A 35-acre site for a new FBO at London’s Southend Airport is to be offered to private developers. Regional Airports Ltd, which also owns the UK capital’s Biggin Hill Airport and operates an FBO at the Royal Air Force’s Northolt base, is positioning Southend to serve business aircraft operators wanting to get close to the government-backed Thames Gateway plan to expand London eastwards. Southend, which is open 24 hours a day, is located about 35 miles east of the city center.
Regional Airports chairman Andrew Walters said that he welcomes this year’s UK government white paper on air transport, which explicitly calls for business aviation to have access to a variety of airports around London and the southeast of England. “The policy will make the best use of existing airport capacity,” he said, while also questioning whether proposed new runways for Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick airports will ever prove feasible from a political and environmental point of view.
At Biggin Hill, located just 12 miles south of London’s financial district, Regional Airports now has planning permission for 125,000 sq ft of new hangars. Walters reported the results of a recent survey conducted by his company, suggesting that business aircraft passengers coming to London rate the following factors in order of priority: road access and journey time to downtown, prompt fuel, a choice of locations on all sides of London, 24/7 operating hours, competitively priced fuel and aircraft and airport security. He said that while the development of Farnborough Airport as a dedicated bizav airport to the southwest of London has proved very successful, he very much doubted that demand exists for other such facilities around the UK capital.
London City Airport managing director Richard Gooding said that it is now expanding its London Jet Centre FBO to cope with rising demand for business aircraft movements at the downtown location. The privately owned company has planning approval to add more ramp space at the west end of the runway and also intends to build a hangar for business aircraft.
The Jet Centre is expected to handle 7,000 movements this year–a figure that Gooding had not expected to achieve until five years after the facility’s 2002 opening. He acknowledged that London City’s fees are high compared with those of other airports in the region, but maintained that they were justified by its prime location and high costs. “Corporate aviation has to recognize that it has to pay the price for special access,” he concluded.