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Manston airport: EastEnders star Cliff Parisi in emergency landing as staff prepare to say goodbye as Kent airport to close for final time

By Chris Price

A former EastEnders actor has tweeted his support for stricken airport Manston - after being involved in an emergency landing just hours before it is to shut for good.

Cliff Parisi, who starred as Minty in the BBC soap until 2010, was flying in a light aircraft to France earlier today when it was forced to land at the Thanet airport.

It was said a technical problem was to blame for the landing, with two others on board.

Actor Cliff Parisi, who played Minty Peterson in EastEnders, was on the plane at Manston

The actor, who has also starred in Sunburn and Casualty and currently plays Fred in Call the Midwife, tweeted his support for Manston.

He said: "Just had an emergency landing at Manston air field thank god they are open today tomorrow they are closed for ever #savemanston".

The drama came as the airport is set to close its doors for the final time today, marking the end of a century of aviation history.

Despite inquiries from several interested parties and two formal offers to buy it, the airfield's 144 staff will leave for the final time at 5pm.

Protestors from the Save Manston and Why Not Manston? campaign groups will gather at the site, near Ramsgate, to honour workers as they wave goodbye to the airfield founded during the First World War.

The closure is a bitter pill to swallow for the Thanet economy after owner Ann Gloag bought the site for £1 in November before launching a consultation on its closure 10 weeks later, on Budget Day.

Air traffic control staff at Manston airport. Picture: Simon Burchett

The site was said to have been losing £10,000 a day and rumoured negotiations with low-cost airline Ryanair broke down last year after the company issued a profit warning.

Dutch airline KLM withdrew all its passenger services on April 9, swiftly followed by freight operator Saudi Cargo.

Chartered flights run by Newmarket Holidays were moved to Kent rival Lydd airport.

The last KLM flight leaves Manston airport

Then, a day after turning down a £5m offer for the site from US consortium RiverOak Investment Corp, Stagecoach founder Mrs Gloag announced the airport’s closure last Tuesday.

She said no "viable alternative" had been found.

Despite an "improved" 11th hour offer by the Connecticut-based group this week, the airport's fate was seemingly sealed as news broke yesterday afternoon that the bid had been rejected.

The move provoked fury from North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale, who has campaigned with South Thanet member Laura Sandys to keep the airport open.

Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale at Manston Airport

He said: "I regard it as an act of corporate vandalism.

"This is the unacceptable face of capitalism. Ann Gloag said to me, to my face, that she wanted to sell it.

"We found her a buyer, but there has been no willingness to negotiate at all."

He added he felt the offer made this week had been rejected "on very strange grounds".

The Scottish businesswoman says it came too late – something Sir Roger disputes.

Businesswoman Ann Gloag owns 20% of the site along with Trevor Cartner and Chris Musgrave. Picture: Craig Watson/ SWNS.com

He said: "In employment law terms, that is not true."

"Most staff at Manston would like to stay on and would be more than happy to tear up their notice and carry on working.

"It's a spurious reason for rejecting an offer. She seems determined not to sell it."

This week, campaign group Save Manston have carried out a number of initiatives in support of the airport and staff.

They drove two cars from Westminster to Gatwick and Manston respectively to compare the time it took to arrive and check in at both sites - claiming a victory for the Thanet site.

Save Manston group chairman Keith Churcher and Clive Crippes

And supporters turned out to watch an aircraft flypast with a campaign banner yesterday.

Save Manston chairman Keith Churcher said: "There's still hope yet.

"We are going to go out fighting until the end. Even if it closes, we will go out with our heads held high and so will the staff.

"They have acted with incredible dignity throughout."

Meanwhile, trade union Unite has urged the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to keep the site’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) license operational.

The move would keep the airport technically open after today and “more attractive to a potential buyer”.

A petition has been set up by campaigners asking for the CAA not to revoke the licence.

Unite regional officer Ian McCoulough said: “The CAA licence is critical at this eleventh hour. Without it, Manston Airport can’t function.

“We call on Patrick McLoughlin to use his powers to insist that the airport’s owners maintain the license which will make the airport more attractive to a potential buyer.

“Hard hearted is too mild a description of the management’s behaviour. We firmly believe Manston should continue as a viable airport.

“It is vital to the local economy in terms of jobs and future economic growth in the county.”

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