The company paid£4.5m for the former RAF airfield in 1997. It has since spent£10m trying to turn it into a civilian airport in the face of scepticism from rival airport owners and City pundits who, among other things, point out that Manston is 60 miles from London,
a journey of well over an hour by train. But Wiggins's chief executive Oliver Iny has defied his detractors by securing the CAA licence for passenger flights. 'I said when we bought Manston that it would be London's fifth airport. London's existing airports are bursting at the seams'.
The number of air passengers is growing by 7% every year, yet there is no room for expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick. Stansted and Luton have some room for growth, but that is likely to be used up in a few years' time. Neither is there any prospect of new runways being built at the existing south east hubs. BAA's plans for a fifth terminal at
Manston's big draw may be for freight flights. It has one of the longest runways in Britain enabling cargo plans to take off carrying maximum payload rather than having to accept weight restrictions. The airport has been handling freight traffic for six months and plans to
increase the number of freight flights.