Anger after sickness caused temporary airport closure

Coun Jason Roberts is concerned about staffing levels at Blackpool Airport which led to a temporary shut down
Coun Jason Roberts is concerned about staffing levels at Blackpool Airport which led to a temporary shut down

Sickness is being blamed for the temporary closure of Blackpool Airport.

Stanley Ward councillor Jason Roberts is calling for changes after an air traffic control staff shortage meant Squires Gate was closed to flights on Saturday morning, with lunchtime closures planned in the weeks ahead.

Blackpool Airport aircraft were left in the hangar when they could have been flying

Blackpool Airport aircraft were left in the hangar when they could have been flying

He said: “There was blue clear sky today, over Blackpool on Saturday morning which should have been filled will pleasure flights, lessons and business general aviation movements. Instead all the aircraft were away in the hangers.

“This impacts on revenue. I also learnt today of a family travelling to the airport from Manchester to enjoy their son’s first trial lesson. They were making a weekend of it and due to stay in the town overnight too.

"As I said back in October and the summer, Resilience and Resourcing is key.

"It is time to think differently about how best to build resilience into this function and I will be asking the airport board to do just that, urgently.

“We must start getting it right if we are going to get back to full airport operation.”

Simon Menzies, from Hangar 3, said: “The consequences of these sporadic closures are extremely destructive to our business and the airport, having only recently built confidence back up since it reopened.

“It is now becoming difficult to plan future movements given we are one bout of sickness away from closures for the majority of the day, it’s a very difficult set of circumstances for ourselves and operators who have worked tirelessly over the last 12 years and especially the last three to grow a sector of volume the airport desperately needs and we now have little confidence that plans once made can be honoured.

"While we understand the position the council is in and remain supportive of them as they try to bring the management of the airport in line with both expectations and minimum requirements we are saddened that these circumstances were predicted by the majority of the tenants in February and March and the current Management Company has failed to achieve a minimum standard of manning."

Blackpool Council’s Alan Cavill, apologised for the inconvenience but said steps were being taken despite a national shortage of qualified air traffic control staff.

He said: “The temporary closure of Blackpool Airport on the morning of November 17 was unavoidable due to the short notice of staff sickness the previous night. With safety as our prime concern at all times, there was no option than to temporarily close the airport until it could be fully staffed.

“No executive flights and therefore no revenue was lost during the morning, but there was some disruption to lessons and pleasure flights and we apologise for any inconvenience that caused.

"Normal operations resumed at 2pm that afternoon. There will be some planned short closures over lunchtime periods over the coming weeks and all flights will be planned around these to avoid any disruption. Our priority is to work closely with air traffic control to ensure smooth business operations and timing of executive and military flights over the next few days.”

“Blackpool Council is committed to ensuring the long-term sustainable future of the airport with strategy and resilience at the heart of the new business plan currently being drafted for the airport’s development. The Council recently made a significant investment in a new Instrument Landing System and has managed to recruit two new air traffic control staff despite the national shortage of controllers.”