Riveroak seeks licence for Manston reopening

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Manston Airport before it was closed in 2014

US-based private equity firm RiverOak Strategic Partners says is to start to secure Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) approval for its plan to reopen Manston Airport and that the gateway could reopen in 2022 to cargo and passenger flights.

The CAA approval is in addition to the Development Consent Order (DCO) from the regional planning authorities. CAA approval will cover issues such as airspace and procedures to enable safe and efficient operations at the airport.

Despite having one of the longest runways in the UK, debt-ridden Manston closed in 2014 after it was sold by then-owners the Infratil investment fund to transport magnate Ann Gloag for £1. A majority stake was later sold to property developer Stone Hill Park, which had planned to develop it for non-aviation uses.

However, Manston’s sale to RiverOak could lead to its reopening as an airport. In its heyday, Manston handled regular and charter freight flights as well as a scheduled KLM passenger service. Its closeness to mainland Europe made it a popular airport among all-cargo operators seeking a base away from congested and costly London airports. Although it is about 70 miles from the capital, roads have been improved and there is continuous dual carriageway up to the M25 London orbital motorway. RiverOak says that its market research indicates that Manston could once again become a major cargo hub with an estimated market of close on 200,000 tonnes a year.