The History and Future of Manston Airport

The History and Future of Manston Airport

Manston, Kent International Airport – more commonly known as Manston Airport – is an English airport with a long history dating all the way back to World War I.

Although Manston has been non-operational since May 2014, it is expected to resume operations by 2025. So, what does the future have in store for this stalwart of British aviation?

A Look Back

Manston Airport saw its first operational landing in March 1916, when Lt. Horace Austin Buss set his biplane down after the failed pursuit of a Zeppelin airship. It soon became clear that the location near the Kent coast made it the perfect place for an airfield.

On 29 May 1916, the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Station) Manston became fully operational, and an important base for fighter aircraft engaged with home defence.

In 1917, Manston played a crucial role in defending English soil from Gotha bomber raids – the last of which took place on 22 August of that year. A plane flown by Lt Arthur Frank Brandon took down a Gotha, which crashed near to the Manston airfield – the first ever crash of an enemy aircraft on English soil. Two more Gotha bombers were downed that day in what some refer to as the ‘first Battle of Britain’; this raid was the last daylight attack on English soil for the remainder of the war.

Manston also played an important role during World War II. The airfield was expanded and improved, with the construction of three new runways and numerous hangars and other buildings. Such was its significance Prime Minister Winston Churchill personally visited the site. A crucial base for fighter aircraft defending against German bombing raids in the Battle of Britain, Manston endured heavy damage, but was nonetheless operational throughout the war.

After the end of World War II, Manston Airport was used for cargo by various airlines, including British United Airways and Channel Express. In the 1990s, the airport was purchased by a private company and expanded its operations with the offer of passenger flights to several destinations across Europe.

However, with a decline in passenger numbers and airlines cutting back routes, Manston began experiencing financial difficulties in the 2000s. The airport was sold to a new owner in 2013 but was closed a year later after collapsing into administration. It seemed the end – but was it?

What’s Manston Airport Being Used For Today?

In February 2022, Manston became a processing facility for immigrants arriving to the UK in small boats. It was intended to process between 1000 to 16000 people per day, but hit the headlines in October when it was revealed over 4,000 people were being held there, often for lengthy periods of time and many in tents, due to a lack of other accommodation. In November 2022, the Home Office moved all migrants from Manston into alternative accommodation.

Looking to the Future

 In July 2019, Manston Airport’s new owner RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) suggested that flight operations may resume by 2022 for short-haul and cargo flights. Perhaps partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, these plans were delayed.

In August 2022, RSP announced that it had received a Development Consent Order from the Department for Transport. It confirmed that flights are expected to resume in early 2025.

“After more than five long years of detailed scrutiny, RSP is delighted to confirm that it has finally received the redetermined Development Consent Order, from the Department for Transport, for its plans to invest up to £500 million in the potential of Manston Airport, in Kent,” RSP said in a statement.

“The DCO will make it possible for RSP to provide much needed air freight capacity in the South East, help alleviate long term overcrowding in the London airport system and ease road congestion caused by lorries carrying freight through the channel tunnel to European airports.”

Manston airport has a lot of potential for short-haul and cargo flights in southern England, not only due to its illustrious history but because it is an excellent base for such operations. Its location in Kent makes it a strategic site for cargo flights, as it is close to both London and the Channel Tunnel – the perfect gateway to Europe. The airport is also easily accessible both by road and rail, making it an attractive option for businesses relying on efficient transportation networks.

With its well-established infrastructure – from runaways to hangars to taxiways – it does not require huge amounts of time and money to get everything up and running again, and its three runways allow it to handle a high volume of flights and cargo.

Overall, Manston Airport’s reopening brings additional choice for businesses seeking chartered cargo flights.

With extensive knowledge of the charter market, Airmacs Aviation is on hand to help connect cargo shippers to the best available aircraft for charter, saving time, negotiating the best prices, and offering world-class logistics coordination services. Contact us to find out more.

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