sunday Independent, IALPA's safety and technical director, Captain John Goss, said the length of an airport runway limited its connectivity.
Capt Goss said pilots calculated the maximum possible take-off weight before each flight, but planes departing Dublin for the Far East would not be able to take off at full capacity owing to the length of the new northern runway.
He said this would lead to 12 tonnes of cargo, fuel or passengers being left on the tarmac in Dublin to maximise travelling distances, leaving departing flights at a competitive disadvantage to aircraft originating from elsewhere.
Aircraft operating on such routes have a maximum take-off weight of 242 tonnes but require 3,660m of runway to do so safely.
"To ensure the maximum range for the maximum load the aircraft must have a runway of sufficient length," Capt Goss wrote.
"The best that can be achieved from the sub-optimal 3,110m runway is approximately 230 tonnes at an ISA [International Standard Atmosphere]. Thus an aircraft fuelled fully for maximum range cannot carry a full payload. Thus it's a choice between maximum range with lower number of passengers or a full passenger cabin with shorter distance. That's 12 tonnes of cargo, passengers or fuel left on the apron at Dublin."
Airlines have not expressed concerns about the length of the runway, with sources saying advances in aircraft technology may mean it can be utilised further in future. It may also be possible to apply for permission to extend the runway after completion in the coming years.
However, Capt Goss criticised DAA for pursuing the shorter runway plans. He called for measures to allow the runway to be extended and said Mr Coveney must intervene.
"We can only operate with the runway length available to us, therefore it behoves the DAA to re-submit a SID [strategic infrastructure development] planning application for the preferred 3,660m runway and in doing so redress the 'erroneous' 2007 planning application," Capt Goss added.
"The DAA, as custodian of Ireland's premier gateway, is doing a disservice to the nation by proceeding with its declared sub-optimal 3,110m runway.
"If, as foreign minister, you strive to export and develop tourism links to the Asian markets (without weight restriction) we respectfully advise that a circa 3,660m runway is required."
In response, Mr Coveney said the introduction of direct flights to China had significant potential to boost Ireland's trade and links with the Asia Pacific region.
"I have been informed that DAA is satisfied that the new runway will facilitate aircraft operating to and from China and can facilitate any modern long-range aircraft expected to operate from Dublin Airport," he said.