Transport Secretary Justine Greening was in bullish form in the Commons on Thursday morning, fielding a host of questions about whether the government is about to U-turn on a third runway for Heathrow.
Speculation that a U-turn was in the offing was raised a fortnight ago when David Cameron was quite guarded in response to a question on the topic at PMQs.
Responding to a question in the Commons, Greening restated the coalition's policy of no third runway.
"Let's be clear," she said. "We'll be sticking to that."
The transport secretary's face was a picture, clearly annoyed at any suggestion of a U-turn. Hardly surprising as she's the MP for Putney, a part of southwest London that experiences the whine of low flying airliners most days because it's directly underneath the approach path to Heathrow.
Before the last general election Greening was one of the more high-profile Tories campaigning for Labour's policy of a third runway to be scrapped, and after the coalition was formed she got her way.
Greening went on: "These decisions matter massively to residents on the ground. The question is not just about the third runway, but expanding it further would pose significant challenges to local communities and I think they should be taken extremely seriously."
Even though the coalition probably won't U-turn on Heathrow in the short-term because the Lib Dems wouldn't allow it, a "call for evidence" is to take place over the summer on Britain's future aviation capacity. The airline industry and airport operators will make the case that without a new runway at Heathrow the UK will be overtaken by other major hubs like Schiphol in Holland. Everyone accepts that if Heathrow lost hub status the damage to the UK economy would be significant.
What happens if the government finds its consultation concludes that a third runway is unavoidable? David Leamount from the aviation industry news site FlightGlobal thinks it's the only viable option, and that the government already knows this.
"Nobody really wants it but there isn't an alternative, because Heathrow is positively dysfunctional already," he told HuffPost.
"All you need is for the wind to blow a bit harder and you have to cancel things. That's what happens when you're at 100% capacity. Every single slot is in use, so you can't delay, you have to cancel. The weather twitches, and Heathrow cancels and this is not acceptable for a first world country."
Learmount expects the consultation and study on expanding Heathrow will be kicked into the long grass until the next general election.
"It won't be in anybody's manifesto," he predicts. "What they will say is that they are watching the studies, which will continue. Then after the election the studies will miraculously end and they'll implement it."
The alternative to expanding Heathrow - the "Boris Island" airport east of London in the Thames estuary - would take around 20 years to build; far too late to solve the aviation capacity in the south-east of England. Learmount says while everybody accepts Heathrow is in the wrong place - too close to a large population and in a low-lying patch of land prone to fog - the government won't have much of a choice.
"In expanding Heathrow you'd get instant bang for buck, a massive amount of increased capacity. You don't have to radically change air-traffic control. That's why they'll have to go for it, not because it's the best place, but it's about instant return on investment."
Another reason why Cameron can't allow any decision on Heathrow to be taken before the next election is because of Boris Johnson. The Mayor of London is on record as saying he'd resign as Mayor of London if a U-turn on Heathrow was confirmed. That would give him the excuse to leave City Hall in London and find himself a nice safe Tory seat in the Commons - posing a direct challenge to Cameron's leadership sooner rather than later.
Former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis told HuffPost he had been previously been "strongly attracted" to the idea of a third runway, but says his expectations are "rock bottom" that there could be any cross-party agreement on expanding airport capacity around London any time soon.
"Labour's position is it wants to see a cross-party agreement on aviation strategy and it's now incumbent on the government to secure some process toward that," he told HuffPost.
"At the moment I see no prospect whatosever of any new runway actually being built anywhere in the south-east, until it's possible to get cross party agrement. The government has to come forward with some kind of process which has to be an independent review which would look without prejudice at various options.
"Clearly nothing is going to happen before the next election. As of now, nothing will happen in the next Parliament. There is no way a party coming into power at the next election could produce a rabbit out of the hat without some kind of cross-party consensus emerging first."