Blackpool firm being investigated for flying over Manchester City v Burnley match with 'White Lives Matter' banner
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The incident happened when the plane flew over the Etihad Stadium in Manchester just after kick-off between Manchester City and Burnley in the Premier League last night
The plane, a small Cessna aircraft, had the registration G-ENEA which according to latest records is registered to Air Ads Ltd, based out of Hangar 8 at Blackpool Airport.
Blackpool Airport issued a statement yesterday stating that all banner towing operations have been suspended.
Stephen Smith, the airport manager, said: “Blackpool Airport and Blackpool Council are outraged by this incident. We stand against racism of any kind and absolutely do not condone the activity, the message was offensive and the action reprehensible. The decision to fly the banner was taken entirely by the banner flying company without the knowledge or approval of the airport or Blackpool Council.
“Due to the nature of the activity, banners are not checked before take-off and the content is at the operator’s discretion.”
Mr Smith said the incident has been reported to the police and Civil Aviation Authority.
He added: “Blackpool Airport are investigating the banner operator in question and further action will be taken by the Board tomorrow.”
It comes as all footballers in England’s top division league are displaying ‘Black Lives Matter’ on their shirts to show support for the movement for racial equality after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black American, died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in the USA on May 25.
There was no response from calls made to the firm by the Gazette.
A man at the hangar, an ex-pilot who did not want to be named and claimed to know the Air Ads pilot, said the firm had been run by Alan Elliott, who died a few weeks ago.
He claimed Mr Elliot’s family have taken a back seat and now a pilot is hired when they have orders to fly banners.
He said the banners are made to order with flight costs of around £700. He said the pilot would be paid around £100 per flight.
He said the pilot he thought was involved was currently out flying due to the “RIP business” for people who wanted to pay tribute to love ones who had died recently.
He added: “We would assume who ever paid for the banner would get done for it.”
Chief Supt Russ Procter of Lancashire Police said: “We are making enquiries to establish the full circumstances surrounding this incident and we will then be in a position to make an assessment as to whether any criminal offences have taken place.
“We recognise that this banner will have caused offence to many people in Lancashire and beyond and we continue to liaise closely with our partners at both the club and in the local authority.”