Last minute talks aim to save flights

High hopes: Simon Menzies from Pool Aviation is hoping operations could continue at Blackpool Airport
High hopes: Simon Menzies from Pool Aviation is hoping operations could continue at Blackpool Airport

Talks were continuing today to try to save flying operations at Blackpool International Airport.

Plans were being thrashed out to see how the general aviation operator companies at Squires Gate could continue to operate after commercial flights cease on October 15.

Jet2 flights ended yesterday but Citywing is continuing operations until next Wednesday when air traffic control and emergency cover will end.

Many of the smaller firms will be able to continue to use the runway and facilities but some will find it impossible as they cater for passengers.

A meeting of the airport’s joint aviation consultative committee was called yesterday to thrash out details about what is going to happen when the airport’s commercial operations shut down which the Gazette understands could involve a short period of closure for a few days with the possibility of a return of limited passenger operations several weeks down the line at the earliest if suitable arrangements could be made.

Simon Menzies from Pool Aviation said hopes remained that some sort of operation could be maintained despite owner Balfour Beatty’s decision to cease operations following its failure to find a buyer for the airport.

He said: “It was a very positive meeting. There were a lot of people there, tenants, operators people with a vested interest.

“The airport’s director Paul Rankin was there to talk to us about what could happen. He told us negotiations were still ongoing and that there were still opportunities to allow private aircraft to continue to use the site although they were looking into the legal details on that and will update us by early next week.

“He also said that if nothing came of the negotiations then an opportunity for the current tenants to put forward a proposal to operate the airport in the interim would be considered.

“We would love to see a recognised airfield operator come forward to take over the day to day operations at the airport, not necessarily to the same level as previously.

“There is no reason why not. We use 20,000 litres of fuel every month, Bond use more than us and there is a big margin for the airport on that, there are nine businesses operating here and so with that the landing fees and service charges you can see there should be enough for an operator to have a healthy business.” He said his own firm was set to operate temporarily from Manchester and Liverpool because of the lack of air traffic control and fire cover at Blackpool when commercial operations cease on October 15.

He said: “Legally the smaller operators can continue to offer if they are happy with the cover situation. But the aviation business is all about risk management and it is up to the individual operators.

“If you have no air traffic control it clearly increases the risk. It does not help us, Bond or Citywing.

“We are making arrangements, moving some of our equipment to Manchester and Liverpool for the interim, but it’s not what we want to do long term, we want to remain here.”

Blackpool and Fylde councils, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and MPs have been in talks to come up with a plan to save the airport’s long term future.

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber would to all it could to help remaining firms.

She said: “We will be using our membership of the Airport Consultative Committee to do all we can to help those businesses who remain on site and face an uncertain future.

“What these businesses need is certainty about what is going to happen.”