The Future of Aircraft Maintenance at Prestwick Airport

We welcomed the return of our guest speaker Mike Stewart, who provided a talk on ’The Future of Aircraft Maintenance at Chevron Prestwick’.  Mike is currently Director of Maintenance at Chevron Aircraft Maintenance Ltd based at Prestwick Airport, and has a long history in the aviation industry. He started his aviation career in British Airways Engineering at Heathrow back in the late 1980s working on Concorde. Following a couple of senior roles across the airline, he became Managing Director of British Airways Regional Cargo before taking on the position of Commercial Director for WFS – Worldwide Flight Services based at Heathrow Airport.

From there he moved to Durban and Johannesburg to become Chief Operating Officer for WFS Africa, in charge of opening up a new airport operation across the continent of Africa.

Mike with David Hope and John Ewing

With his family based at home in Ayrshire, Mike came back to the UK in 2015 to take up the post of Business Development Director at Prestwick Airport, before moving to his current post as Director of Aircraft Maintenance at Chevron Prestwick in 2018.

Mike is also currently a member of the board of Ayrshire College and Vice Chair of Developing Young Workforce Ayrshire.

He began by recounting many examples of Prestwick Airport’s past including on April 3 1933 Lieut. David McIntyre and Sir Douglas Douglas-Hamilton were the first men to fly over the summit of Everest. Douglas-Hamilton and McIntyre were bankrolled by the glamorous, eccentric (and slightly scandalous) Lady Houston, and organised by Major L V Stewart Blacker, who had retired from the Royal Flying Corps and was working as an arms manufacturer. They formed Scottish Aviation at Prestwick in 1935.

Mike then explained the Atlantic Bridge flight route from GanderNewfoundlandCanada to Scotland, with a refuelling stop in Iceland. During the Second World War, new bombers flew this route. Today, it is seldom used for commercial aviation, since modern jet airliners can fly a direct route from Canada or the United States to Europe without the need for a fuelling stop. During World War 2, forty thousand aircraft used Prestwick.

Also he added, the Palace of Engineering which formed part of the Great Exhibition in Glasgow was moved to Prestwick in 1938 because of the threat of war. Heathfield retail park area as we now know it, was also very busy during WW2 repairing aircraft and to this day there is a small monument/plaque between Dreams and Costco honouring this event.

In the late 40’s, Prestwick was the busiest UK airport and one of its most famous claims to fame was the refuelling stop over by Elvis Presley’s plane on route to USA after his national service in Germany in 1960. However, the winds of change were blowing with Glasgow and Edinburgh airports becoming more popular and the loss of the Gateway status at Prestwick. Then the ill-fated Infratil ownership, a company which had never run an airport before. The writing was on the wall except for the continued support from Ryan Air for passenger traffic, said Mike.

And yet today there is a very prosperous engineering hub at Prestwick Airport with over twenty companies employing thousands of people. Unfortunately though, there is a desperate shortage of engineers and qualified personnel which means on-site companies are all competing for staff.

David Hope gate a worthy vote of thanks