I love flying on planes. It’s the whole thing. The airport and anticipation of the flight, the flight itself and the feeling when you realise you have left the ground somehow defeating (if not exactly defying) gravity and coming into land at somewhere strange and exotic. Part of this fascination I’m sure comes from the fact that I travel on a plane once in a blue moon and then it is related to work. So for the first time in 5 years I hurtled into the wild blue yonder from Manchester Airport on my way to a seminar in Dusseldorf for UK Trade and Industry. As a kid I was an avid watcher of all the Gerry Anderson stuff, Thunderbirds, Space 1999 all that sort of thing so all the hardware, the planes, the technology hits all those futuristic buttons that I like. Funnily enough my (would have been) Father in Law, who is sadly no longer with us, worked with Gerry Anderson as a cameraman on UFO and Captain Scarlet. He told me, in what was sadly our only conversation, about his bemusement at all the strange Sci-Fi geeks who used to go through the bins at Century 21 studios in the 70s looking for cast off models of spacecraft. “Did they get anything good?” I remember asking enthusiastically and rather giving the game away regarding my own geekiness.
The environmental impact of air travel is now well known and completely disastrous as far as carbon emissions are concerned. I don’t believe air travel should be completely banned but it should have to play its part in reducing global carbon emissions and not be allowed to expand unchecked. Of course I checked out the rail alternative to Dusseldorf and it added another couple of days onto the travel arrangements and so I had to give it a miss. If it was a regular thing I’d probably work it into my work schedule.
Manchester Airport seemed keen to display its environmental credentials. Top of the range hybrid diesel buses to transport you to and from the car parks (I got the train there), interactive environmental displays greet you on arrival from the train station and there are prominent recycling points and information. This is of course just scratching the surface of the environmental impact of air travel and flights can quickly negate a lot of positive work done to reduce carbon emissions through conservation and use of renewable energy. This is why we have characters like Richard Branson trying to find ‘techno fixes’ such as bio fuels to power his planes. These are very unlikely to be a realistic resource given the many pulls there will be on truly sustainable biofuels for road transport etc. Though I don’t share completely the line of the ‘no bio-fuels at all’ lobby I think it would be wrong to plough on with biofuel production without any fundamental changes in the amount of air travel we need. It is not a form of ‘growth’ that can go into the stratosphere forever.
Here's the first ever episode of UFO. Produced in 1970 set in the far off time of 1980 when we would all be wearing silver suits and living on the moon. Mike Rainer my wife's late father is credited on later episodes.