Thursday, May 08, 2014

Big Bird in Dubai

Arriving in Dubai
I've been watching the news from Manston in Dubai this week and with a seven hour flight ahead of me, on-board a giant Emirates A380, I may as well tap-out my thoughts before settling down to watch a film or two. In fact, I can't fault the Emirates service. It had been showing signs of wear last time I came this way but it's now back to its highest standards and sits well above our European caririers; BA included.

Yesterday, I 'Tweeted' that many people in Ramsgate, appear to imagine the demise of the airport will lead to some economic and property-value renaissance. This provoked a small wave of outrage but when I read some of the daft ideas and suggestions floating about on Twitter, I can live with the hostility that goes with being both a councillor and a pilot.

World's Tallest Building
Many readers will understand that the council is not in the development business but there are those out there who firmly believe, that released from the worry surrounding the future of Manston, Thanet District Council will wave some kind of magic wand and perhaps turn Ramsgate into Kent's vision of Monaco; perhaps by collecting all the loose change that may have fallen between the cushions of everyone's sofas on the island?

My own views are firmly on the record here. They have nothing to do with my being a pilot and everything to do with being a local councillor, familiar with the struggling local economy. I am deeply concerned for the future prospects of the island, should it lose one of its few remaining economic assets of an international scale; loss making or not.

Simon Moores Learning to Fly the A380
The island's economy is a complex one, made more so by relatively high levels of unemployment, disability and acute welfare dependency in six pockets around Thanet. Ramsgate and Margate are large pieces of an even bigger puzzle which involves addressing the need for regeneration with dwindling budgets. Closing Manston may be good news for some but based on the public reaction in the last month, it's a rather less attractive prospect to many more and as Mrs Gloag owns the airport, there's very little anyone else can do, politicians included, to tell her how she should run her business.

Young Shoppers at the Dubai Mall
don't believe the final chapter in Manston's history has been written quite yet and until gangs of men with pick-axes start breaking-up the runway I will try and remain the optimist. The national economy is growing again and air travel is high on the agenda. It would be sad indeed if the people of Thanet lost an opportunity that's time had almost come.

While in Dubai, I managed to grab some time in an Emirates A380 simulator. It was a lot of fun practising a series of instrument approaches into Heathrow's RW27 in low visibility but you have to stay well ahead of the aircraft when attempting to manoever something as big as an A380; it doesn't quite throw itself around the sky like my own much smaller 'White van' of an aircraft that I spend so much time in.

Time to Board the Emirates A380 Home
Wandering around Dubai's big shopping mall, complete with seaquarium and ice-rink, I wonder what people do when they have run out of luxury items to buy.  A cappuccino and a slice of cake at £12, was quite enough for me, while I waited on one of the stores to neatly shrink-wrap a duty free Bentley, to add to my modest hold luggage for the trip home

It's a big weekend of football ahead but with the weather forecast as it stands, I think fans and advertisers together, will be lucky to see banner aircraft over three end of season matches. Tomorrow, I'm booked all afternoon over the Cunard ships at Southampton and I'm fearing a repeat of last year's conditions, which proved near impossible; there's a sobering video up on YouTube.

More thoughts perhaps over the weekend.

15 comments:

William Epps said...

Simon, despite the gloom over Manston the blogs have become amusing reading as that small brigade of airport haters have heralded the new tomorrow for Ramsgate. You mentioned the property price boom that is too be expected, but the one that got me was the idea that Ramsgate is somehow to emerge as the new Dartmouth. Michael, neutral as ever, having stated his preference for a regional airport has added pollution risks to his night flight hysteria.

How people can disregard the loss of 150 jobs at the airport and around another 400 in Thanet that depend on the airport, beats me. Jobs is what we do not have yet some are positively chortling at this disaster whilst others dream up the new era of prosperity it is to herald.

With intellects like these around and such grasp of economic reality, one can quite see why the dear old isle fails to realise its potential.

Hope you have a great trip.

John Holyer said...

Micahel has also revelaed that River Oak is nothing more than a real estate company which intends to build houses all over Manston. He claims that Roger Gale has been hoodwinked and implies that Roger Gale cannot therefore be trusted. I cannot overlook the possibilty that Michael's assessment of the situation is coloured by the fact that Sir Roger Gale is a Conservative MP.

Michael Child said...

OK chaps I think there may be some misunderstanding here, in the first instance I am supportive of Manston as a regional airport, by this I mean an airport that you can fly from. I am also strongly supportive of the two aviation history museums at Manston and I would hope that if Manston has a future as an airport then the historic aviation there would be expanded.

The suggestion that Manston be used as an air cargo freight hub is a new one and this seems to be what Sir Roger Gale and others are saying is what RiverOak want to do with Manston.

Now in the first instance I can find no connection between RiverOak and aviation, now Sir Roger says that RiverOak are behind several of the freight hubs in the US of A, so that financing these huge businesses in America would have caused thousands of related web pages as the American media took an interest, yet Google - "RiverOak Investment Corp" freight hub - and see what comes up.

I do have some reservations about a major freight hub for environmental reasons.

At the moment Manston has no environmental permit EP despite a long and expensive public consultation on the conditions Infratil agreed with the EA, at the last moment Infratil pulled out because they said it was too expensive to become compliant.

Then there is the very new information about the background particulate air pollution particularly with the north and east of Thanet due to the prevailing wind direction, frankly we are at half the level where life expectancy is seriously affected already and a freight plane movement burns around a ton of fuel. Also Manston has no fuel pipeline, which the other major freight hubs do, so every freight fuelling would mean the fuel had to come by road tanker.

So William I don’t think I am engaged in hysteria, but I do feel that there are pollution aspects that may make the freight hub proposal unviable and John I think the problem with RiverOak is not that I have revealed that they are going to build houses there or that Sir Roger is lying, it is more that neither I nor anyone else has been able to reveal that they have any verifiable connection with aviation.

Bemused of Birchington said...

Has anybody read the press release from RiverOak? As Follows:

Manston Airport, Kent

RiverOak Investment Corp LLC of Stamford Connecticut announced on May 4, 2014 that it hadsubmitted a formal offer to acquire 100% of the shares in the company owning ManstonAirport.The offer wasconditionalonlyon an expeditedprocess of due diligence with closing anticipated by the end of May 2014.

The consideration offered is significantly higher than the entire capital investment expended by the current owner since Manston was purchased in November of last year.

RiverOak’s executives visited Manston on April 29th and travelled to Scotland to meet Mrs Gloag and her advisor on May 2nd. RiverOak currently has $350 million of assets under management with a number of operating partners and has a successful track record of turning around troubled operating and real estate assets.

In this particular project, RiverOak is the capital partner of a number of aviation operating entities specializing in aircraft maintenance and cargo operations, and principal partners at RiverOak have extensive US experience with the capital markets and debt restructuring of a number of major airport assets, one of which is a singular maintenance and cargo hub in Texas.

RiverOak has developed a long term plan to own and manage Manston as an airport in line with its investment philosophy of diversified investing in asset backed businesses. RiverOak remains committed to investing in and developing Manston as a successful diversified aviation services, cargo and potential future passenger airport facility, and values Manston as an important piece of aviation infrastructure that is very important to both Kent specifically and the United Kingdom in general.

RiverOak is distressed to learn of the announced closure of Manston today and remains willing to engage with all parties to achieve a solution which allows the airport to continue operating and preserves the jobs of its staff.

For further information or press inquiries contact Tony Freudmann at 07785 306715

John Holyer said...

Michael,

At the risk of being frank you are dissembling. You are saying nothing more than in your opinion River Oak has no discernible connection with airports and is in truth a real estate company. From this you wish me to infer that Sir Roger Gale has been remiss in his duty and has as consequence been duped. I do not believe you. Or maybe I have got you wrong; are you in fact implying that Sir Roger Gale has deceived us?

To advance your purpose you wish me to believe that should Manston become an air cargo hub then as a result we will all die an early death from pollution. I don't believe that either.

Michael Child said...

John Bemused the RiverOak website says it is a real estate company, which in America could easily mean that it made investment in airports and I have no problem with this and on its own would have rung no alarm bells with me.

The problem for me is that the press release and politicians promoting this have stated that RiverOak have already turned around aviation business in the US and are financially backing major air cargo hubs there.

American companies generally have very clear and open corporate information on their websites and the American media take a considerable interest in financial matters.

So obviously I tried using the internet to discover information about this and it isn’t there, to me this is something that is just inconceivable, it isn’t possible to finance major industries without leaving any trace on the internet. Now this rings all sorts of alarm bells with me related to the motives of this offer.

The air pollution life expectancy issue is complex, but in simple terms air pollution is linked to modern civilisation, air pollution reduces life expectancy modern civilisation increases it.

The majority of particulate air pollution in southeast England is caused by internal combustion engines and the airflow across southern England means that Thanet now has one of the highest levels of reduced life expectancy caused by this type of pollution. All of the local media have covered this in the last month.

I guess you know the normal wind direction, you probably know the diesel and jet engine fuel are the worst offenders

John Holyer said...

Michael,

First you gave me a Pleasurama endangering the hapless population by cliff falls and the raging sea, all masterminded by a dodgy property company. Now you present the sequel, Manston, complete with dodgy property company and life shortening pollution.

John Holyer said...

Simon,

At 16 I flew a Link Trainer simulator into the side of a cliff. I think this might explain why I failed - narrowly they said but I believe they were just being nice - the RAF aircrew selection tests. Still it was a great few days.

Michael Child said...

John there is a sense in this comment thread that you are trying to put words in my mouth that I think I should clarify here:

In the first comment you say I imply that Sir Roger Gale cannot be trusted, this is not the case and I have neither said nor have I implied that he isn’t trustworthy.

In your 9.24 comment you say that I have said that there is a dodgy property company involved in the efforts to save Manston Airport, I have never either said nor implied that any of the companies involved with Manston Airport are in any sense dodgy.

John Holyer said...

Michael,

As usual you dissemble. You state something which implies an impropriety and when challenged you claim that they've got you all wrong and you did not mean that at all. I recognise your technique. I suggest that if you do not mean what you say then you should say so at the outset.

Michael Child said...

John the only references to impropriety relating to saving Manston Airport appear to have been made by you here, obviously if you feel that I have implied some impropriety relating to either Sir Roger Gale or one of the companies involved then you need to tell where I have done this and what it is that I have said. Be assured if I have made some sort of error in this respect I will immediately remove or change what I have said.

John Holyer said...

No Michael, this will not do. I know that 180degee trick of yours only too well. I have not accused anyone of impropriety regarding save Manston and you know it. The Save Manston Campaign is an honest one.

I know your blogging techniques and goals and you know that I know.

William Epps said...

Let us be straight about this, if people, and there have been others as well as Michael, imply that Riveroak are just a property company, as intent on Manston for redevelopment as Ann Gloag is supposed to be, then that must cast doubts on Sir Roger's wisdom in all this. Whereas I would say that he has put up a fight for what the majority of people in Thanet want, there are those suggesting he has had the wool pulled over his eyes.

I agree with Simon in his next post, that the seeming unwillingness by the present owners to even engage in a meaningful dialogue with a prospective buyer suggests a secondary agenda. Trouble is, we may never know how genuine the airport retention intentions of Riveroak were if their offer is flatly rejected, as appears likely.

It is a sad day for Thanet as a whole, however much a small group in a part of the isle might be rejoicing at the airport's demise. One cannot help but wonder how they will feel when something worse than a bit of aircraft noise replaces it.

Michael Child said...

William I think it important to understand here that RiverOak specialise in medical, office, retail and residential real estate, so the implications would be a bit different than were the offer being made by an exclusively residential developer.

Obviously I have tried to find some connection between RiverOak and aviation and think finding one would help their case.

William Epps said...

Michael, nothing will help their case if the present owners refuse to sell to them. Certainly I would suggest Ann Gloag's only interest would be the cash on the table, not the long term plans of the buyer or their experience in any field. After all, she hardly came on the scene with a long history of running airports.