Frankfurt makes plans for executive facilities

 - September 25, 2006, 11:31 AM

The German business and banking metropolis of Frankfurt lacks a dedicated executive airport, but Christoph Goetzmann, head of the executive aviation division at Fraport, the operating company of Frankfurt’s Rhine-Main airport, emphasizes that business aviation is welcome at the large hub.

He pointed out that Frankfurt has an executive terminal with adequate facilities and ramp space, and added that all the services executive operators need–including handling assistance and line maintenance–are also available. The executive terminal will be refurbished after the airport authority begins construction of a new building, planned for 2009.

However, the airport is the busiest hub in continental Europe and is close to its capacity limits. Traffic figures show some 51 million passengers, in addition to nearly two million metric tons of airfreight and mail in 2004, for an estimated maximum capacity of 55 million yearly passengers. This equates to more than 450,000 annual aircraft movements on three runways. Depending on the season, between 92 and 98 percent of the available slots are allotted.

According to Goetzmann, there is an average of 20 daily movements of executive jets, with peaks of 60 per day. About one-third of all business jets in transit at Frankfurt pick up or drop off passengers connecting with airline flights. Goetzmann conceded that it is not always easy for executive operators to obtain adequate slots, but he added that Fraport, the airport’s only authorized handling company, can help operators with slot reservations.

Frankfurt Airport has finalized plans in the approval process for an extensive capacity increase within the next 10 years to accommodate about 80 million yearly passengers. Construction is scheduled to start next year and includes a third parallel runway to 7/25 north of the current runway system, a new terminal on the southern side to accommodate another 25 million yearly passengers and restructuring of the existing cargo area to include space vacated by the U.S. Air Force last year.

These measures will gradually increase the airport’s capacity from 80 to 120 hourly movements. A new executive terminal south of the runways near the Runway 7R threshold is part of the program.

Alternatives for Executive Travel

The extension should provide sufficient slots for executive aircraft, but not before 2009. In the meantime, Hahn and Egelsbach Airports offer relief for business travelers to the Frankfurt area.

Egelsbach is a general aviation field opened in the 1950s. It is home to some 200 aircraft, including King Airs and a few Citations, and serves as a base for police helicopters. The airport extended its single runway to 4,595 feet in 2004.

The airport has an NDB approach but no ILS. A “cloud breaking” instrument approach on Frankfurt with diversion at a defined point for a final visual approach to Egelsbach is possible if the ceiling is not too low and the horizontal visibility is at least 4,920 feet.

The airport accepts aircraft with mtows of up to 26,460 pounds, and with mtows of up to 44,090 pounds with load restrictions. Egelsbach is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and runway lighting is installed. With about 85,000 yearly movements, the airport has considerable traffic, but it is far from capacity limits. All ground services are available, and the airport this year plans to build a new hangar for visiting executive aircraft.

An additional runway extension is not possible because of ground obstacles and the proximity of Frankfurt’s Runway 18. These restrictions and the lack of a direct connection with long-range airline flights make Egelsbach less attractive to some executive operators.

Hahn, located 15 miles from Frankfurt, was a military airfield until 1993. It has good navigational aides and, because it has an appropriate runway system, no night curfew. The airport is used mostly by low-cost airlines and holiday charters.

Disadvantages for business operators include unsatisfactory road links, its distance from Frankfurt and lack of executive infrastructure. In addition, Lufthansa is planning to move some of its extensive cargo operations there, which might lead to conflicts with executive traffic.

Fraport agrees that a major business center like Frankfurt needs executive aviation facilities. Officials said they are making a serious effort to overcome capacity shortages in the next four years through infrastructure improvements.