A tale of two airports

Government spending absorbs national saving. Unless those resources are used in a value-adding way, the economy becomes worse off rather than better off. Spending of itself is not the road to growth. Only spending that creates more value than is used up during production leaves you ahead. We in the supposedly capitalist economies of the West are systematically ruining our economies because our governments waste our resources at prodigious rates rather than creating value or leaving those resources to be used by those who can. The United States is in the midst of turning itself into the Argentina of the twenty-first century. And as Exhibit A, let me take you to these passages from a recent column by Peter Costello, a great Treasurer because he understood these issues intuitively and with great clarity. Here he is discussing what was unmistakeable on a fight from New York to Hong Kong:

The real thing that was troubling me on that long flight to Hong Kong was why countries like the United States do infrastructure so badly when places like Hong Kong do it so well. When I flew out of New York’s Kennedy Airport, the Airtrain wasn’t working. Passengers had to bus from one Terminal to another. People were squeezed in excess of safety limits, more like battery hens than human beings. The security staff were surly and difficult. The planes were late and the terminal was rundown.

Flying into Hong Kong was like returning to the developed world. The terminal is connected to the city centre by a fast rain. Massive purpose-built suspension bridges and tunnels link it by road. Hong Kong reclaimed the land to build the airport from the sea — just as it has for other major developments.

Both these airports are owned by government authorities. Before someone tells you that we need higher taxes to pay for more infrastructure just remember that Hong Kong, with its airport and its first-class Mass Transportation System, has one of the world’s lowest tax rates, with a top income tax rate of 17 per cent and no GST.

I suspect that Hong Kong airport may be like the Moscow subway, a much more ornate facility than would be justified by the return alone and heavily subsidised as a showpiece to the world. Whether other less visible infrastructure spending in Hong Kong is equally substantial I would have my doubts. But the airport in New York is falling to bits because the capital required for mere maintenance is unavailable because so much of it is already being wasted by governments. There is an immense amount of capital in the US to get through, but Obama and the Democrats, ably assisted by the Republicans, are wasting their inheritance. Ten more years of this and it will be a poor country, as much of the country already is. There are huge lessons for us if we have the wit to understand them. I only say again that modern textbook economic theory will explain almost none of this.

Picked up at Andrew Bolt.

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74 Responses to A tale of two airports

  1. .

    I only say again that modern textbook economic theory will explain almost none of this.

    How so? Sure I read Mises from undergraduate onwards, but I am pretty sure I can explain why this fails to work from an orthodox set of analytical heuristics.

    Never forget how deeply ingrained the Austrians are ingrained in even orthodoxy. This must drive Keynesians and Marxist mad.

  2. Tel

    Is it my imagination or has Tony Abbott gone Shovel Ready recently?

    New airport in Sydney they are saying now.

  3. Tel

    There are huge lessons for us if we have the wit to understand them.

    Seems to be taking a while for people to notice there’s a problem.

  4. Andrew

    I was there this month.

    The rest of the HK subway system is also excellent, not just the airport train. The electricity and water work, and there is public wifi. (Possibly connect to an NBN.)

    Of course it’s easy to have good trains (and multi-exit stations at the end of them), OK buses, a good airport, ports (people and boxes), a nuke and a large network of bridges and overpasses when the entire population of NSW is crammed into an area 1/12 the size of Greater Sydney.

    Their building codes and enforcement could probably have used some work a while back. It can take 20 minutes to catch a lift the size of a phone box in some large buildings.

    China isn’t particularly interested in looking after bludgers, I noticed.

  5. Leo G

    In the 1920s the major Australian cities had urban densities that matched the available mass transit systems. Since the 1940s the metropolitan areas have expanded much faster than their populations.
    Sydney in particular faces the cliche perfect storm of infrastructure development. Rapidly increasing population, expanding metropolitan area, yet reducing population density implies rapidly escalating per capita real infrastructure cost

  6. Infidel Tiger

    You can afford infrastructure in societies without welfare sucking you dry.

  7. Leo G

    In the 1920s the major Australian cities had urban densities that matched the available mass transit systems. Since the 1940s the metropolitan areas have expanded much faster than their populations.
    Sydney in particular faces the cliche perfect storm of infrastructure development. Rapidly increasing population, expanding metropolitan area, yet reducing overall population density implies rapidly escalating per capita real infrastructure cost.
    The airport decision is a good example. Instead of concentrating high density developments and the associated infrastructure to zones radiating from centres of highest urban density, planning decisions are distributing pockets of high density across the metropolitan area.
    Consider the overall effect of this decision making on the demand for road space. Increasing population spread across the metro area with highest proportional rates of population increase in areas of low population density. Rates of increase of commuter travel distances exceeding population increase. There appears to be a square law plus effect- a 10% population increase implying increasing demand for road space exceeding 21%.
    Sydney cannot continue to develop in this way without revolutionary change in the distribution of services. My conservative sensibilities are offended by that proposition.

  8. Piett

    Steve, I’ve got a question for ya! Let’s say you had been the decision-maker on one of these fancy airports like Changi (haven’t been to HK yet, I assume it’s similar).

    They come to you and say they want multi-billion dollar government funding to expand it, and add an array of nice features that other airports don’t have. They can recoup some of this over time, through user charges and rents. But there’s a limit to how much they can charge.

    They can’t be sure government will ever directly receive back its expenditure. But ah, they tell you, there will be spill-over benefits for the entire Singapore economy (though difficult to precisely quantify) as a national showpiece.

    Would you give it the green light?

  9. Andrew

    planning decisions are distributing pockets of high density across the metropolitan area

    Not that this is necessarily a bad thing – airport at CBD has pros and cons. If everything was truly decentralised it might well work better, except the financial district of course. But certainly Clover and her City of Villages green bikey crapathon isn’t helping. It’s a CBD!

    I’m not thrilled with the notion of 2 airports. But if the John Howard International Airport is LCCT and regional only, that probably works OK.

    Doesn’t help that Sydney’s CBD is at one extreme point rather than the centre like many other cities. People have to commute all the way across from Penrith, not half way. And it destroys the orbital infrastructure. They should have a doover and move everything to Parra. Then the JHIA would be ideally located.

  10. politichix

    There is an immense amount of capital in the US to get through, but Obama and the Democrats, ably assisted by the Republicans, are wasting their inheritance. Ten more years of this and it will be a poor country, as much of the country already is.

    I have only recently been visiting the US so can vividly remember my first impressions – it felt like a third world country. Even New York had that grubby, dilapidated feel about it even in the posh areas.

  11. Notafan

    Get off any Federal highway in the states and the roads are very ordinary. Too many seem to be concrete and with the very cold winters seem to need a lot of maintenance.

  12. Demosthenes

    Would you give it the green light?

    Steve doesn’t answer questions from commenters, Piett. Too much risk of having to defend his claims with evidence :-)

  13. Infidel Tiger

    It’s a lot easier to build great airports when you don’t have elections or any environmental protection agencies mucking up your plans.

  14. Leo G

    Doesn’t help that Sydney’s CBD is at one extreme point rather than the centre like many other cities.

    The city’s business and commercial areas are still reasonably constrained to a ring- Sydney CBD, North Sydney, Chatswood, Hornsby, Castle Hill, Blacktown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Hurstville. A second airport should not disturb that pattern, but it multiplies the need for investment in transport services to a new airport when inadequate transport services to the existing airport have been constraining its efficiency.
    It’s good that the 2nd airport site has been confirmed, but surely investment in improving the operation of Sydney Airport should have priority.

  15. AP

    It is widely known that HK airport was devised to funnel large sums of cash out of the territory into British companies prior to the handover. However, despite the overspend it is an excellent piece of infrastructure and I have no doubt at all that it is a project which has had a robust return on investment. For starters the transport links allowed the opening up of a whole new island (Lantau) for development.

  16. Mk50 of Brisbane, Henchman to the VRWC

    There’s nowt wrong with Sydney that a carefully planned pattern of perhaps a dozen five 15 kiloton groundbursts would not fix. I am sure you could get all the luvvies and moochers that way.

    Oh, OK, OK! If you insist on a clean green way of cleaning up greenies and moochers, six dozen 500kg kinetic harpoons moving at five km/s then!

    As long as the first one nails that Clover idiot fair in teh clacker.

  17. Watching It Unfold

    Save your pennies for a rainy day. If you save, when the rain comes, you’ll have some shelter and a margin of flexibility – look at the natural world, the answers are there in the turning of the seasons, and the way that the rest of nature prepares for the lean times of winter. The answer is right in front of us and requires little thought.

  18. Peewhit

    Andrew I was in Hong Kong in 1975 they were at that stage building 40 story welfare housing that had no lifts. Everything went up the stairs. I have no doubt that the buildings still bear more resemblance to a 40 story clothes line than anything else even today. From the women I write to in china at present if you are not hard working you don’t even get to starve for long. Unlike governments relatives limit their charity to the deserving.

  19. johanna

    Leo G, you obviously haven’t been to Penrith lately. It’s huge. The Badgerys site is about half way between Penrith and Liverpool, so geographically is a good counterpoint to Mascot. And both Penrith and Liverpool are existing transport hubs for rail and bus services, as well as having motorways going through them.

    Sydney’s population is larger than that of any US city except New York. By way of comparison, Los Angeles, which also has a fairly low population density, has around 4 million residents (500,000 less than Sydney), and five airports – 2 international and 3 domestic, scattered around the metropolitan area.

    It is in fact very unusual for a city of Sydney’s population and size to have only one airport location and only 2 airports (if we count Mascot as 2, 1 international and 1 domestic).

    Since Sydney does indeed consist of a series of commercial hubs scattered as you describe, with Parramatta being approximately the geographical centre – in fact it has now moved west of that – it makes no sense to compel the vast majority of the population to travel long distances for this essential service just because Mascot is “already there.” Nor does it make sense to force many arriving passengers to do the same.

  20. AP

    The other thing about HK is that there is no – well very little – welfare and everyone works. Hard. Hence the low tax rate.

  21. brc

    The HK airport cost a motza, and the HK gov’t had to borrow to build it.

    I believe, however, it is already paid off.

    Note there were no protestors and NIMBYs when they levelled an entire island to build it. Can you even imagine trying that on in Australia?

  22. Infidel Tiger

    I agree with what you say Johanna but don’t know where you got your stats on US city sizes. LA has 12 million redidents, Chicago 9.5 million, Dallas 6.5 million, Philadelphia 6 million, Houston 6 million, Miami 5.5 million and so on.

  23. Andrew

    I agree with what you say Johanna but don’t know where you got your stats on US city sizes.

    City of LA is described as 4m, but that’s probably akin to “City of Sydney” LGA (which has rather few people, and should not be confused with “Sydney” as we think of it). Metro LA is about 16m these days. So no, Sydney is only a biggish city by US standards.

  24. jupes

    The new airport will be of great comfort to Sydneysiders who live in the Eastern suburbs.

    No excuse for the Westy riff-raff to come visit.

  25. Leo G

    Leo G, you obviously haven’t been to Penrith lately. It’s huge.

    Yes, the City of Penrith has a population of 189,000. But Penrith has 4% of Sydney’s population in 3.6% of Sydney’s urban area.

  26. johanna

    Point taken, IT, but on that basis we should add at least another half a million to Sydney’s population – as Wollongong, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast are now largely commuter belts for Sydney.

    Houston (6 million) has 3 airports in a triangle around the city; Philadelphia (same) also has 3, spread around.

    That’s just the commercial passenger airports – there are a whole bunch more for general aviation and freight.

  27. Andrew

    Much of the freight makes more sense coming into the logistics depots around the M7. But that would imply 24/7 flights. Don’t think the Howard Battlers will cop that.

  28. JohnA

    Leo G you said:

    “Rapidly increasing population, expanding metropolitan area, yet reducing population density implies rapidly escalating per capita real infrastructure cost”

    May I suggest that part of that is the shift in domestic architecture, driven by the rapid social change to a much larger proportion of single-parent households/separated parents? “Kids” are ferried between two homes equipped almost equally.

    Average household size has declined from pre-war levels because of a) smaller family sizes and b) separations/divorces.

    Consequently, even leaving out the creeping feature-itis of a modern, technology-loaded economy, the cost of the infrastructure per head of population has jumped massively, but we have such wide open spaces that we haven’t done much to constrain acreage per person.

  29. Combine_Dave

    Consequently, even leaving out the creeping feature-itis of a modern, technology-loaded economy, the cost of the infrastructure per head of population has jumped massively, but we have such wide open spaces that we haven’t done much to constrain acreage per person.

    Are you sure this kind of urban sprawl isn’t being driven by Nimby’s stopping residential developments over a certain height (ie; I’ve seen berks in an inner Briz suburb going mental because appts greater than 3 stories were being approved). Thus isn’t it more likely that our infrastucture woes are caused by urban sprawl and bad council planning decisions where young families continually buy houses in the outer suburbs due to a dearth in affordable housing?

    I can’t know for sure but seems unlikely that single mums or singles in general would need nor could afford acreages.

  30. Combine_Dave

    Much of the freight makes more sense coming into the logistics depots around the M7. But that would imply 24/7 flights. Don’t think the Howard Battlers will cop that.

    So Sydney airports are like the hospital from Yes Minister?
    Lots of public money pouring in but no few flights?

    What kind of commercial freight/passenger hub closes down outside business hours?

    It seems unlikely that the Government will recoup their costs in this case.

  31. Perfidious Albino

    I would guess that the curfew is a key factor holding Sydney Airport back in terms of reinvestment (though I recognise it would be politically impossible to remove it).

  32. 2dogs

    Hong Kong reclaimed the land to build the airport from the sea — just as it has for other major developments.

    Hong Kong does not have the Green activists that would prevent such development here. One should consider in answer to Costello’s contention by how much government regulations drive the cost of projects up, even government projects themselves.

  33. Ubique

    The connection to the HK airport by fast rain wouldn’t work here. We have too many droughts.

  34. rickw

    Would you give it the green light?

    The thing about Singapore is that it is really run like a company. In fact they regularly poach the best and brightest from industry. I have done a little audit work at Changi and I have also had a little to do with Singapore Airlines.

    Would a project with no clear return on investment go ahead? My view is that they would analyse and crunch the numbers until they had a clear answer and then act based on that answer. The process could be a very long one, but it would be a solid decision made over a time frame that exceeded the term of a Government.

    What I would also say that in the quasi Government organisations in Singapore, such as SQ and Changi Airports, there is not a lot of ego. I did an evening technical presentation to the incoming CEO of SQ, down to earth guy, dressed like a ground engineer. Their offices are also equally as basic and down to earth.

  35. Ed

    Sydney’s population is larger than that of any US city except New York. By way of comparison, Los Angeles, which also has a fairly low population density, has around 4 million residents (500,000 less than Sydney), and five airports – 2 international and 3 domestic, scattered around the metropolitan area.

    This isn’t right. It’s all because of the messed up way that America does city population count. They only count people inside the ‘city limits’ which are ancient and don’t reflect the modern size and shape of the cities.

    The population for the metropolitan area for LA is about 16 million, for example.

  36. Alfonso

    So Pete didn’t like the operation at Kennedy, that’s just low level chaos in US terms. Try Dallas to define the genre. It’s run by unstable African Americans with incoherent road rage and some of them have badges and firearms. One and a half hours to clear immigration. Counted 700 in the queue with 4 processing outlets.
    We slept in a shoe box.

  37. JohnA

    Combine Dave, you said:

    “I can’t know for sure but seems unlikely that single mums or singles in general would need nor could afford acreages.”

    Not always, but recall what happens in a split: assets are divided, and either one leaves the family home, or it’s sold and both go to separate places. So one plus children live in one place, and one minus children lives in another but both have four walls, all the usual equipment in the kitchen, etc., so now we have two living places where one used to be required for the same number of people. And with custody shared, both places need to be big enough for children to stay.

    The height limits example you quote (quite valid) is more an expression of our general community attitudes, and housing/architectural thinking. We still hold to the image of a detached house on a standard quarter-acre block as the “Australian ideal” of home, even if that isn’t as common as it was in earlier generations.

  38. rickw

    I had worked for about 15 years in an area of aviation ground support that had a lot of interface with airport infrastructure.

    Sydney and Melbourne’s problem is a lot like that experienced by many older airports. The design was based on the best available concepts at the time, but things have moved on. Comparison with HK or any other new airport is therefore not really fair. However, comparison with Chang is, Changi managed to morph itself into one of the best airports in the world over time.

    The key to success in airports in my view is having a coherent master plan. All work undertaken is about filling out that masterplan. Whilst things might get remodelled or refinished, the basic structure remains intact.

    The only Airport in Australia that seemed to have a coherent master plan, that could take it almost to a Changi size airport was in fact Cairns. Brisbane was OK, Melbourne is investing vast amounts into terminal expansions which have severe limits and is really working itself into a Sydney type situation, Sydney is almost beyond comprehension.

    The bottom line is that Federal Airports Corporation seemed to have completely screwed up with respect to Melbourne and Sydney and coherent expansion plans, and they’ve never recovered from that. The only shining light was Cairns, which wasn’t Federal Airports but Cairns Port Authority.

    The answer to Australia’s airport problems is coherent plans and execution of those plans, not new airports. As an example, 20 refuelling units for a new airport would cost $10 million, the cost of new infrastructure as opposed to expanded existing infrastructure is mind boggling.

  39. brc

    The newly reopened Tom Bradley terminal at LAX is quite amazing by US standards. It actually looks like it wasn’t built by an engineer in the 1950s.

  40. johanna

    Leo G
    #1267753, posted on April 16, 2014 at 10:42 pm

    Leo G, you obviously haven’t been to Penrith lately. It’s huge.

    Yes, the City of Penrith has a population of 189,000. But Penrith has 4% of Sydney’s population in 3.6% of Sydney’s urban area.

    Yes, but you said:

    The city’s business and commercial areas are still reasonably constrained to a ring- Sydney CBD, North Sydney, Chatswood, Hornsby, Castle Hill, Blacktown, Liverpool, Bankstown, Hurstville.

    Penrith is growing fast – faster than all the places you mentioned except perhaps Castle Hill, Liverpool and Blacktown. It is already a major commercial hub, and should be included in the list of hotspots which need to be serviced by accessible air transport, which it currently is not – along with Castle Hill, Liverpool and Blacktown.

  41. Combine_Dave

    So Pete didn’t like the operation at Kennedy, that’s just low level chaos in US terms. Try Dallas to define the genre. It’s run by unstable African Americans with incoherent road rage and some of them have badges and firearms. One and a half hours to clear immigration. Counted 700 in the queue with 4 processing outlets.

    Definitely sounds like the model we would copy here in Australia.

  42. Combine_Dave

    The height limits example you quote (quite valid) is more an expression of our general community attitudes, and housing/architectural thinking. We still hold to the image of a detached house on a standard quarter-acre block as the “Australian ideal” of home, even if that isn’t as common as it was in earlier generations.

    While I agree that what you suggested can and does happen (although I still dispute that divorced couples can both afford a place as large as the one they had previously occupied together), I think your latter point above is what’s more likely driving urban sprawl- Comes back to culture and expectations plus “cheap” land being released on the fringes of the cities with closer locales being prohibitively more expensive to develop, due not just to cost of land but red tape and community/council opposition to higher density housing.

  43. .

    Alfonso
    #1268041, posted on April 17, 2014 at 7:50 am
    So Pete didn’t like the operation at Kennedy, that’s just low level chaos in US terms. Try Dallas to define the genre. It’s run by unstable African Americans with incoherent road rage and some of them have badges and firearms. One and a half hours to clear immigration. Counted 700 in the queue with 4 processing outlets.
    We slept in a shoe box.

    Lol…nice one.

  44. .

    Serious question

    Would Sydney be better serviced by a new airport offshore with mega facilities and good rail links or two new airports at Bludger’s Creek and RAAF Base Richmond?

    Or does it need them all with expansion at Bankstown and more road and rail as well?

    My understanding is that Sydney’s rail is stuck in the 1920s, and they didn’t even finish the Bradfield plan.

  45. Leo G

    “Penrith is growing fast – faster than all the places you mentioned except perhaps Castle Hill …” – joanna

    Your partisan view about Penrith is understandable. The city has not been given the attention by city planners that its strategic position should demand.

    But don’t get carried away. My point was that there has been developing in Sydney a doughnut-shaped zone of high-density development that coincides with the very highest population densities found in the Sydney metropolitan area.

    Penrith does not yet have a population density anything like the areas on the east and south sections of that annulus. It is growing rapidly- too rapidly considering the underdeveloped infrastructure and the poor condition of service head works.

    The prospect of a fully operational domestic/international airport without curfew constraints on passenger flights would accelerate development in Penrith, but much of that would only occur in step with the expansion of the airport over many decades.

    Moreover, I have misgivings about some of the genuine environment impacts of a major airport in Western Sydney. The present airport has the benefit of reliable sea breezes to disperse air pollution associated with the airport. Western Sydney does not have that advantage. On most days there is little or no wind between 9pm and 9am. A Badgerys Creek airport would likely need an evening curfew not only for passenger flights but also airfreight, on those environmental grounds alone.

  46. johanna

    Leo, I am not “partisan” about Penrith. It’s just that I have relatives there and know what a boom town it is, and how bloody inconvenient it is to get there if you fly into Mascot. It takes longer to get from Mascot to Penrith (or Liverpool, or Blacktown) than it does to fly from Melbourne to Sydney.

    As for the air pollution, I call BS. I live in an inland city with similar conditions in summer, and an airport that would be comparable to Badgery’s. It does not cause air pollution. The bad air at the foot of the Blue Mountains is because of the gunk from Greater Sydney being blown inland during the day and hitting the foot of the mountains, plus inversion.

  47. rickw

    The newly reopened Tom Bradley terminal at LAX is quite amazing by US standards. It actually looks like it wasn’t built by an engineer in the 1950s.

    I agree! From touchdown to reaching terminal 7 took 45 minutes a couple of weeks ago. Simply amazing. Outbound is still a bit of a mess though.

    One correction, “engineer in the 1950′s” should be “prison engineer”.

  48. Andrew

    So Sydney airports are like the hospital from Yes Minister?
    Lots of public money pouring in but no few flights?

    No. 24/7 cargo people will use KSA like currently (and I hope they fly NW over the filthy Greens all night). I think the obvious use for the John W Howard International Airport (which I hope everybody will call it to annoy the grubs out there who will believe that’s actually going to be the name) is like KLIA’s LCCT or Bangkok’s DMK. I don’t think JWHIA becomes useless just because I don’t see it running 24/7 cargo. Use the airport facing the ocean for that, not the one facing St Mary’s.

    BTW I believe they should have expanded KSA, increased the frequency (who the fuck has a right to say “I’ll only tolerate 40 landings over my house and hour, not 55″??), and at least lengthened if not abolished the curfew. Over water, of course. Would have seen us through until the airport becomes obsolete from the Brother Inspector’s VFT around 2060.

    If SIA want to run a 1am takeoff to land at 7am Sing time, brilliant use of the facilities. Then that same plane can refuel at Changi and arrive LHR late evening. Perfect.

  49. Infidel Tiger

    On most days there is little or no wind between 9pm and 9am. A Badgerys Creek airport would likely need an evening curfew not only for passenger flights but also airfreight, on those environmental grounds alone.

    An airport with no wind? Sounds like an aviation dream!

  50. Alfonso

    ‘An airport with no wind? Sounds like an aviation dream!”

    Badgery’s is in a fog bowl, I hear. More wind the better.
    Of course that won’t matter, Australia’s newest airport will have Cat 3 zero vis zero ceiling ILS approaches on both runways, won’t it.
    Bwaaa….when hell freezes over.

  51. Leo G

    “I live in an inland city with similar conditions in summer, and an airport that would be comparable to Badgery’s. It does not cause air pollution. The bad air at the foot of the Blue Mountains is because of the gunk from Greater Sydney being blown inland during the day and hitting the foot of the mountains, plus inversion.”

    Your argument about the cause of “bad air” at the foot of the Blue Mountains is familiar but quite wrong. The principal reason for the relatively poorer air quality compared with the rest of Sydney relates to the absence of evening circulation in the airshed not its presence.

  52. Andrew

    Either way, jet engines aren’t big emitters of particulates. They run extreme heat, extreme pressure. I’d suggest any poor air in Sydney (which is a tiny fraction of what it was 30 years ago, when you would never see a blue sunset) is coming from diesel trucks and Valiant Chargers, not KSA.

  53. johanna

    Leo, do you know what “inversion” means?

    Meteorology

    Sydney experiences a generally mild climate. Daily temperatures are sufficient to promote photochemical smog from October to April. While winters are mild near the coast, frosts are usual in the west of the basin and strong temperature inversions occur.

    Encyclopedia Brittanica says:

    temperature inversion, a reversal of the normal behaviour of temperature in the troposphere (the region of the atmosphere nearest the Earth’s surface), in which a layer of cool air at the surface is overlain by a layer of warmer air. (Under normal conditions air temperature usually decreases with height.)

    Inversions play an important role in determining cloud forms, precipitation, and visibility. An inversion acts as a cap on the upward movement of air from the layers below. As a result, convection produced by the heating of air from below is limited to levels below the inversion. Diffusion of dust, smoke, and other air pollutants is likewise limited. In regions where a pronounced low-level inversion is present, convective clouds cannot grow high enough to produce showers and, at the same time, visibility may be greatly reduced below the inversion, even in the absence of clouds, by the accumulation of dust and smoke particles.

    I grew up in Sydney and lived near the coast and in the west and in the lower Blue Mountains. The prevailing winds push the crap westwards, and it get stuck at the base of the mountains because of the barrier effect and the inversion effect. If you stand on the edge of the escarpment at Mt Riverview, you can see it with the naked eye.

    An airport is going to make bugger all difference.

  54. Alfonso

    Any existing airport in the Sydney area has the unbeatable problem of noise especially vs 24 hour operations.
    Put combined domestic and international on 400 sq klicks near Bathurst with a bullet train every 10 mins to Sydney and close KS, the real estate sale can be a nice little earner.

  55. Wozzup

    Asia has a number of advantages over western countries including governments that are willing to get on and do their job by investing in infrastructure that is going to benefit society. Western politicians see their role as different – i.e. to satisfy as many constituents as they can thereby keeping themselves in office beyond the next election. This means they don’t like hard decisions and when those decisions do turn up they too often cut and run, unlike Asian politicians who tough it out. Can you imagine an Australian politician taking the heat over a development like the new Hong Kong airport? Not likely. It is also in the nature of Asian politicians and institutions to “take the long view”. To western politicians the long view is the day after tomorrow. This means the Asians are able to invest in projects that have a long payback in terms of their IRR but big spin offs to society as a whole. Our mob are lucky if they can remember which shoe they tie first. So instead they fritter away the hard earned tax dollars of middle Australians – the hard working backbone of the country – on bludgers and people who have been convinced by the system that they are too sick / tired / ill equipped to work. (No not all welfare recipients are like this but too many are, and the “system” is not well equipped to working out which are which). Or they piss all that tax money away on projects that are badly thought out or driven by ideology rather than analysis, evidence or even common sense. To put it another way…….. we are f#cked. Our society is sliding backwards and its our fault. As the man says….. we get the politicians we deserve.

  56. .

    So why the difference? Why are Asian MPs supermen not tied to laws of public choice theory?

    This means the Asians are able to invest in projects that have a long payback in terms of their IRR but big spin offs to society as a whole.

    Um okay. Do they have a positive NPV versus alternatives though?

    Your parting shot seems to say their voters demand more and are tougher.

  57. Infidel Tiger

    Can you imagine an Australian politician taking the heat over a development like the new Hong Kong airport?

    No Asian politican had to take the heat over HKIA. They don’t have real elections and the thing was built on kickbacks.

    Corruption in Asia is openly tolerated as long as it delivers a good result such as HKIA and the Lantau Expressway. In Australia our corruption gets us desal plants that don’t work and the NBN.

  58. Infidel Tiger

    One of the reasons America looks like shit is because Democrats are now in charge of most of the major metropolises. Combine that with unions and the Mob, but I repeat myself, in charge of all the municipal public works tendering and you have a recipe for urban decay.

    Head to Houston and Dallas and for the most part they look pristine – no Democrats.

    LA used to sparkle like it had just been to a plastic surgeon. Now the whole place looks like a Mexican chop shop – which it is.

  59. johanna

    And let’s not even start on Detroit, which successive corrupt Democrat (but I repeat myself) administrations bankrupted – literally. Large parts of it now resemble the outskirts of Lagos, except that there are more people in the authentic African version.

  60. Leo G

    I grew up in Sydney and lived near the coast and in the west and in the lower Blue Mountains. The prevailing winds push the crap westwards, and it get stuck at the base of the mountains because of the barrier effect and the inversion effect. If you stand on the edge of the escarpment at Mt Riverview, you can see it with the naked eye.

    Growing up in Sydney doesn’t necessarily assure anyone of authority on the subject of Sydney’s meteorology. Temperature inversions often occur over Sydney but they are not the driving characteristic of Sydney’s air pollution.
    Sydney has a quite serious and longstanding problem with particle pollution vitiated by the meteorology of the Sydney Basin.
    I have already referred to the repeating pattern of low to zero wind speeds during the evenings. Add to that high nighttime relative humidity away from the coast. Typically the depth of the lower atmospheric boundary layer reduces during the evening and the cooling in the layer is reduced by ground effects and by ir from cloud formation, so that the layer has lower relative humidity than air above.
    These conditions cause a rapid transfer of particulates from above into the boundary layer at night. The condition is readily observable over Sydney but is often confused with the appearance of an “inversion”. The boundary layer air is usually conditionally stable and is further stabilised by enhanced dew fall from cloud condensation nucleation and aggregation.
    The effect persists well into the morning until winds pick up and disperse the polluted air. There is a periodicity in the effect. The condition is affected by the eastward shift of pressure systems, typically modulating in a 15 day period.

  61. johanna

    FGS, stop deliberately misrepresenting what I said.

    Temperature inversion is most common in western Sydney – therefore the air pollution there is worse, plus, the winds drive the crap westwards.

    You put up a stupid comment about how an airport was going to be a big issue in terms of air pollution in western Sydney, which is nonsense. The Greens are no doubt taking notes.

  62. Leo G

    The Greens are no doubt taking notes.

    Most Greens have no genuine concern about the human health effects of air pollution. They are not genuine environmentalists, but misanthropic influence peddlers.
    If Sydney is to have a useful second international/domestic airport, then realities should be faced early in the planning.
    One obvious consequence of a Badgerys Airport operating without a permanent nighttime curfew, is an end to the curfew at Kingsford Smith. Where else should flights be diverted when conditions are not suitable at Badgerys Creek?
    In turn that leads to solving other components of the problem which curfews address- like nighttime road traffic in the vicinity of the airport and the poor availability of mass transit services at night.

  63. nerblnob

    Airfreight in Australia needs to be sorted out. At the moment , most days I can get 2000kg in pallet boxes from regional UK /Ireland to Singapore cheaper and quicker than the remaining leg from Singapore to Australia.

    This is adding to everyone’s costs.

  64. johanna

    Yes, there are problems to be solved.

    There are hundreds of airports in the world where these and other problems have been faced and dealt with – so what is your point?

  65. Alfonso

    “so what is your point?”
    Errrr…..his point is “pallet boxes from regional UK /Ireland to Singapore cheaper and quicker than the remaining leg from Singapore to Australia.”

    Not all that difficult a concept.

  66. Crossie

    Much of the freight makes more sense coming into the logistics depots around the M7. But that would imply 24/7 flights. Don’t think the Howard Battlers will cop that.

    Why should they? If Albanese’s electorate is sacrosanct why not the outer West?

  67. Crossie

    I would guess that the curfew is a key factor holding Sydney Airport back in terms of reinvestment (though I recognise it would be politically impossible to remove it).

    Yes, the curfew is the problem which is not politically impossible to solve. Make it an election issue and see what the rest of Sydney voters say, Grayndler can go jump. How long will that tail wag the dog?

  68. Alfonso

    “an end to the curfew at Kingsford Smith. Where else should flights be diverted when conditions are not suitable at Badgerys Creek?”

    KS would not be a suitable alternate to carry for BC, too close and influenced by the same weather systems, be that thunderstorms or fog. If KS required an alternate due weather it’s likely BC would also. Suitable heavy, medium jet alternates for BC are as for KS today, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra.

  69. johanna

    Alfonso, thunderstorms on coastal Sydney mean nothing in areas close to the mountains. You can have torrents of rain in the city and not a drop in the West. In fact, that’s usually what happens.

    The ignorance shown on this site makes me dread what the Greens will come up with.

  70. Alfonso

    Alas, your knowledge of aviation weather operations and alternate requirements is nil.
    Thunderstorms forecast for the Sydney CTA means alternate requirements will be put on Sydney AP, Richmond military, Bankstown and the future BC despite your theories on what rain happens where.
    Everyone’s interested in aviation, that’s nice, pity about the low info experts.

  71. johanna

    Tell it to the people who live in the shadow of the mountains. Or look at the meteorology stats. The fact is, rain and storms on the coast frequently have no effect in the West or at the foot of the mountains.

    This is like discussing Australia with the ABC office in Ultimo, with all employees living in the inner east or west. I’m gone.

  72. Alfonso

    Let me try another way and see if you can get it.
    The CAA doesn’t care what you think/ observe about local micro weather event differences between Sydney AP and a completed BC. If there are CuNims forecast for Sydney it would be vanishing rare that an alternate is required for arrivals Sydney but not for BC. And vice versa. The greatest mismatch is likely to be an alternate on Syd and TEMPO 6o mins holding on BC, which is in reality alternate fuel for Canberra anyway.
    It’s not all that difficult to understand the conservative nature of aviation MET.

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