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Residents blasted over air crash fears

PUBLISHED: 09:54 18 April 2008 | UPDATED: 09:30 12 August 2010

A jet company boss has dismissed Farnborough plane crash residents as narrow-minded NIMBYs . David Savile, CEO of Air Partner, a private aircraft charter company, which operates from Biggin Hill, blasted off to the Times in response to residents fears

A jet company boss has dismissed Farnborough plane crash residents as 'narrow-minded NIMBYs'.

David Savile, CEO of Air Partner, a private aircraft charter company, which operates from Biggin Hill, blasted off to the Times in response to residents' fears expressed in the aftermath of the recent tragedy which claimed five lives.

His letter began: "I feel it necessary to write and respond to some of the wild concerns expressed by residents and action groups following the tragedy of the crash near Biggin Hill.

"Whilst the investigation into this crash continues, we do not know what the

failure was caused by. However it was definitely not caused by Biggin Hill airport being located at Biggin Hill!

"The jet had departed the airport and was climbing away, and had been airborne for some minutes when the problem arose. Biggin Hill airport then became its one hope of safety away from crashing into another part of south-east London."

He added: "There seems much anecdotal evidence that the brave crew lost their lives trying to avoid populated areas in favour of the woods beyond.

"They did not quite make it, but such heroic actions do not deserve the vilification of an industry that creates local jobs, earnings and prosperity by narrow-minded people whose only thought is 'NIMBY'."

He also claimed that the jets are 'quiet' and never fly lower than they are supposed to.

The letter sparked fury from Orpington MP, John Horam, who accused Mr Savile of hindering 'rational debate' about the airport.

He said: "Mr Savile says that concerns raised by some residents are wild but his language is pretty wild.

"Using words and phrases such as 'narrow-minded people' 'vilification' and 'NIMBY' does not help.

"The point made by most residents and action groups over the years about Biggin Hill airport is that the operators should stick to the lease that they signed, not constantly try to change it either to increase the hours or to expand into the scheduled fare-paying business.

"After this terrible crash and people have expressed their deep regret at the fate of the pilot and his passengers, residents do want some reassurance that all that can be done is being done."

Pressure group Flight Path which monitors expansion at Biggin Hill airport also expressed anger at Mr Savile's letter.

A spokesman said: "Mr Savile's letter illustrates his commercial interest but residents' needs must be considered."

Defending his comments Mr Savile said: "My comments were intended to open up communication. I was disappointed by some vox pops in newspapers calling for the airport to close. It's time we had a discussion in a calm manner."

In contrast to the letter, director of Biggin Hill airport Peter Lonergan said: "We fully recognise the concerns that residents have about over-flying aircraft. The safety of residents, air crew and passengers is and always will be our priority.

"I have spoken and written to many residents who have been in touch with me since the accident and I will continue to be available to discuss any further concerns that residents may have."

Mr Horam will soon be meeting with Captain Jock Lowe, head of safety at Biggin Hill Airport, to discuss possibilities about changing flight paths to avoid densely populated areas.

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