I still haven’t responded to this consultation, mainly because I am a bit uncertain about what it is that the airport are asking for, so this morning I had a long chat with Charles Buchanan who runs the airport.
I put a series of questions to him, which I will run through first and then try to give a general picture of what he had to say. I will do my best not to misquote him and try and convey a general and concise picture of what he had to say.
1 Would you consider accepting a similar ratio of night flights today time flights as that enjoyed by Heathrow and Gatwick? Answer, no.
2 Would you consider running a test week where you have the maximum number of night flights you are asking for, so we can tell what we would actually get in terms of sleep disruption? Answer, not practical.
3 There has been some suggestion that the 106 agreement may not actually be a legal document and that some locals may be going to challenge its validity in the courts, do you have any views on this? Answer, I view it as a valid and legal agreement with the council.
4 Presumably if the 106 proved to be invalid then the previous section 52 would come into effect, any idea what the terms of this are? If you have a copy perhaps you could send it to me. Answer not applicable as I view the 106 as valid.
5 My guess is that the only medium term viable expansion of the airport would be as a mixture of a historic aircraft centre and small regional airport, in other words if you continue to subsidise it at a six figure level you might just as well do something popular as unpopular, any thoughts on this? Answer, although the existing historic aircraft attractions at Manston are something the airport is happy to support I don’t consider this area could be significant in generating a profitable and viable airport.
6 I can only find the Manson monthly operational reports up to September on the Infratil website, are they being withheld for any reason? If not could you send me copies? Answer, These are provided as shareholder information by the investment company, which isn’t my remit, that said I will find out and supply them if possible.
7 Is it your intention to move to operating a freight only airport, or an airport based around freight? Answer, no the intention is to create a balanced passenger and freight airport, although I would expect there to be times during the expansion period when on or another aspect will expand faster.
8 It says on your website that responses to the consultation may be sent to TDC, does this mean that the consultation on your website is different to the council’s? Answer. No this is the same consultation.
9 What proportion of responses are you sending to the council? Answer. All of the responses will be sent on to the council.
10 Are you only sending responses that are for night flights? Answer, no
Could you give a layman’s explanation of the maximum amount of night time flying you are asking for in terms of types and amounts of planes? I. E. how many 747s and when. Answer. It is important to understand that this is a quota system, where more nosier planes count the same as less quieter planes, so it isn’t possible to give a precise answer.
Could you give a layman’s explanation of what you would expect to be a noisy week based on what you would actually expect to be flying assuming the airport was running profitably? Answer (I think I have got this right but my notes are not as good as I hoped here) about two movements a night.
I have heard now from three different sources that you are engaged in trying to sell the airport to a Middle Eastern operator, is this true? Answer No
Are Infratil trying to sell the airport? Answer, this is not my remit but that of the investment company Infratil.
I have also heard that Flybee pulled out, not because they were unhappy with
Manson, but because Infratil wouldn’t make the investment in facilities there that they wanted, is there any truth in this? Answer No
That is the bones of the thing and in my defence if I have muddled the thing up I did send the questions to Charles by email and it was his idea to have a chat about them rather than just answer them by email.
I will now try to put across what we discussed as I get time so I hope to get all of this post finished by early evening.
In a general sense I would
say that Charles sees the airport as being beneficial to Thanet and being a
main driving force in getting visitors here and boosting the local tourist
His big hope is to get
an airline to operate in a serious way from Manston.
You also have to appreciate
that I am not anti airport, in a general sense when I hear a plane come over,
my reaction is to grab my camera not complain about the noise, so this wasn’t a
With the night flights
issue, my problem is that we just don’t know what night flights would be like
in terms of sleep disruption, because we haven’t ever experienced them.
In a more general sense we have never experienced
having a busy operational airport here, but the consultation is about night
flights, so I will try to stick to the thread.
I would say that his
main take on the night flights situation is that at the moment there is no real
regulation and that if night flights are not part of a regular time table, then
they are pretty much unregulated.
What he says he wants
in terms of night flights is a consistent allowance that would allow him to operate
a viable business in a predictable way.
I would view this as a
budget regulating how much inconvenience he is allowed to give local people and
in return for this the airport offers the possibility of some economic benefits.
Something I did find interesting was that Charles seemed surprised that people had moved here unaware that there was an airport operating close by. I have lived here on and off since about 1967 and I don’t recall aircraft operations being a major factor in local life apart from the recent training flights.
I guess since Air Ferry, the first airline to operate from Manston, failed in 1967, use of the airport has been sporadic and locals haven’t ever considered it that seriously.
Some of this is about perception I may have got this wrong, but I but I got the impression that Charles had the impression that local people were in some way used to having a busy airport here and therefore knew what to expect.