On August 22nd 1985, a Boeing 737–236 operated by British Airtours and bound for Corfu suffered an engine failure as it departed Manchester Airport. 55 people sadly lost their lives that day, but today, they are remembered through a touching memorial, which has been erected at Manchester Airport.

A tribute from the survivors

Following the disaster, the survivors involved in the accident made a solemn vow that those who perished would never be forgotten and that lessons would be learned by the aviation industry.

Now, 33 years later, that promise has been fulfilled with the unveiling of a memorial garden, featuring the names of those who lost their lives. A number of survivors campaigned for years for a more appropriate tribute than the A3 plaque in the prayer room of Terminal 3 to be created, and finally their wishes have been granted.

Assembling the right team

The Manchester Airport Group (MAG) set out to put a team together to create the new memorial. Engineering company AECOM already had an established working relationship with MAG as they are currently supporting the airport across several infrastructure projects, so they were the first port of call for this project too. The client wanted something transformational that would provide a fitting tribute so they asked AECOM to prepare some initial concept ideas to present to the memorial working group.

Hardscape was then brought on board to help develop artwork proposals for both granite and timber etching and sandblasting, which is something that the company is heavily specialised in.

Bethell Construction were appointed as contractors, which was very fitting as the company is Manchester-based, giving a very local show of support for such a touching memorial. With everyone briefed – the work was ready to get under way.

Artscape through stone and timber

Hardscape was tasked with presenting the names and messages of those remembered with its state of the art artscape techniques used on Kobra Granite stone, as well as on timber finials, which were supplied by Glulam. The Kobra Granite was used to create a bollard-table and featured an engraved message on a host of different finishes. Particularly standing out on the side of one of bollards read a message ‘their lives were not lost in vain’, which epitomises the undeserving and cruel nature of the lives lost.

Along with the Kobra Granite bollards, Hardscape’s team in Long Marston also sandblasted the names of those who died onto Glulam timber. The team had previously toyed with the idea of sandblasting onto surfaces other than stone, however this was the first real project where they had put this idea into practice, combining an innovative approach with their artscape expertise. This allowed them to successfully execute the process to perfection onto a timber surface.

Deadlines met

One of the main challenges faced by the client team, as is so often faced within the industry, was a time constraint. MAG wanted the whole project delivering and installing in time for the annual memorial service, and this was successfully met by all parties involved. Hardscape worked excellently with contractors Bethell Construction to ensure the delivery of the stone was correct and installed as instructed, whilst also working closely timber suppliers Glulam as well to ensure delivery was within programme and budget.

A long lasting memory

The positive feedback around the memorial has been overwhelming. William Beckett, who lost his 18 year old daughter in the incident, expressed his praise on BBC News stating “Everybody is going to be blown away when they see it. It is on such a scale that it is beyond what we would have ever had expected – it is staggering”. And he’s not wrong, the timber finials create quite a breathtaking effect, especially in the way they have been positioned around the Kobra Granite table bollard. The result is a unique landscape feature, which is a touching way to remember those who were sadly lost.

Bryan Wynne of AECOM very fittingly said: ‘the memorial itself is a legacy statement and represents a beacon of hope for the aviation industry.’

Client: Manchester Airport Group; Landscape Architects: AECOM; Contractors: Bethell Construction; Artscape materials supplier: Hardscape