• Doug Maclean

Exclusive: Prestwick again at the heart of Scottish Aviation during Glasgow COP26

Updated: Nov 10

Aviation expert Doug Maclean comments on the excellent pictures of Eddie Wallace and explains to the Ayrshire Daily News some of what has been happening at Prestwick Airport over the last few days.

Cyprus Airways Airbus 319 lands after dropping the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, at Glasgow

It has taken nearly 3 years to plan. Dozens of meetings with airlines, diplomats and security services across the world. A World Leaders Conference attended by more than 120 Heads of State, Heads of Government, senior diplomats and over 20,000 delegates.


The 26th Conference Of the Parties (COP26) is underway in Glasgow until Friday 12th November. For the first 3 days the leaders of world Governments met. After that the delegates will continue to work at getting agreements to reduce the carbon emissions behind global warming.

Having one Head Of State use your airport causes a lot of planning and extra security measures put in place. Prestwick is used to that and comfortably handled the visit of President Donald Trump in July 2018 but having dozens of VVIPs over a few days is a logistical and diplomatic challenge unknown in Scotland.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša arrived from Ljubljana to head his delegation to the COP26 climate conference

The COP conference is the largest diplomatic security operation ever handled by the UK. The event was centred on Glasgow but spilled across many parts of Scotland. The UK and Scottish Governments worked together to make this world wide conference happen.


Prestwick, Glasgow and Edinburgh airports airports pulled together to make the enormous operation run as smoothly as possible.

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh was the first Head of Government to arrive at Prestwick. Immediately after landing he went to Edinburgh where he met the First Minister and addressed the Scottish Parliament

The conference delegates, politicians and Heads of State arrived and a wide variety of aircraft. Some dropped their passengers at Glasgow then moved to Prestwick to allow the next diplomatic entourage to arrive. Others arrived at Prestwick and were then moved to their accommodation or first set of meetings by vehicles. Security around the airport was at a level never seen before. Surrounding roads were under surveillance by newly installed CCTV and many temporary road changes brought into place. Whatever the final outcome of COP26 it is well worth recording the outstanding achievement of Prestwick airport staff who worked tirelessly to see their long arranged plans swing into action. At the same time they handled their routine Ryanair sunshine holiday flights, cargo and refuelling flights with a professional ease that only comes after meticulous planning.


Ayrshire Daily News often features the excellent pictures of retired Air Traffic Controller Eddie Wallace, from Prestwick, who has made these wonderful images available Prestwick has always had a bond with the local community. The regular aviation enthusiasts who watch and photograph aircraft coming and going were taken into account in the security plan. The airport even opened a temporary car park to keep the surrounding roads clear and volunteers looked after their fellow enthusiasts to keep good order. The weather was a typical Scottish mix of heavy rain and blue skies. The enthusiasts were greeted with the biggest selection of international aircraft to ever visit Prestwick. They were also greeted with an occasional wave from the pilots who were often finishing 8 or 10 hour flights to arrive at Prestwick.

Having arrived at Prestwick the captain has time to give a friendly wave to the assembled aircraft enthusiasts and photographers

The Heads of State arrived in a mix of Presidential, airline, military or executive aircraft. So far Ayrshire Daily News reporters have seen or read about aircraft using Prestwick from Argentina, Australia, Azerbiijan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, Equador, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Khazakstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Moritania, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.


Police and military aircraft and helicopters were frequently in and out of Prestwick. The Gulfstream executive jet of billionaire Geoff Bezos, founder of Amazon, was seen landing as were many other less well known executive jets. Some of those could have carried former President Barak Obama and Microsoft founder Bill Gates were seen in Glasgow.

RAF helicopters were in use overseeing some of the road convoys

After a frantic 3 days life is returning to normal. President Biden’s motorcade was spotted entering Prestwick airport only hours after he had departed Edinburgh in Air Force One. Such is the efficiency and organisation at Prestwick that it is likely that the vehicles have already been loaded on to 2 US Air Force C17 aircraft that arrived in the early hours of this morning and are on their way across the Atlantic. There is a continuing debate about whether Heads of Government should fly around the globe to attend a conference looking to reduce carbon use and emissions. Below is an interesting itinery for the Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. After reading this we genuinely wonder if the suggested alternative of doing all their meetings by Zoom would have worked.

One of the best of a wonderful set of Eddie Wallace pictures where Bolivia’s President Luis Arce Catacora departs in the Bolivian Government FAB001

The Prime Minister is leaving Dhaka for the United Kingdom this morning to attend the COP-26 conference Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will leave Dhaka on Sunday (October 31) for a two-week visit to the United Kingdom and France to attend the ‘Climate Change Summit COP-28’ and several other events. He will also attend the ‘UNESCO-Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Award for Creative Economy’ and the 65th anniversary of UNESCO.

Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim said a VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines carrying the Prime Minister and her entourage would leave Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 9 am. The flight is scheduled to arrive at Glasgow’s Prestwick Airport at 2:45 p.m. (local time).

While in Glasgow, the Prime Minister will attend a side event titled ‘CFV-Commonwealth High Level Panel Discussion on Climate Prosperity Partnership’ at the Commonwealth Pavilion on the Scottish Event Campus on the morning of November 1 (Monday).

Kuwait Governent Boeing 737

On the same day, Sheikh Hasina will have a meeting with Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland QC. He will attend the opening ceremony of COP 28 and give a speech. Sheikh Hasina will hold a meeting with Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka in Gotabha. He will also attend a meeting titled “Action and Solidarity – The Critical Decade” at the British Pavilion.

Later in the day, Bill Gates, founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will pay a courtesy call on the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister will attend the VVIP reception of ‘COP-28’. In the evening, he will virtually participate in a civic reception organized by the Scottish expatriate Bangladeshi community.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi arrived at COP26 in a Government Airbus 340

On the morning of November 2 (Tuesday), the Prime Minister will attend a high-level meeting on ‘Women and Climate Change’ at the Scottish Pavilion. Sheikh Hasina will hold a bilateral meeting with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at noon. He will later attend a Commonwealth reception.

In the afternoon, Prince Charles will pay a courtesy call on the Prime Minister. He will then meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UK conference room. Sheikh Hasina is also scheduled to hold bilateral talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on the same day.

On this day, Sheikh Hasina will participate in a side event titled ‘Forging a CVF Cop 26 Climate Emergency Pact’ in Conference Room-4. After that, the Prime Minister will participate in the concluding session of the ‘World Leaders Summit’.

The Prestwick plane spotters turned out in all weathers to capture routine and also unique visitors

In the evening, Sheikh Hasina will attend an event hosted by the Speaker of the Scottish Parliament, Allison Johnstone. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will address the Scottish Parliament entitled ‘A Bangladesh Vision for Global Climate Prosperity’.

The Prime Minister and her entourage will board a VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines from Glasgow International Airport to London at noon local time on November 3 (Wednesday). Arriving in London that day, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Speaker of the British Parliament, will pay a courtesy call on the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister will attend a number of important events, including the ‘Bangladesh Investment Summit 2021: Building Sustainable Growth Partnership’, and a reception for the Bangladeshi community living in London. On the morning of November 9, the Prime Minister and her entourage will leave London for Paris on a VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

On that day, Sheikh Hasina will meet French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace.

On the same day, he will hold a bilateral meeting with French Prime Minister Jean Costa at the official residence of the French government, Matigan.

Garuda 1 taxies out to take Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo home to Jakarta

The Prime Minister will also attend the award ceremony of ‘UNESCO-Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman International Prize for the Creative Economy’ at the UNESCO Headquarters and the 65th anniversary of UNESCO at the same venue. Sheikh Hasina will virtually attend the reception given to Bangladeshi citizens living in France on November 13.

Royal Moroccan Air Force Gulfstream 5 taxies as Cyprus Airways Airbus lands

The Prime Minister is expected to leave Paris for Dhaka on November 13 and arrive in Dhaka on November 14 in the morning.