Up or down for MAA

While people are taking the plane again to go on holiday, airports are under attack. This also applies to Maastricht Aachen Airport (MAA). It is exciting for both supporters and opponents, now that the states of Limburg must decide on the future of the airport.

‘Make a brave decision and stop doing what has already happened with so many small airports around the world,’ says Wim Derks, secretary / treasurer of both the Alliance for the Enlargement MAA and the GUVB Foundation (No Expansion Vliegveld Beek). ‘Maastricht Aachen Airport is an impossible place in terms of housing’, is his first objection. ‘Houses must be demolished to live up to the noise standards, if ground noise is also included.’ He adds that noise pollution has ‘increased enormously’ in 2017 due to the growth in MAA.

A classic like this Ilyushin Il-62 is a welcome guest for spotters © Bjorn van der Velpen

deterring

Hella Hendriks, Marketing & Communication Manager at MAA, points out that it is noisy to fly ‘like the motorway and the railway’. ‘We all want a holiday and prosperity. This includes logistics flows. It’s about balance. We will never be a big airport. In total, this is an average of one flight movement per hour. ‘ While in 2015 Limburg Airport still called at an average of 2.9 cargo flights a day, in 2019 it was 4.4. Hendriks remembers that there used to be many teaching schools at MAA. “That air traffic was perceived as very disruptive. Reason for us to discourage the teacher training colleges where they eventually left. Today, cargo flights and early and late passenger flights are seen as the biggest problems. While now there are on average 1.5 cargo flights a day more than before. And the number of flight days between six and seven hours was also roughly the same in 2019 as at the beginning of this century.

An Airbus A 350 departs from MAA © Bjorn van der Velpen

We take various measures to limit nuisance, both in terms of ground noise and ‘airborne’ noise. We advise against freight traffic from landing and departing between six and seven. By introducing a surcharge, we discourage the arrival of older noisy machines. We follow the Schiphol system in this regard. As a result, the number of Boeing 747-400s calling at our airport dropped immediately. However, due to the corona and the lack of capacity, we received these devices more often. That number is now smaller. ‘

A Boeing 747-Classic with the industrial Limburg background © Bjorn van der Velpen

Real mess from the past

“Many complainants do not know the difference between a Boeing 747-400 and a 747-8,” said Guido Wolfs, a member of the We Love MAA group. The latter is noticeably quieter. Other types of aircraft that you can often spot are the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330. But the real noise, such as the Boeing 727, 747-200, DC-8 and DC-10, is a thing of the past. And just then, one of the biggest opponents of the airport was the air traffic controller. I knew him personally, at the time an enthusiastic employee with a passion for aviation. He was also not afraid to give spotters flight information. I often sat with him at the bar at the Airport Inn, the then airport restaurant. During that time, he bought a house, at work. He told me he was now close to his hobby and could leave his Porsche in the garage he needed to get on the bike. It seems that he has forgotten all that’s.

KLM also sometimes redirects to MAA © Bjorn van der Velpen

Impossible location

Derksen lists a whole range of villages that experience nuisances from MAA. He refers not only to noise and petroleum tank, but also to falling roof tiles and aircraft parts. ‘The airport is also in an impossible location in relation to Natura 2000 sites,’ he continues. ‘The first are 1200 meters away. There is no nature permit and the question is whether one will ever come. Tourists and holidaymakers are looking for peace and quiet in Heuvelland. MAA is detrimental to our own tourism sector in Heuvelland, which is why there is great opposition from that sector, especially to the large cargo planes, because it means that a decline in this tourism is in the air. In addition, if the MAA remains open, other activities must be restricted due to the nitrogen. After the closure of the MAA, the airport site can have a use that has a social added value with energy conversion, new housing, work and recreation. ‘

For spotters, this VQ-BWN, the former PH-BFT, is a welcome addition
© Bjorn van der Velpen

Second freight airport in the Netherlands

Hendriks clearly has another destination in mind for the airport and also takes into account the advice of Pieter van Geel. The former Secretary of State assumes ‘a relatively small, high-quality airport with an emphasis on or exclusively freight transport.’ Maastricht Aachen Airport is the second largest cargo airport in the Netherlands after Schiphol. This makes us an alternative and complement to Schiphol for Dutch companies. In addition, we offer space for various maintenance companies and thus training opportunities for students in aeronautical technology at Vista College. We also invest in electric flying. This is with a view to the Regional Air Mobility function, which means that short distances of up to five hundred kilometers are traveled from regional airports with smaller aircraft, the much-desired route connections. ‘

A freight jumbo is about to leave © Bjorn van der Velpen

hypocrisyt

‘Opponents of the MAA keep saying that the location is impossible and above all unique,’ Wolfs explains. “It is certainly not ideal, we can agree on that. Oost-Westbaan could have changed that, by the way. Opponents of airports always think that the location of an airport is not favorable. Many of those people came to live there, while the airport had already been there for a long time, you come across that again and again. And unique? Compare that with Antwerp, Zeventum, London City, Paris le Bourget or Lisbon and pay particular attention to the number of flights. ‘ He also rejects the argument about the location in relation to Natura 2000 sites. ‘Opponents always come with it. An airport is never conveniently located in relation to these areas. But they do not think about it for a while when they themselves take the plane or do their shopping, which has ended up in the stores via worldwide freight transport. I think the whole thing is so hypocritical ‘.

More and more latest generation machines, such as this Airbus A350, are being used
© Bjorn van der Velpen

Wrong decision

According to Derksen, MAA has hardly any significance for the region and will never get one. »There are no line connections, so the airport has no accessibility function. This is unlike nearby airports that do. Freight is handled as only a small portion, thirteen percent, have a relationship with the region. Of the tourists who are flown to distant destinations, only a very small proportion come from Limburg: five percent ‘. »The planned scheduled flights did not come. The private operator found at the time has traveled again. In 2014, a wrong decision was made to save MAA from bankruptcy. It is now time for a brave decision. Stop it.’

Opponents of the MAA prefer the Boeing 747 to go © Bjorn van der Velpen

Sound business operations with a sustainable future

‘For the first time in MAA’s history, we have a positive business case’, argues Hendriks. ‘Despite the constraints and the uncertainty that hang over our heads, we are now running black numbers in our fourth year of operation. Finally, you can invest. We finally make money and the market offers plenty of opportunities for a sustainable future and healthy business operations. We have already done everything necessary in the field of sustainability. Various equipment has been electrified, solar panels have been installed, lighting has been replaced by LED, platform lighting can now be switched off remotely, PCA has been purchased to reduce APU usage and we are affiliated with Power Up: an initiative from airports to prepare for the emergence of electric fly. Electric flying is expected to revolutionize mobility. Flying over short distances is becoming affordable and accepted. And then maybe even preferable to road transport. This means that a regional airport ensures accessibility for all. From your airport you fly to an international hub and transfer to wherever you want to go. If you close MAA, Limburg will stand strong on the sidelines in this regard. Closing is as if you are still deciding to turn around with your ultimate goal in mind. ‘

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