Airport Infrastructure Improvements

 - October 16, 2006, 7:06 AM

One of the biggest problems for Spanish business aviation operations from Madrid is the thorny issue of Barajas airport. Six years ago business aviation operators had to relocate “temporarily” from Madrid Barajas airport to Torrejón NATO military base, where operators share facilities with the air force.

They continue to face a scarcity of parking spots at the ramp. Gestair’s fleet alone outnumbers the parking spots allowed. The airport does not operate between midnight and 6 a.m., so aircraft are sometimes rerouted to Barajas due to schedule or parking problems. An official decision is still awaited as to where general aviation will be located in the expansions at Barajas.

Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegacíon Aérea (AENA), the Spanish civil aviation authority, in fall 2003 said that the new runways being built at Barajas airport would be operational during the summer last year. The capital’s business aviation community welcomed the news because it has encountered difficulties in gaining access during construction of a fourth terminal and two new runways and has had to divert at short notice to Madrid’s Torrejón military airfield.

In October last year AENA reported it had secured a $1.3 billion (€1 billion) bank loan to finance the extension work at Barajas. The loan comes on top of a similar sum granted for the same purpose in 2002. The new loan is symptomatic of a political row between the ruling Socialist Party, which unexpectedly won power in the nation’s elections in March last year, and its rival, the defeated conservative Peoples’ Party. The Socialist party government estimates the real cost of the construction work to be “at least $7.54 billion” (€5.8 billion), whereas the People’s Party had estimated the cost at $4.55 billion (€3.5 billion).

Gestair’s Isabel Macarrón said the change of government meant the business aviation community “once again finds itself on standby regarding Barajas. General aviation is still a pending issue at Barajas, which is open 24 hours a day. The military airfield of Torrejón, which is closed between midnight and 6 a.m., is still our main base but there is still a parking problem there.” She added, “We have a very exciting FBO project waiting to be executed as soon as the situation becomes clearer.”

United Aviation Services general manager Christopher García Die, said that what is happening at Barajas is the “million dollar question.” United would like to plan its future, but “without a clear airport of reference (Barajas and Torrejón) we cannot make plans. Our biggest problem is that Torrejón is a military base. They don’t like general aviation being there so they are not helping. Our customers have a lot of problems because flights are often diverted to Barajas at short notice and we have to change passenger flight plans and drivers at the last minute.”

Gonzalo Barona, general manager of Universal Aviation Spain, seemed to be in advance of other FBO and charter operators with regard to the plans for Barajas: “We have renovated our offices at Madrid and Torrejón airfield, where shortly there will be more office space. AENA has told us that it is to keep all general aviation at Torrejón and have nothing at Barajas. If this is indeed the case we are planning to build a new FBO with a hangar and all amenities.”