DONALD Trump, the flamboyant American entrepreneur who recently bought Turnberry Hotel and Golf Course, yesterday unveiled plans to convince the rich and famous to land their private jets at Glasgow Prestwick International Airport – by following his example.
In a show of wealth, the famously coiffured Mr Trump announced that he was to park his private Boeing 757 and Sikorsky helicopter at the airport, and encouraged others to do the same.
Standing in front of his private plane, Mr Trump said he hoped the deal with Prestwick would eventually result in “hundreds” more private jets following his lead and using it as a base while visiting the nearby, world-famous golf course.
The exact financial benefit to the stricken airport, which is now run after a £10 million handout by the Scottish Government, remains unclear but management at Prestwick believe becoming the Scottish base of all Trump Aviation Operations will help to market the airport’s facilities to affluent visitors and private golf tours.
The airport currently welcomes about 1,000 private jet visits each year with an average spend of £2,500.
Yesterday, Mr Trump, who also used his visit to take more potshots at his personal bête noire, the wind turbine, announced that his investment in the Turnberry hotel and golf course would rise from £200m to £250m, with new plans set to include a ballroom for the hotel as well as a new golf course.
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Mr Trump said: “We are thrilled to be partnering with Glasgow Prestwick Airport.
“They have a tremendous facility with a unique, rich history. Their expert team and state-of-the-art operation are perfectly aligned with our global client and member base that travel frequently to Scotland and to Trump Turnberry – one of the most beautiful destinations anywhere and home to the finest golf resorts in the world, including the legendary Trump Turnberry and Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen.”
As part of the partnership, the exact details of which remain unclear, Trump and Prestwick will be offering transfers to Trump Turnberry via the Trump corporation’s private helicopter.
The entrepreneur will also be using the 747 hangar, recently vacated by the Ecuadorian navy, who were using it to repair a number of their planes, as a base while visiting Scotland.
Yesterday, Mr Trump declined to say exactly how much the airport would benefit financially from the deal, stating only that he was being charged “too much”.
He jokingly added: “When they showed me the numbers I said, ‘It’s too much! I thought I would make a better deal than that!”
He did say, however, that he expected the deal to lead to increased traffic from the private sector as affluent individuals fly in to play golf and visit Trump Turnberry following its extensive refurbishment.
He said: “I think we will be bring in a lot of private flights. I think we will bring in hundreds when we are finished and over the next couple of years. They will start [to arrive] immediately but to a much lesser degree.”
Asked to define the financial benefit to Prestwick airport, Mr Trump said he could not be specific: “I can’t define it, but a lot of flights will be coming in and you’ll have to ask the people who run the airport what that means.
“A lot of people will be coming to the area and they will be buying a lot of fuel and spending a lot of money.”
Yesterday, Iain Cochrane, the chief executive of Glasgow Prestwick Airport said: “We are very excited to be working closely with the Trump Organisation going forward and are delighted that Prestwick has been chosen to be the European base for the Trump Sikorsky helicopter.
“Forging a new partnership between the airport and the Trump Organisation will undoubtedly be mutually beneficial to both parties.
“However, it will also bring significant opportunities for the region as more inbound visitors travel to visit the legendary Trump Turnberry resort.”
During the press conference, at which attendees were invited to tour his private jet, having first removed their shoes or donned blue protective bags, Mr Trump continued to berate wind farms, which he believes are destroying Scotland.
He said: “Beautiful areas of Scotland are being destroyed by these wind farms that are rusting and don’t produce enough energy.”
Asked about his relationship with the departing First Minister Alex Salmond, Mr Trump said: “I got along well with Alex Salmond except for the windmills. I like Alex and I respect Alex.
“We only had one disagreement in all this time and he is wrong.”
He did, however, say that in a recent conversation with Michael O’Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair signalled that the airline may return to Prestwick if given the correct incentives. It recently pulled out of the airport.
Mr Trump said: “I think Prestwick airport is having difficulty but I do believe that Ryanair will come back if the politicians do a deal with them.
“Michael O’Leary loves this airport.
“I’ve had a long telephone conversation with him and he’s a great guy but he needs certain incentives.”
Ayrshire saw Elvis’s only appearance
Glasgow Prestwick International has enjoyed – and endured – a turbulent history. On the eve of its 80th birthday it is struggling to survive and only narrowly avoided closure this year when the Scottish Government was forced to step in and take over the management.
It still has the longest civilian runway in Scotland.
At almost 3,000 metres it is capable of handling aircraft of any size, and is now jostling for position as a possible spaceport.
It is a far cry from the days in 1935 when Group Captain David McIntyre and the Marquis of Clydesdale, who would later become the Duke of Hamilton, set up a small company called Scottish Aviation and bought some farmland that would become Prestwick’s first runway.
The Second World War saw Prestwick develop as the operational base for the Flying Fortresses of the US Army Air Force.
Among the airport’s claims to fame is that it was the location of Elvis Presley’s only visit to Britain, when he touched down for a few hours on a military flight in March 1960.
During the seventies it was Scotland’s gateway to America.
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