Within the next few weeks, Manston Airport in South East Kent will play host to two of the world’s most advanced passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
British Airways takes delivery of its first 2 Dreamliners on consecutive days at the end of June, followed by the first of its A380s at the start of July. Before either aircraft can go into full operational service however, the airline needs to go through a rigorous process of staff training and familiarisation.
Heathrow is already full, and Gatwick would present difficulties, while Manston, an ex RAF base, has one of the longest runways in the UK and plenty of space for the airline to operate. Commenting on their choice of airport, Dave Thomas, head of flight training at British Airways had this to say: “Manston offers ideal facilities for our programme. We are looking forward to working with the staff who have been very helpful throughout the preparation period.”
A clearly delighted Charles Buchanan, chief executive of the airport, echoed these sentiments: “We are thrilled that the UK’s leading airline chose Manston as the place to carry out its entry into service programme. Essentially, this means that training for both the pilots and cabin crew will be taking place over three weeks with the aircraft departing from here once or twice a day and also staying overnight.”
Anyone who has ever been to Manston will know that viewing aircraft there is pretty straightforward and we can therefore reasonably expect the arrival of these two groundbreaking aircraft to attract more people to the airport than currently use it for passenger services – currently limited to a double daily KLM service to Amsterdam.
British Airways has 12 A380s on order as well as 42 787s. The first scheduled A380 service commences on 15th October between Heathrow & Los Angeles, followed on 15th November by flights between Heathrow & Hong Kong. So far British Airways have made no announcement as to where the first 787s will fly although the expectation is that it will be somewhere in the US.