Air Partner gets the nod for new Biggin Hill UK facility

 - May 17, 2008, 5:20 AM

Executive charter group Air Partner has received a green light to proceed with its plans to create a purpose-built business aviation enclave at London Biggin Hill Airport (Booth No. 1653). Valued at almost $14 million, the project includes construction of a 40,000-sq-ft hangar on a site leased from the privately run airport. One of the main functions of the new facility will be to accommodate the growing fleet of business jets operated by Air Partner Private Jets–the former Gold Air charter operation, which the charter broker group bought in 2006.

Construction, which should start before mid-year, begins as Air Partner reports increasing constraints on capacity at most of the UK airports serving business aviation. Biggin Hill lies within the M25 London orbital motorway and is just 17 miles by road south of the City of London financial district (and closer to the new Canary Wharf business district). Its claimed status as London’s last non-slot regulated airport permits Air Partner to offer clients greater travel flexibility to fly at their preferred times, the airport being open almost 16 hours each day.

The planned enclave, scheduled for completion by late next year, was designed by architect 3DReid, which also designed TAG Aviation’s facility at Farnborough, about 40 miles southwest of the City, and projects at five of Britain’s principal international airports. Ground access, via a secure approach road, will take clients to the new building, where the aircraft handling area is linked to a flight operations center, offices for associated airport businesses and other space dedicated to business-aircraft maintenance.

The new hangar will have a 300-foot door span and accommodation for a mix of 20-plus jets ranging up to Airbus Corporate Jet/Boeing Business Jet size. Air Partner will begin marketing the facility this month.

The company expects its private jet fleet–currently comprising six Bombardier Learjet 45s, a Learjet 40XR and a Bombardier Challenger 300–to grow to 16 aircraft over the next three years. It is currently in talks with both Cessna and Dassault about acquiring additional large-cabin aircraft. The workforce at Biggin Hill is expected to increase from the present 70 to about 190 by 2010.

Air Partner (Booth No. 287) has outgrown its existing space and needs the greater area to support current business and to permit near-term growth. Twelve months ago, it announced it was leasing a 115,000-sq-ft area adjacent to its current premises and revealed plans for the enclave, which at that time was expected to include a second hangar.

The local authority, as owner of the airport site, granted long-term lessee Regional Airports Ltd. a license permitting the construction of two hangars, an apron and a car park area at the site. In its latest evolution, the development comprises Air Partner’s new hangar, 88,000 sq ft of ramp space, car parking, access roads and security fence.

“With other airports turning away existing business, we decided to consolidate at Biggin Hill and build one site,” explained Air Partner chief executive David Savile. “The airport’s location and capacity, combined with our managed fleet and client base, will enable us to meet our clients’ needs and attract new corporate users.” The airport has capacity for 125,000 movements per year, of which private jets account for little more than 10 percent.