In the last five decades, cargo handler David Oakes has helped dispatch lions to Malaysia, captured parrots loose in a plane’s hold and even loaded dolphins.
David, 66, is now celebrating 50 years of work at Manchester Airport and MAG Property are throwing him a party to recognise his contributions.
Ahead of the shindig on Friday, David admits he loves the industry…but still hates flying.
He got his first break in a cargo warehouse aged just 16, when the transport hub was still called Ringway. David admits he was first drawn to the industry to get cheap flights to visit his best friend who had emigrated to Canada.
But it’s an industry he has grown to love and it’s now ‘in his blood’.
David, who lives in Offerton, Stockport , and also owns and runs Hasty Lane Horse and Pony Sanctuary, has worked for many firms during his tenure – some more than once.
Married to Margaret, 68, a retired Stepping Hill clerk, David, who was born in West Gorton, said: “It’s gone technology mad, it’s definitely changed. I really hope everyone I’ve shared time with at the airport will come on Friday – I have lots of respect for so many people.
“The best thing is definitely the people you work with, and I’m proud to be a part of Manchester Airport. It used to be like a little town. It’s a bit more broken up now but I still see the faces I recognise. Sadly a lot of people are no longer with us. I’m hoping people will read this and come along.”
David might never have worked at the hub if it weren’t for his best friend Dave Nolan, who emigrated to Canada.
David said: “That was the main reason, but now the airport is in my blood. It’s one of the most unpredictable jobs you can have and working in the passenger and freight worlds has been amazing. I also got to work in check-in with KLM and greet flights. I had a nice uniform.”
Over the years, he tells how he helped dispatch lions to Malaysia, captured parrots loose in a plane’s hold and loaded dolphins onto a Concorde.
“Seeing the lions was amazing,” he said, “and the dolphins had to have water constantly flowing over them.
“I remember once in the seventies we were loading a freight plane and we saw something move in a pallet. It turned out to be a man who wanted a free holiday after rowing with his wife. He was arrested.”
After moving to Wythenshawe in 1957, David got his first job in the warehouse of Translloyd Air Services by knocking on doors around the airport.
After a few months, he moved to Meadows Air Freight, before working at KLM. Then it was at Manchester Airport Apron Services ‘working on the ramp with the lads’, before a stint working with a tour operator. Next up was Lep Air Services in the warehouse, before a return to KLM, then back to Lep.
After getting a job at Plane Handling, now Dnata, he settled down and has been there 20 years working to send freight for airlines, including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Virgin.
But did he get those cheap flights?
“I did, I used to get to America for a tenner and Amsterdam for £27 – the funny thing is I hate flying. I don’t like being up there with no control, it scares me to death.”
Congratulations David and thank you from every at MAG Property and Manchester Airport!