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Glasgow Prestwick Airport

(Redirected from Prestwick Airport)

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Glasgow Prestwick Airport lies 29 miles (46 km) southwest of Glasgow, however its proximity to the town of Prestwick means the shorter Prestwick Airport is generally used.

The airfield has one of the best weather records in Europe, and often remains open when other airports around the country are closed.

Originally serving as the transatlantic gateway to Scotland after World War II, its popularity declined as passenger services transferred to Glasgow (Abbotsinch). However, since being sold by the denationalised British Airports Authority in 1992 and lacking the air traffic congestion, noise and night-curfew restrictions of the city based airports, Prestwick has grown in popularity and developed as a centre for freight, holiday charter, and budget flights.

History

The history of the airport began in the 1930s, when the land was acquired by two aviation pioneers who created Scottish Aviation Ltd, and this period is described in further detail on the Scottish Aviation page.

Having been taken over by the military during World War II, the airfield was then taken over by the Government on April 1, 1946, and returned to civil operation, when it developed as a transatlantic gateway.

In 1958, the Government announced plans for a new terminal building, freight building, runway extension, control tower and loop road around the airport, intended to update and maintain the airport's operating status. The new road was needed because the main road out of Prestwick towards Monkton passed across the runway. The new control tower had been completed April 1962, and in September 1964, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, officially opened the new terminal building.

Concorde training

Concorde at 1972 air show
Concorde at 1972 air show
© Iain Farquhar

Prestwick has been been in use for pilot training ever since it opened, and was often used for training Concorde pilots, with the result that the supersonic aircraft came to be a fairly frequent sight at the airfield.

Military operations

The airfield had been taken over by the RAF when World War II began, already present in the form of RAF Prestwick where a number of flying schools were operated by Scottish Aviation for the RAF.

The US Air Force operated a Military Air Transport Service hub from the airport between 1953 and 1966.

Civil and military air traffic control

Prestwick airport is home to Scottish Air Traffic Control, rebuilt in a new and upgraded facility, due to open in 2010.

The new system, the Shanwick Automated Air Traffic System (SAATS) was developed in partnership with the Canadian air navigation service provider Nav Canada, and covers 630,000 square miles of the North Atlantic. The system is based at the Oceanic Operations Room of the present Prestwick Centre.

The Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre is under the control of Headquarters Military Air Traffic Operations (MATO) and is responsible for providing a radar service to military and civil aircraft.

Military operations

HMS Gannet is located in the northeast area of the civilian airport, where helicopters providing sonar cover for Trident submarines are sometimes based, but not as frequently as in previous decades.

The airport remains an important stopover site for American aircraft en-route to other destinations in Europe and the Middle East.

One of three Scottish UNITER Buildings was located at Prestwick, next to HMS Gannet, and was part of a secure communications network serving the RAF.

Commercial operations

The airfield is also home to a number of commercial operations. The best known and longest established having been Scottish Aviation Ltd, which operated from the former Art Deco building which was originally constructed as the Palace of Engineering for the 1938 Empire Exhibition held in Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, and was subsequently dismantled and reassembled at Prestwick in 1941. British Aerospace continued to built aircraft there until 1998, having acquired Scottish Aviation as part of a consortium in 1977. Aircraft components are still manufactured there by Spirit AeroSystems Inc of Kansas.

The Prestwick International Aerospace Park opened in 1999, and has helped maintain Prestwick as a major aircraft servicing and engineering base.

Prestwick Air Show

Avro Lancaster at 1972 air show
Avro Lancaster at 1972 air show
© Iain Farquhar

First held on September 30, 1967, Prestwick was home to a popular air show which was held every two years, until the last event took place in 1992. The prototype Concorde appeared at the 1972 show. Although the show was extremely popular, and attracted large numbers of visitors - often blocking the surrounding roads - there does not seem to have been any attempt to revive the event, until 2014. The airfield remained operational during the shows, and it was not unusual for the show to be brought to a halt as the runways wee cleared to allow an aircraft to make an emergency landing, providing an extra item for the crowds to watch as the emergency services attended.

The 1989 event, held on June 10, was marked by the loss of a historic war plane, part of the Royal Navy historic flight, in waters off Turnberry, to the south. Events at the show were brought to halt when the pilot declared an emergency after only one of the two undercarriage wheels deployed from the wings, the Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 TF956/T123 apparently having lost hydraulic power shortly after take off, probably due to a burst hydraulic pipe. Despite numerous passes, and attempts to jog the port wheel loose by bumping the other off the runway for three hours, the decision was finally taken to ditch the aircraft in the sea, and rescue the pilot after he baled out. This was considered safer than risking a crash by attempting to land the aircraft on the runway with its defective undercarriage, where the aircraft could flip and catch fire. The pilot was safely recovered, but the aircraft sank. The wreckage was recovered and taken for investigation, and although nothing could be conclusively proved, it was widely accepted that hydraulic failure had caused the loss. [1]

Air show revival 2014

In 2014, probably aided by the demise of the Leuchars Air Show following the closure of the RAF base there, news was published regarding the staging of the first air show at Prestwick since 1992, a space of 22 years.[2][3][4]

References

1 Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 TF956

2 Scottish Airshow set to fly high again after 22-year wait Retrieved May 23, 2014.

3 Scottish Airshow to return in September after 22-year absence | Glasgow & West | News Retrieved May 23, 2014.

4 Revival of Ayrshire air show confirmed - The Scotsman Retrieved May 23, 2014.

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