Two passenger airplanes have been circling the skies above Thanet, north east Kent, for three weeks waiting for clearance to land at Manston airport, it has emerged.
PanAmanian flight BSE227A from New York and HopefulAir’s UFO97/3 from the Central African Republic have been stuck in a holding cycle over the Sunshine Isle since November 19 because of continuing wrangles over Manston’s future.
And in a dramatic bid to break the deadlock, PanAmanian’s flight captain Bob Parker made an emotional appeal for a deal to be brokered so his Boeing 747, seven staff and 347 passengers could finally land.
Fighting back tears of boredom, Capt Bob radioed this heartfelt message: “Please! Please, I call on all decent Thanet people to do what they can to settle this now. It’s purgatory up here. Three hundred and twenty seven Scooby Doo re-runs is surely enough for anybody.”
Manston’s Kent International Airport has been a global aviation hub for centuries, but was precipitately closed in May just as it was about to celebrate its 200th paying customer.
But international confidence grew that the airport would reopen when Thanet District Council and a host of local politicians stepped in to compulsorily purchase the site and restore it to its previously open but largely deserted state.
Two global airlines were so keen to use the airport that they immediately chartered flights to Manston in the certain knowledge that the runway would be ready for them by the time they arrived.
Instead, the airport purchase plan faltered and the two flights have been stuck in the air for three weeks, with only 20 gallons of spirits to relieve the tedium of the in-flight entertainment – the 12th series of Scooby Doo and The Hottie & The Nottie, featuring Paris Hilton’s film debut.
Air Traffic Control’s Roger Rodger said the whole saga has created an unusual logistical nightmare, not least because both planes have to be refuelled in mid-air at least once a day.
“We’ve been able to manage it so no one on the ground has noticed the crisis going on above,” said Rodger. “We directed the planes to refuel over Birchington, whose population is largely oblivious to the outside world.”
With negotiations ongoing, the authorities are poised for action immediately Manston reopens. All the arrivals will be treated to a selection of local delicacies – mainly cauliflowers – at a special reception party in the airport terminal, before being bussed to Gatwick, where there are reasonable transport links to London.
Meanwhile, you don’t have to wait for Manston to reopen to enjoy living next to an aviation hub, thanks to the enterprising Nott family. Based in Thanet, their new company, Nott Landing, has launched the innovative Aircraft & Aerodrome Simulator kit. Which, according to daughter Maybee, is an “experiential system offering all the authentic sights, sounds and aromas of living under the flight-path of a major international airport”.
Retailing at just £499.95, it costs a fraction of the proposed compulsory purchase order, and includes an 84-CD box set with soundtracks of all the frequent, low-flying aircraft one could wish to hear during any given week. The standard pack also includes a month’s supply of kerosine vapour spray, so aviation buffs can even do a bit of jet fuel dumping in and around their own homes.
For an extra £30, enthusiasts can choose the Superior version, which includes a barrage balloon in the shape and size of a Boeing 737. Once secured, tethered and inflated, you can let it float above your house for the genuine dwarfed-by-an-airliner effect.
And, for an additional £50, you can opt for the Premium product, which includes a four-gun, radio-controlled kerosine spray system. It might sound complicated, but setting it up is simplicity itself: just place each loaded kerosine gun in a different corner of your garden, insert CD1 in your music centre, turn up the volume, press play … et voila!
Maybee’s brother, Rhatha, has used the Premium kit at his home near Ellington Park, Ramsgate, for the last two months.
“It’s just like living by Heathrow,” he said, “particularly since I spent £15,000 on a new stereo system, complete with floor-to-ceiling speakers and sub-woofers. Now I get the full vibrational impact of each and every passing aircraft. Nice!
“Admittedly, we did have a few teething problems, most notably on syncing the kerosine guns with the CD player. Fortunately, we quickly sorted that out. Now, when I’m out in the garden with the wife and kids and we hear a plane approaching, we know we’ve got three seconds to run for cover.”
However, sleep deprivation and jet fuel poisoning haven’t diminished Rhatha’s love of his five-minutely aviation interludes.
“On the minus side,” he said, “I still have to go downstairs three or four times a night to change the CD – although, obviously, if we actually had a busy airport nearby, we wouldn’t get any sleep at all. So that’s okay.
“But on the plus side, I don’t have to worry about the gardening any more as I no longer have any weeds, and my lawn, flower beds, shrubs and trees are all dead.”