The aviation industry has had its most challenging year ever. Southampton Airport has been hit hard and jobs have already been lost. The demise of Flybe in March was a devastating blow. It is no surprise that passenger numbers were down by 83% between March and August. Without a runway extension the airport may simply not survive.

Southampton Airport’s short runway means that the airport has limited prospects without Flybe. Remaining passenger aircraft can’t always take a full load of passengers because the runway isn’t long enough. A small extension – the size of one and a half football pitches would secure the airport’s future by allowing the aircraft which already use the airport to fly further.

With a longer runway, the airport could replace its lost passengers with fewer flights flown by more efficient aircraft. I spent decades as an aircraft engineer and specialised in propulsion. The modern aircraft which an extended runway could safely serve will bear no comparison to today’s aircraft. New planes are significantly quieter and greener. Last month a company called ZeroAvia performed the world’s first hydrogen powered flight by a commercial sized aircraft. In the next few years near silent hydrogen powered aircraft could be using our city’s airport – emitting only water vapour from their engines.

Southampton Airport is a huge asset for the city. It provides employment for hundreds. The airport puts our city on the map, providing the connections which attract much needed business and investment. We must ensure it survives to secure Southampton’s future success.

Royston Smith MP

Southampton Itchen