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Save Manston Airport group to wave posters and banners as last KLM flight leaves Thanet runway

By Mary Louis

Protestors fighting the closure of Manston Airport will wave off the last KLM flight today.

Members of the Save Manston Airport (SMA) group will gather at the airport cafe at 10am for a show of solidarity with the community and staff.

They have set up a Facebook group “Waving off last KLM plane” and will be drumming home a message emblazoned on posters, banners and T-shirts.

A KLM flight takes off from Manston airport to Schiphol in Amsterdam
A KLM flight takes off from Manston airport to Schiphol in Amsterdam

The final flight to Amsterdam is due to leave at 10.35am.

SMA are continuing their battle for the airport and have this week “blitzed” the media, stating the case for Manston Airport which they describe as “a historic site of 700 acres of currently untapped potential.”

A huge groundswell of local support for the closed Facebook Save Manston Airport group has seen its numbers rise to 2,412 in just days since news of the facility’s possible closure became public on March 19.

The group has also driven support for a petition started online by SMA founder Dan Light. It currently has nearly 14,000 signatures.

Manston airport before it closed
Manston airport before it closed

A new statement by SMA to the media at large asks: ”With the possibility of a major South East cargo facility, a business travel hub or a world-class aviation training school, many wonder why the site is earmarked for closure.”

It continues: “If the site was to be shut down, a likely prospect would be rows of ‘shoe box’ houses or yet another retail park – an undeniably devastating end to a site that defended Britain throughout both world wars and the Cold War."

Local residents are dismayed at the decision which will see 150 staff redundant and a knock-on effect on local business, trade and travel in the most deprived area of Kent.

SMA states the airport is “ripe” for additional hub connection flights, in the wake popular past summer and winter holiday flights.”

The group emphasises the location as a prime site for more extensive business opportunities, due to its location and facilities.

The Waving off Last KLM Plane Facebook group
The Waving off Last KLM Plane Facebook group

“Cargo flights are efficiently unloaded and on the road before the hold door can even be opened on the now overstretched, frantic London airports.

"Private, military and government aircraft also often use the unusually long, wide runway – such as the recent visit from The Rolling Stones last month and the planned return of Search and Rescue next year.

“The vast airport grounds can accommodate many more private aircraft as well as aviation businesses.”

"We invite further investment in the airport – there’s only one Manston Airport” - Save Manston Airport group

One suggestion was an aviation training school as a national facility for pilots, engineers and crew to learn skills the country lacked.

SMA highlighted the proposal for the airfield as a world class freight facility, relieving pressure on the London Airports, a possibility not included in the Davies Enquiry into airport capacity.

The group’s statement concluded: “With so many budding opportunities, many find it hard to believe such an important national asset could have its doors permanently shut in under a month.

"We invite further investment in the airport – there’s only one Manston Airport.”

But the boss of KLM says its business at Manston Airport is over - regardless of whether it survives.

KLM Cityhopper MD Boet Kreiken said: “We can’t leave the booking window open if they can’t guarantee operations after April 9. We can’t do business in a shaky environment.

Charles Buchanan with the first KLM flight from Manston in April 2013
Charles Buchanan with the first KLM flight from Manston in April 2013

"That’s not possible, not for the company, or our customers.”

He added: “Now it is game over; we will redeploy the aircraft. We are gone. We can’t flip-flop in and out all the time. That is not the way we work.”

The Dutch regional carrier launched services from Manston a year ago.

The protest comes a week after a consortium interested in taking over the airport withdrew its offer.

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