Prestwick Airport, known for marketing purposes as "Glasgow Prestwick Airport" despite a coastal location just three miles north of the town of Ayr (and nearly thirty from Glasgow) was for a long time Scotland's most important transatlantic airport. Its fortunes have been eclipsed by those of Glasgow Airport and Edinburgh Airport in recent years, but it nonetheless remains a major international freight hub and it has a fascinating story to tell.
"Prestwick Airport Through Time" by Peter C. Brown tells that story in a highly accessible and visual way. The story is tackled chronologically. We start off looking at the early years; at the establishment of flying from the site as far back as 1913; at airshows between the wars; and at Prestwick's role as the destination of huge numbers of aircraft flying across the Atlantic after manufacture in the United States during the Second World War. We then move on to the 1950s, and the number of illustrations increases. We were particularly struck by a photograph of the early control tower, which appears to have been built on the roof of a large pre-existing building.
The book really comes to life once we get into the 1960s and beyond, with the balance really shifting from the reader being told to being shown. The overall organisation remains chronological, but there are sections specifically about subjects such as HMS Gannet and flying schools. Many of the photographs in the latter half of the book are excellent, though the contrast between images of the very large and nearly completely empty passenger terminal on the one hand and a busy airfield (especially during airshows) on the other is quite striking. The quietness of the passenger terminal did at least ensure it was possible to obtain a clear photograph of a plaque set in the concourse floor that celebrates the airports claim to fame as the only place in the UK ever visited by Elvis Presley, briefly and in transit, on 3 March 1960.
The book concludes with sections on the fire and rescue service at Prestwick Airport, and on accidents that have taken place there over the years. We were very taken with the story of an Icelandic Airlines aircraft that landed safely at Prestwick Airport on 15 August 1950, but only because duty-free alcohol had been used to replenish a leaking hydraulic system during the flight. This is a book that will be of interest to anyone interested in aviation, and aviation in Scotland in particular.