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Safety fears over airport expansion

Sunday's tragedy was the third fatal crash related to Biggin Hill in the last five years - but the airport says it has a solid safety record. Picture: Grant Falvey
Sunday's tragedy was the third fatal crash related to Biggin Hill in the last five years - but the airport says it has a solid safety record. Picture: Grant Falvey

People living under the flight path of Biggin Hill Airport have called for a halt to more flights from the airfield after the tragedy at Farnborough. It was the third fatal aircraft accident related to the airport in the past five years.

The airport hopes to fly more executive planes in and out of Biggin Hill to increase profit. Commercial flights are not permitted under the terms of its lease.

An application for landlord's consent to build a new £5million hangar and more car parking is due to be considered by Bromley council tonight.

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At the moment there are 70,000 flights a year related to the airport and in a statement issued on Monday it said that represented "only a small percentage of the total number of flights which overfly London and Bromley every day".

The statement continued: "The airport has an extremely good safety record."

But campaign group Flight Path, which represents opponents of the airport's expansion plans, said this latest incident had highlighted the dangers of more flights.

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The plane crashed within half a mile of Darrick Wood School and the Princess Royal University Hospital (PRUH).

Ray Watson, spokesman for Flight Path, said: "It is sad it has taken this terrible tragedy to bring a focus on safety.

"Residents have consistently said they do not want an international airport in the crowded suburbs of a London borough. Tens of thousands of people live and work under the flight path, which crosses schools and most importantly the PRUH."

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Mr Watson added: "We do not want to see the airport closed, just to remain the local airport it was a few years ago."

The statement from Biggin Hill Airport added: "The new facility will bring skilled jobs to Biggin Hill and expand services at the existing facility. It will not dramatically increase the number of movements associated with the airport."

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The crash at the weekend followed an incident in October 2005 when two people died after a training flight came down over Biggin Hill.

Instructor Dan Neville, 50, from Sevenoaks, and pupil Huw Moseley, 46, from Carshalton, were both killed as a Piper Tomahawk plunged onto Victoria Gardens, about half a mile from the runway, hitting an electricity line and crushing a parked van.

The accident was the first fatal crash during flying training at Biggin Hill since the 1970s. An investigation found the aircraft had suffered engine failure.

In July 2003 a family-of-three died when a helicopter crashed near Knockholt . It was never established what caused the Hughes 369HS to lose power before nose-diving into the ground, in Cudham Lane South.

The 39-year-old pilot, his wife and 14-month-old son were killed.

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