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Flying visit

A tour of Manchester airport doesn't just offer glamour and dream holidays, says David Bocking. Students can examine a flight deck and find a range of useful information for business studies

Being Manchester, there's only one way to illustrate the scale of the airport. "Have any of you been to Old Trafford?" asks tour guide Frank Lowe. "The capacity of Old Trafford is about 66,000, and that's our daily number of passengers." The 14 and 15-year-olds add this to a growing list of facts and figures in their notebooks. "We've got 518 flights today, but we often have 650, and sometimes 900. The maximum was 1,200 in a single day, when there was an Inter Milan v Juventus fixture."

Frank Lowe can go on like this for hours. A former headteacher, he's also a long-standing aviation enthusiast. He talks about the new double-deck A380 which will soon be flying to Manchester, that this is the third biggest airport in the UK, the ninth biggest in Europe and the 40th biggest in the world, and adds that the average spend in one of the airport's 12 WH Smith's outlets is pound;7.99.

The GCSE applied business studies students, from St Matthew's RC High School, Moston, are comparing two of the city's famous businesses. They've already been to the football ground, and now they scribble away as Frank details the 57-year-old airport's ownership structure (10 local councils), revenue sources, aims and objectives, and running costs, and the plan to increase passenger numbers from 21 million per year to 30 million by 2012.

"I've been before to fly out, but I was surprised how many people come here," says 14-year-old Philip Melia. "The comparison to Manchester United is useful. This is a lot bigger and relies on technology more."

The airport has operated an education office for more than 10 years. A recently acquired DC10 aircraft has been chopped in two, so students can examine a real interior, including the flight deck. And it's hoped that more trips can be arranged into the airport's Concorde, once the issue of potential harm to the leather interior has been resolved.

The educational provision is based at the tour centre in Terminal 1, and the education office run by Janet Fahie. There are curriculum-based packs for primary and secondary schools and seminars for teachers who want to draw on the airport as a resource. "There's maths, science, English, numeracy, literacy, geography, history and business-related topics," she says. "It's like a mini city, with 18,000 people working here. It's exciting because it's quite a glamorous environment."

After the lesson from the tour guide, there's a short promotional video which shows 300 different jobs, then an airport tour which can be adapted for different courses and classes. Cleaners and retailers are discussed as the children walk round the concourse and visit the multi-faith prayer rooms. Every so often a pair of police officers stroll past, armed with submachine guns, prompting a few words from Frank on the economic effects of terrorism.

"Coming on a visit makes the airport much more interesting," says business studies teacher Ruth Rushton. "It was tailored to our course, and that was just what we wanted."

"We've learned how an airport works," says 15-year-old Aimee Casey. "It's dead big and brilliant."

* Tourtalk packages cost pound;4 per child (up to Year 9), pound;5 for older students. Add pound;1 for visits to the DC10 and Concorde. Resources range from a KS1 literacy geography pack (pound;3.50) to Business of Manchester Airport for GCSE at pound;30. Several packs are available free.

Contact Janet Fahie, education officer Tel: 0161 489 2707 Fax: 0161 489 3467 Email:


Airport Tour Centre Manchester Airport M90 1QX Tel: 0161 489 2442

Email: tourcentre@


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