Monday, February 15, 2010
If you've wondered why I've been a little quiet over the last few days, I've had a weekend of flying Valentine's marriage proposals followed by the recovery of a 'marooned aircraft from Lydd this morning and a visit to the new community radio station, Academy FM, at the Marlowe Academy in the afternoon.
Over at the far end of the earth, at Lydd, it was -2c with lots of snow still about and an almost alpine scene towards Ashford and Challock. There's still the threat of a little more snow during the week ahead which I'm sure most of us could do without.
I'm delighted to see the news that Flybe will be operating a new scheduled service out of Kent International at Manston, which will start in May. I did know about this but it was strictly embargoed until today and all credit to Matt Clarke at Infratil for his work in convincing Flybe to use our airport at this most difficult time in the history of the aviation industry. Lydd is of course an excellent local airport as well, with huge investment having been poured into it but it's just so difficult to get to without a decent rail link; the trains stopping at Ashford. Manston has so many more benefits but its position is always going to be a challenge as it has a fifty degree view of the rest of Kent, with the sea and Ramsgate harbor at its back.
When EUjet was operating out of Manston, a great many people I know found the service as useful as I did and I recall one ninety minute period between leaving the runway at Dublin and making a cup of tea back at home again in Westgate. However, EUjet arguably had the wrong aircraft for the job, the Fokker 100 and tried too many routes too quickly and over-ambitiously. I'm sure that any new entrant will have learned from EUjet's mistakes and perhaps in the not too distant future, we'll see Flybe branching out further afield into Europe.
I've my own pipe dream, in that I believe there's an opportunity for a summer season shuttle between Manston and Le Touquet, copying the Le Touquet and Jersey service that already exists at Lydd. I once did a day on the service as co-pilot, writing it up for a magazine - see Jonathan Gordon of Lydd Air pictured - and I'm convinced it has potential. The French would love the idea – I know the Managing Director of the airport there - and I think it would be a great draw for Thanet as well; particularly when the Turner Contemporary opens its doors. I haven't given-up on the concept yet and so maybe one day we might be able to convince someone to make the not inconsiderable investment in such a service for lunch or a weekend at 'Paris Plage' as our grandparents might have done before the Second World War.