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29 Jan 2020

City Airport flying high in its 90th year

As Manchester’s original and longest operating airport approaches its 90th anniversary (Wednesday, 29 January), owners of City Airport, Peel L&P, has invested £1 million into the historic airport, which will boost its Heliport facilities as well as its commercial and leisure flight capabilities over the next decade.

In the past year, there has been significant investment in the management and operation of the facility as well as the expansion of City Airport’s aircraft hangar, tripling in size, to enable additional private planes to be based at the Airport.

Currently, the Heliport, based at City Airport in Salford (formerly known as Barton Aerodrome) hosts over 3000 take off and landings each year, with plans to further bolster this side of the business with a long term vision of positioning City Airport in the same way London City serves the Capital.

City Airport Director, Nick Duriez said: “The Heliport really sets us apart from Manchester Airport and there is huge potential for growth. We are easily accessible for all commercial, sporting and entertainment venues across Greater Manchester and our discreet location is very attractive to many of our high-profile customers. Visitors can be in the heart of the UK’s second city within 10 minutes.”

“However, to reach its full potential we have a vision, with Peel L&P’s support, to refurbish the pilot and passenger lounge facilities within the main building as well as improve fuel facilities and helicopter and parking areas.”

City Airport, which was the first licensed airfield in the UK when it opened on 29 January 1930, and later the Heliport, in 2012, has become a thriving aviation hub occupied by 24 aviation-led businesses, employing almost 150 people. It is also home to the North West Air Ambulance Charity.

As well as business hub, City Airport has also become a popular leisure attraction which drew in 200,000 visitors last year alone.

Nick added: “Since launching the Runway 26 café five years ago as well as investing in an outdoor play area, it has enabled us to attract visitors to a number of public events which we host throughout the year, as a result, we’ve seen our visitor numbers grow year on year. The control tower, which is believed to be the oldest continuously operated one in Europe, has also proved to be a point of interest to many of our visitors.”

It has also become established as a stepping stone for those pursuing a career in the aviation industry. Even Nick, who joined City Airport over 25 years ago on work experience, has worked his way through the ranks to become Airport Director: “We have seen many hundreds of young people starting their aviation careers here and go on to become air traffic controllers and commercial airline pilots. We also have a comprehensive educational programme to inspire young people to consider a career in aviation. There are many varied jobs in the industry that many young people are not aware of and we educate them on the opportunities available to them.”

Despite, being the first licensed airfield in the UK, City Airport’s long-term fate was sealed on 25 July 1934 when KLM visited the site as a potential new UK base to operate from. However, the site wasn’t considered large enough to accommodate the rapid growth in aircraft size at that time. It was at this point Ringway, now known as the location of Manchester International Airport, was earmarked.

Councillor Roger Jones, Executive Support for Transport at Salford City Council, said: “We’re proud of the many firsts to come out of Salford and City Airport is no exception. As the UKs first purpose-built municipal airport with the oldest and continually running control tower it is an important part of Salford’s heritage and in its 90th year it continues to bring a wealth of commercial and social value to the area.”