‘Held Hostage’ the story told in Pilot magazine of one pilot’s battle with Sutton Harbour Holdings, owners of Plymouth Airport, to get them to release his aircraft after an emergency landing has turned the spotlight back on the company and rekindled the campaign to have the airport reopened.
Martin Ferid was trapped in the area by unexpected bad weather and decided that his only option was to make a precautionary landing at Plymouth Airport, which has been disused for several years after the owners had declared its operation was not economically viable. ‘The sense of relief at getting down safely was like a weight being lifted,’ he wrote in Pilot magazine. ‘Little did I know that I had landed in hot water.’
His initial reception by the security guard on duty was friendly and Martin was even able to make an attempt to continue his flight when the weather improved briefly. However, the conditions were still too poor, even for this experienced pilot and instructor – so he quickly returned to Plymouth. Following the arrival of ‘a furious supervisor’ the situation deteriorated rapidly, Sutton Harbour Holdings not only telling Mr Ferid that he would not be allowed to collect his Jodel aircraft but that the matter was now in the hands of their solicitors. A concrete block was placed in front of the aircraft, to prevent it being moved. ‘Bewildered by their attitude, I felt like I’d fallen into the hands of eastern bloc communists,’ commented Martin.
It was only after a protracted and determined campaign by aviation organisations including AOPA (the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) and the LAA (Light Aircraft Association) that Mr Ferid was finally able to fly out from the airport. The story is told in full in the January 2016 edition of Pilot magazine and continues to be covered by the local press: