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Fly and be Damned

Peter McManners, Fly and be Damned: What Now For Aviation and Climate Change (Zed, 2012; 168pp; £14.99

Fly and be Damned is nothing if not ambitious. It outlines what the author, Peter McManners, believes are measures which could usher in 'the third golden age of aviation'. An era where we could enjoy all the advantages flying brings without destroying the climate. He argues that the technology to make this possible could be developed if the aviation industry was incentivised to do so.

The key to facilitating change, McManners argues, is to make the necessary resources available to the aviation industry by hypothecating the money raised from taxing aviation fuel, currently untaxed. He says that this would have the additional advantage of persuading many short-haul passengers to switch to rail.

McManners has a good knowledge of aircraft design, having written previously on the subject. However, his proposals have one major, and possibly fatal, flaw: they do not deal with aircraft noise. McManners, indeed, is quite dismissive of noise: 'it is likely that residents' objections will focus on noise; therefore those who live directly under the flight path will have to be compensated… if opposition is severe, the airport may be built somewhere else where the local community values the benefits more and is willing to tolerate the impacts.'

These words could have been written by an apologist for the aviation industry, which McManners is not. His sections on climate change and on the tax-breaks aviation enjoys are excellent.

The book is aimed at decision-makers but of interest to campaigners. Indeed, it forces activists to think through the potential benefits of aviation as well as improving our understanding of its downsides.
I'm glad this book was written. It deserves to be read by all those interested in developing a future for aviation in a world threatened by climate change. It is not a blueprint for that future but it bubbles with innovative ideas that may form part of the blueprint.