PRESTWICK: IT’S, ER, A NEW BROOM…

Heaven help Prestwick Airport when new chief executive Richard Jenner comes to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

Mr Jenner [pictured], an aviation specialist who spent a year as the airport’s general manager in the mid-1990s, took over as interim chief from Iain Cochrane earlier this month.

Both Cochrane and chief commercial officer Graeme Sweenie, left the business as part of a bid to revive the fortunes of the struggling government-owned airport.

Mr Jenner has been round the tracks – and how. “Veteran” hardly covers it.

He was at university back in 1963-66. He has held numerous posts, both with airports and with local authorities. One of his longest stints was 12 years as chief executive of Kilmarnock and Loudon District Council – starting his duties in 1983.

The district council was abolished 20 years ago. Only locals of a certain age can remember its existence.

It recalls the era of Strathclyde Regional Council and the hard grinding years of small municipal government. Indeed, it was an era when people could still fondly remember Kilmarnock Cross. Today the crest, honours and regalia of Kilmarnock and Loudon District are submerged within East Ayrshire Council.

Quite how such a stint banging the council gavel will help Mr Jenner overcome all the problems at Glasgow Prestwick Airport is a mystery.

But his CV does include three years as MD at both Humberside International Airport and Norwich International Airport.

His appointment is described as “interim”, though there may not be a long queue forming of permanent candidates for the loss-making airport.

Glasgow Airport chairman Andrew Miller says it “has faced many challenges over a number of years”.

“But it looks”, he added, “to strengthen existing relationships and develop new commercial links with the Ayrshire and wider Scottish business community in the coming months.”

It’s not a confidence widely shared.

Audit Scotland has said Scottish government plans to sell Prestwick Airport back to the private sector could take “some years” to be achieved. The SNP administration has so far committed to provide £25.2m in loan funding to the airport, the most exciting development this year being the arrivals of Donald Trump in his unambiguously branded plane.

Audit Scotland said it could take almost a decade before Prestwick would be able to start repaying the money. It added that the business case for the deal was based on “optimistic” passenger numbers and reckoned that latest estimates had put the required total funding up to 2021-22 at £39.6 million.

Meanwhile Tom Marshall, who represents North Ayrshire Council on Glasgow Airport’s consultative body, has publicly argued that the airport’s problems are so daunting that it should close.

He suggested that the loss of half of Ryanair’s operations and Whizz Air to Glasgow Airport demonstrated that the airport was ‘bleeding flights’. Glasgow airport, he added, could absorb all of Prestwick’s current routes with the addition of just four new members of staff.

Pressed on a radio programme on whether he felt the airport should close, Cllr Marshall said: “Yes”. A pity he was not asked on whether the glory years of Kilmarnock and District Council could be re-called.

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