Kent International Airport

Kent International Airport
Manston - Kent's International Airport
Manston Airport, Kent International Airport
Airport type Public
Owner Infratil
Operator Kent International Airport
Location Manston, Kent
Elevation AMSL 178 ft / 54 m
Coordinates 51°20′32″N 001°20′46″E / 51.34222°N 1.34611°E / 51.34222; 1.34611Coordinates: 51°20′32″N 001°20′46″E / 51.34222°N 1.34611°E / 51.34222; 1.34611
EGMH is located in Kent
Location in Kent
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 2,752 9,029 Asphalt/Concrete
Statistics (2010)
Movements 16,260
Passengers 25,813
Sources: UK AIP at NATS[1]
Statistics from the UK Civil Aviation Authority[2]

Manston - Kent's International Airport (IATA: MSEICAO: EGMH) is an airport located at Manston in the District of Thanet within Kent, England, 11 NM (20 km; 13 mi) northeast of Canterbury. It was formerly called RAF Manston (a Royal Air Force airfield), and was also known as London Manston Airport.[3] The single runway is located about 1-mile (1.6 km) from the coastline at 178 ft (54 m) above sea level and is 2,752 m (9,029 ft) long.



At the outset of the Great War, the Isle of Thanet was equipped with a small and precarious landing strip for aircraft at St Mildreds Bay, Westgate, on top of the chalk cliffs, at the foot of which was a promenade which had been used for seaplane operations.

The landing grounds atop the cliff soon became the scene of several accidents, with at least one plane seen to fail to stop before the end of the cliffs and tumble into the sea, which, fortunately for the pilot, had been on its inward tide.

In the winter of 1915-1916, these early aircraft began to use the open farmlands at Manston as a site for emergency landings. Thus was established the Admiralty Aerodrome at Manston. Not long after, the training school, set up originally to instruct pilots in the use of the new Handley Page bombers, was established; so by the close of 1916 there were already two distinct units stationed at Manston: the Operational War Flight Command and the Handley Page Training School.

Its location near the Kent coast gave Manston some advantages over other aerodromes, and regular additions in men and machinery were soon made, particularly, in early days, from Detling. By 1917 the Royal Flying Corps was well established and taking an active part in the defence of England.

In the Second World War, after an eventful Battle of Britain during which Manston was heavily bombed, Barnes Wallis used the base to test his bouncing bomb on the coast at nearby Reculver prior to the Dambusters raid.[4]

Hawker Typhoon and Meteor squadrons were both based at Manston during the Second World War. Being close to the front-line and having a long and broad runway, the airfield became something of a magnet for badly damaged planes that had suffered from ground fire, collisions or air attack but retained a degree of airworthiness. The airfield also became a "graveyard" for heavy bombers and less-damaged aircraft, offering spare parts for allied aircraft in need of repair. The museums on site display some startling aerial views dating from this era and the post-war years.

During the Cold War of the 1950s, the United States Air Force used Manston as a Strategic Air Command base for its fighter and fighter-bomber units.

The USAF withdrew from Manston in 1960, and the airfield became a joint civilian and RAF airport, employed for occasional package tour and cargo flights, alongside its continuing role as an RAF base. The Air Cadets used the northern side of the airfield as a gliding site, and an Air Experience Flight flying De Havilland Chipmunks was based there. Thanks to its broad long runway, (built during the Second World War, along with Woodbridge's, to allow returning damaged bombers a longer than usual runway to land on), Manston was used as a diversionary airfield for emergency military and civilian landings.

From 1989 Manston became Kent International Airport, and a new terminal was opened by the Duchess of York. A number of charter flights operated by Dan-Air to Palma (Mallorca) were introduced on a Saturday using their BAC One Eleven during the summer season. Aviogenex the Yugoslavian carrier at the time operated a number of regular charters to the then popular beach resorts of the former Yogoslavia on behalf of the now defunct Yugotours.

It is also allegedly listed by NASA, although never used, as an emergency diversionary landing strip for the Space Shuttle programme. However, RAF Fairford is currently the only site in the United Kingdom listed as an emergency landing site.[5][6]

Since 1990

After an absence of regular charter services, Aspro Holidays operated a series of summer charter services during the 1992/3 summer season with its in-house airline Inter European Airways to Palma (Mallorca) and continued by adding an additional service to Heraklion (Crete) which was often operated using their larger Boeing 757 airliner. Flights continued until Aspro Holidays was taken over by the then Airtours Holiday group, at which point these flights ceased. The early 90's also see weekly flights to Larnaca (Cyprus) with then specialist operator Cypriana Holidays were introduced using Eurocypria shared with the inbound flight operating via Norwich as a split load. This service continued for approximately two summer seasons before Cypriana Holidays went into administration.

Manston is now a commercial airport. In 1998, Thanet District Council produced the Isle of Thanet local plan which recognised the economic development potential of abandoned parts of the old military airfield, particularly on its north-western edge.

After the plan was published, the Ministry of Defence announced plans to sell off RAF Manston. After a ruling by the British Labour Government's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown -- instructing government departments to generate money by the sale of surplus assets following the example of the Thatcher government -- the Ministry of Defence sold the site.

Following the RAF's departure, local MP, Dr. Stephen Ladyman opposed the decision to sell the base to a property developer (Wiggins Group PLC). The ministry sold the site at the end of March 1999 for £4.75m. The airfield comprises 700 acres (2.8 km2).

Kent International Airport was initially a 38 acres (150,000 m2) civilian area within the former RAF Manston including the existing terminal building and an apron where passengers embark and the largest of freighters may be loaded. The runway however, is not included within this enclave. In 1988 the owners of Kent International Airport negotiated a 125-year legal agreement with the RAF obliging the Air Force to maintain the runway, the air traffic control and to provide ongoing emergency services. The cost of providing runway maintenance, air traffic control and Fire and Rescue services had been estimated at up to £3m per annum by the MoD.

The RAF faced a compensation claim of £50-100 million if they then closed the base and terminated their earlier agreement with Kent International Airport. The Wiggins Group, therefore, purchased the Kent International Airport and inherited the legal agreement obliging the RAF to continue maintenance of the airfield. Within six months, the RAF announced that they were leaving the airfield; Wiggins, as successful bidders, then purchased the remainder of the airfield.

Picturesque private aircraft based here include a Boeing Stearman . Two museums can be found on the northern edge of the airfield, providing a glimpse of the aerodrome's military heritage.

Fokker 100 of EU Jet on arrival from Manchester on 31 March 2005

Rapid development began in 2004 in an attempt to make it a budget airline hub and an Irish airline EUjet formed in 2002 began scheduled flights in September 2004 to destinations such as Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin with a small fleet of Fokker 100 airliners. Car parking areas were built and a direct coach service from Bluewater via Chatham was instituted to support this enterprise, which follows the low fare, no-frills, web-marketing style pioneered by Ryanair in the UK. On 26 July 2005 all EUjet operations were suspended along with all non-freight operations at the airport due to financial difficulties with the airport and airline's owner PlaneStation. Their business plan was ambitious and their bankers had lost patience, causing both businesses to fail and leading to many passengers being stranded abroad. Infratil, a Wellington, New Zealand based company subsequently bought the airport interest from the administrators.

A 1993 report from the Department of Trade and Industry examined runway capacity in South East England and found that Manston was unsuitable for development as a major airport considering its proximity to the town. However the sale went against the local council's plan at a loss of about £65,000,000.

In December 2003 the government issued a White Paper on "The Future of Air Transport", in which it states that Manston "could play a valuable role in meeting local demand and could contribute to regional economic development." The government would support development in principle, "subject to relevant environmental considerations".[7]

The airport and runway were also used for the making of the James Bond film Die Another Day, when the airport was transformed into a North Korean airbase

Since 2005

On 26 July 2005 London Manston Airport Plc went into liquidation. Operations were temporarily suspended, along with Manston's air traffic zone and radar services, until a new buyer could be signed-up. A sale of Manston to Infratil (owner of Glasgow Prestwick Airport) was completed on 26 August 2005.[8]

One year later, in July 2006, a charter route between Manston, and Norfolk, Virginia was announced and was scheduled to begin service in 2007 but has since been cancelled due to low bookings. It was to be operated by tour operator Cosmos, in conjunction with Monarch Airlines.

Luxembourg based Cargolux started flying for Ghana Airways from Accra to Kent International on 17 April 2007.

Charter flights were operated from Manston by Seguro Travel Limited, trading as "Kent Escapes". The 2007 Kent Escapes flights were operated by Sky Wings using a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 until August. Seguro then swapped operators due to problems. From 16 August the flights were taken over by bmi for a period. At the end of the season flights were operated by Futura, a Spanish based airline using the Boeing 737.[9] Futura Airlines ceased trading during September 2008 leading to Seguro Travel in turn ceasing to trade on 10 September 2008.[10]

Cargo airline DAS Air Cargo used a maintenance hangar at the airport and were taken over by Continental Aviation Services in November 2007. The facility was used for maintenance on their own aircraft as well as those of World Airways, Omni Air International, Gemini Air Cargo and Avient Aviation but they themselves went into administration in early 2009. AvMan Engineering Ltd took over the hangar a few months after. AvMan Engineering have CAA approval to work on BAe-146 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft as well as the engines on both types.

The RAF Manston History Museum is still on the site, as is the Spitfire and Hurricane memorial.

On 15 February 2010, airport CEO Matt Clarke and Flybe Head of PR and Public Affairs, Niall Duffy announced a daily service operated by Flybe from Manston to Edinburgh, Kirkwall and Sumburgh, Belfast and Manchester. The services, starting on May 27 is the first daily scheduled route at Manston since the collapse of EU Jet in 2005. Dash-8Q400 aircraft will be used on the services. Air Southwest announced seasonal charter services to Jersey, which will operate every Saturday using Dash-8 aircraft. The FlyBe services to Kirkwall and Sumburgh will first be operated by the once daily flight to Edinburgh and then be operated by Loganair to the onward destinations.

Polar Helicopters are based at Kent International Airport and have their own hangar near the cargo terminal. They operate a small fleet of helicopters for charter and VIP services.

Lithuanian charter operator Small Planet Airlines are operating a number of services to Dubrovnik, Naples, Porto, Funchal (Madeira) and Verona (Including the Venetian Riviera) from Kent International on behalf of Newmarket Holidays for the 2011 season using Boeing 737 aircraft. Recently announced are some selected departures in the Summer months to Funchal (Madeira) with specialist operator Atlantic Holidays to be operated by the established UK charter airline Monarch Airlines using their Airbus A320 aircraft. Madeira has become a firm favorite over the last few years from Kent International Airport and it is hoped that further frequent departures will be added for the Summer 2012 season owing to its popularity. It is also hoped that an established tour operator could be sought for Summer 2012 to add further departures to the likes of Palma (Mallorca), Faro (Portugal), Malta, Corfu, Cyprus and Turkey using 'W pattern' or foreign based charter operators on a frequent weekly basis. Iran Air will use Manston as a fuel stop for flight 710 from Heathrow to Tehran, due to fuel disputes in London.[11][12][13][14][15][16][17]


Manston has only one runway with its flight path directly crossing Ramsgate, a seaside resort of some 40,000 residents. The town is situated about 1 km (0.62 mi) from the eastern end of the runway. To one side of the runway lies the village of Cliffsend where housing stands within 200 m (660 ft) of the runway. Manston village stands to the north east of the passenger terminal.

Manston and the other UK Infratil-owned airport, continue to run at a loss. In May this year, following Infratil's annual report, it was reported in the New Zealand press that 'Infratil's European Airports' losses grew from £9million to £11 million in the preceding year'.[18]

Airlines and destinations

= denotes charter airlines and their destinations

Airlines Destinations
Cityjet Seasonal: Jersey
Flybe Edinburgh
Tor Air Seasonal: Dubrovnik, Naples, Verona, Porto

Cargo airlines

Airlines Destinations
Air Charter Express Various
Air Ghana Various
Allied Air Various
Cargolux Nairobi, Accra, Luxembourg
EgyptAir Cargo Cairo, Nairobi
ULS Airlines Cargo Istanbul

Accidents and incidents

  • On 18 September 1948,[19] a RAF de Havilland Mosquito crashed during an air show being held at RAF Manston, killing both crew and ten members of the public.[20]
  • On 11 August 2010, Douglas DC-8-63F YA-VIC of Kam Air suffered a tailstrike on take-off from Kent International Airport, destroying an approach light.[21] The aircraft was operating an international cargo flight from Manston to Buenos Aires, Argentina via the Cape Verde Islands. The incident was caused by the aircraft being overweight, due to excess fuel having been uploaded, making the aircraft 25,700 pounds (11,700 kg) overweight. After being informed of the tailstrike, the crew continued the flight to the Cape Verde Islands, where inspection revealed that a tailstrike had occurred, although the tailstrike indicator was within limits. The incident was investigated by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which made four safety recommendations. A direct result of the incident, Kam Air were banned from operating within the European Union. The three crew involved were dismissed, and Kam Air announced that it would withdraw its two DC-8s from service.[22]

See also


  1. ^ Manston - EGMH
  2. ^ UK Airport Statistics: 2007 - annual
  3. ^ London Manston Airport shown on an Ordnance Survey map from 2005
  4. ^ Aircraft of World War II
  5. ^ Space Shuttle Emergency Landing Sites
  6. ^ [Source: Kent aviation: Roy Humphreys]
  7. ^ UK Department for Transport, The Future of Air Transport White Paper, (Dec 2003), paragraph 11.99.
  8. ^ Manston Airport Sold to Infratil
  9. ^ Holiday company terminates Sky Wings contract
  10. ^ Statement from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Bradley, Grant (18 May 2011). "Infratil revs up earnings after Shell acquisition". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "12 Killed at Air Display" The Times (London). Monday, 20 September 1948. Issue 51181, col F, p. 4.
  20. ^ Ingleton, Roy (2010). Kent Disasters. Barnsley: Pen & Sword. pp. pp117-19. 
  21. ^ Hradecky, Simon (12 May 2011). "Report: Kam Air DC86 at Manston on Aug 11th 2010, tail strike on takeoff". The Aviation Herald. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  22. ^ "YA-VIC". Air Accidents Investigation Branch.,%20YA-VIC%2005-11.pdf. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 

External links

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