It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is nearly over. York Aviation will be publishing the second half of their report, supporting Manston’s hare-brained notion that night flights will be the saving of the airport, and Thanet, and probably most of Kent.
The first part of York Aviation’s report (supposedly) dealt with the economic and employment benefits of Manston getting busy – that was the carrot. The second part will cover the threat to Manston if it doesn’t get the go-ahead for night flights – this is the stick.
York Aviation is an aviation lobbying group, and makes a living by coming up with numbers that make airlines and airports happy. It appears that they came up with the “thousand jobs per million passengers” nonsense that is unquestioningly trotted out to the press by Paul Carter and Charles Buchanan. When they’re asking the Government for handouts, however, the numbers are suddenly very different (because they know their claims would be critically scrutinised). When they were asking for their £10m handout earlier this year, they stated categorically that Manston could handle 750,000 passengers a year, and twice the tonnage of freight it currently handles, with just 23 extra staff. Yes, that’s right: twenty-three.
Here’s a forecast of my own: tomorrow’s offering from York Aviation will be another shining example of Alice Through The Looking Glass maths. The Yorkies have said that adding a million passengers would create a thousand jobs. Given that Manston currently carries about 30,000 passengers a year, how many jobs would be subtracted if they didn’t carry any? Using dull, old-fashioned, calculator maths the answer is about 33 jobs. Using Yorkie maths, I expect the number will be much larger. Alarmingly larger.
I expect the Yorkies will present night flights as being a deal-breaker, the critical element that will allow Manston to deliver its (literally) fantastic Master Plan, with its projected millions of passengers and supposedly inevitable thousands of jobs. (In fact, the Master Plan makes no mention of any need for scheduled night flights – it only mentions the need for a mechanism to deal with the occasional delayed late arrival, which is already catered for in the S106 agreement.)
Setting this against the backdrop of the employment disaster of Pfizer’s closure, York Aviation (doubtless aided and abetted by Manston’s PR agency, Maxim) will seek to present Thanet District Council with the “choice” of granting night flights, or destroying Kent’s economy for years to come. Of course, this is not a corner that TDC wants to be painted into. The reason TDC marked Manton’s last application “return to sender”, and cancelled the public consultation on the very day it was due to start, was that the application was simply too vague and opaque for anyone to make any sense of. As Cllr Bayford said at the time:
I believe that, before residents have their say, they need to know more detail and have a full understanding of exactly how many aircraft movements are being discussed. That information is difficult to gauge from the proposals that have been put to us, partly because of its technical nature and this needs further work. I also believe that the proposed upper level of activity is too high and needs to be reconsidered. I am not prepared to start a public consultation until these issues have been resolved. I am pleased to say that the airport has agreed to review these issues.
That was 1st November 2010. Since then, Manston has conspicuously failed to produce any clarification of its numbers, or to “reconsider” them. If night flights really are that important to the airport’s future, surely Manston would have put every effort into striking a workable compromise at the earliest opportunity.