February 23 - The Baltic Air Charter Association (BACA) has expressed its opinion that Manston Airport on the south coast of the UK should not have been allowed to close.
HLPFI reported on December 12 that Thanet district councillors had voted against pursuing a compulsory purchase order for the airport, after it was closed in May 2014 due to ongoing operational losses and lack of profitability in the medium term.
BACA says that Manston Airport was the RAF master diversion airport for many years, and has always provided a valuable service to the whole aviation industry.
Moreover, said BACA, Manston has one of the widest runways in the UK and is capable of handling every type of aircraft, including extremely large commercial and military aircraft; while its close proximity to Europe means that flight times are reduced and fuel savings increased for many European destinations.
Along with the recent announcement regarding the closure of a number of RAF bases - Mildenhall, Alconbury and Molesworth - BACA is keen to support organisations involved in utilising these runways to maximum effect.
BACA says there are many reasons why it has expressed this opinion, but the most important is the lack of available runway capacity in the UK to cope with future requirements. A recent survey by KPMG concluded that by 2030, London's airports will be full to capacity, and airlines from Asia and other parts of the world are choosing to operate services from Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, instead of London.
Even if the incoming UK government of 2015 makes a decision within a year of coming into office, there will undoubtedly be 10-15 years of appeals and enquiries, says BACA, and there is little chance of 3,000 m of new runway being laid and put to use within the next 20-25 years.
While it is apparent that Manston is never going to handle 50 million passengers a year, BACA says that it could free up capacity at other airports by becoming a hub for air cargo, taking five to ten freighters a day. This could free up 2,000 inbound and 2,000 outbound UK runway slots annually.
Additionally, if similar plans were adopted at other airports, such as the recently closed RAF bases, BACA says that this proposal could offer a solution to the future shortage of UK runway capacity.
BACA has asked the UK Department for Transport to investigate why Manston Airport was allowed to close so quickly and to lend their support to all local and international companies that are prepared to invest and reopen the airport.