Bid to re-open resort airport within weeks

Airport resurrection: Plans are underway to bring aviation back to Blackpool. Below, Coun John Jones
Airport resurrection: Plans are underway to bring aviation back to Blackpool. Below, Coun John Jones

Shock plans have been unveiled to re-open Blackpool Airport within the next month.

Job advertisements have gone out seeking air traffic controllers, fire operations staff and an airfield refuelling supervisor.

Coun John Jones

Coun John Jones

They come from a new company Squires Gate Airport Operations – a firm set up by parent organisation and airport owner Balfour Beatty.

The directors are listed at companies house as Stewart Orrell, who was in charge of Balfour’s previous operations at the airport, along with Lisa Marie Thomson and Brian Roland Walker.

It is understood the operations will not be on the same scale as those before the closure of Squires Gate on October 15, when holidaymakers could fly to 11 destinations with national airline Jet2 as well as flights to the Isle of Man and Ireland with Citywing and Stobart Air.

However, an operation at Civil Air Authority Category 2 or 3 level would allow smaller general aviation operators to return to full-time flying and a return of lucrative helicopter operations.

The airport closed with debts reaching £34m and the loss of 100 jobs causing consternation across the resort.

Local MPs, together with Blackpool and Fylde councils, have been working to come up with a plan for the future of the historic site which could allow some new development but which would guarantee an aviation presence there.

A statement on The Gazette’s Jobs Today website states the job adverts mark the start of a “new and exciting era” at the Squires Gate site – a hope echoed by Blackpool Council which owns a five per cent share in the airport overall.

Transport portfolio holder Coun John Jones said: “We are now very hopeful this will be the beginning of a new era for the airport.

“Recruiting these staff is the first step to wards putting the licence back in place.

“There are a few more things that need to be done but lets hope the airport will become operational again very soon.”

A general aviation operator, who did not want to be named, today said: “This is very interesting news and all the general aviation operators who are based at the 
airport, and who used to be based there, will be watching closely.

“We want to see the new strategy the management team come up with to attract new tenants and airport users and how much they are going to charge for fees.

“There could be an opportunity to attract even more general aviation if the fees are low enough as the airport is a brilliant place to learn to fly because it is outside of restricted airspace.”

Applications

The closing date for applications for the new posts is noon on Wednesday and interviews will be held as soon as November 20 and 24.

It is understood some of the staff who lost their jobs back in October would be considered for the roles.

The airport operating company would have to have staff in place before it can apply to reactivate the necessary licence needed to fly passengers.

Existing equipment at the airport would have to be 
retained and made ready for use.

Zolfo Cooper, the company appointed as liquidators for the previous company Blackpool Airport Ltd were planning to sell off the airport’s assets including that equipment in December to raise money to pay off some of the debt owed to creditors.

Despite The Gazette 
making a number of calls to Balfour Beatty yesterday, 
management did not comment on the jobs or future plans for the airport.

However, the job advert stated: “Following the recent closure of Blackpool Airport and cessation of operations, Squires Gate Airport Operations Limited, the new operator of the site, is pleased to announce opportunities for suitably qualified personnel to be part of a new operations team to be based at the airport.

“The airport will be starting a new and exciting era which will see a viable and sustainable operation supporting the many operators and businesses based at the site.

“We are currently seeking suitably qualified, experienced and motivated people.”

All vacancies advertised are to be permanent and 40 hours per week on a shift system and some roles will require out of hours on-call cover.

The company is seeking air traffic control officers who hold a validated CAA rating in, ADI and APP, together with a current CAA medical certificate.

It is also seeking a fire and operations manager, fire and operations supervisors, plus fire and operations officers whose secondary duties will include security, airfield operations and refuelling as well as an airfield refuelling supervisor.

The advert added:“Roles will commence from December 1, 2014.”

However, the move has drawn criticism from some quarters.

Danny Nicholson vice chairman of the Save Blackpool Airport group said they had been trying to put together a bid to buy the airport and were surprised by the Balfour Beatty move.

He said: “We have been asking them for a price but have had no luck. We have people waiting to back our application. So this is a shock.

“The people listed (in the new company) were involved with the airport before when it was run into the ground. With a few changes we could have had an airport that could make some serious profit.”