Several FBO companies set their sights on London

 - October 17, 2006, 11:57 AM

Next month TAG Aviation is due to complete construction of a new terminal at Farnborough Airport. The 50,000-sq-ft building at the London-area airport will include an operations center, passenger lounge and offices.

The new terminal is TAG’s latest major investment in its bid to position Farnborough as London’s foremost business aviation hub. (The recent opening of the new FlightSafety International Learning Center has further enhanced the airport’s standing in this respect.) TAG also has FBOs at Geneva Airport in Switzerland and at Berlin’s historic downtown Tempelhof Airport.

Next year the company will add a new 15,000-sq-ft technical support facility at Farnborough, 35 miles southwest of central London.

In January 2007 a new 100,000-sq-ft hangar will also be available at the airport, adding to the 240,000 sq ft of hangar space already available for aircraft up to the size of the BBJ2. There is no shortage of aircraft parking space, with some 30 acres immediately adjacent to the terminal and a further 30 acres of remote parking if required.

At Luton Airport–30 miles north of London–Harrods Aviation has secured a second hangar and additional ramp parking. It has also provided free wireless Internet access, as well as at its Stansted Airport FBO (35 miles northeast of the UK capital).

Over the next year, the company will be refurbishing both facilities, which also include features such as conference rooms, as well as crew lounges and rest areas.

Harrods competes with Signature Flight Support at Luton. At Stansted, its rival handlers are the Inflite Jet Centre and Universal Weather & Aviation.

Harrods, a sister company of the famous London department store of the same name, offers comprehensive services for corporate aircraft crews, including cleaning aircraft crockery and cutlery as well as dry cleaning.

The company still has ambitions of opening new bases in other parts of Europe and has been actively exploring prospects for running an FBO at Paris Le Bourget Airport.

Return to Heathrow

After some difficult years during which business aircraft found themselves squeezed out of London’s Heathrow Airport by a slot allocation system that strongly favored airline traffic, the Signature Flight Support FBO there has enjoyed encouraging 15-percent growth. Most of the movements it handles are now the more lucrative large, airliner-class VIP transports.

It was this trend that inspired the company to acquire both of Heathrow’s other FBOs–Harrods Aviation and Executive Aircraft Services–during the past 12 months.

Signature has consolidated the two Heathrow operations in the former Harrods Aviation premises, which are situated on the south side of London’s main gateway next to Terminal 4.

Smaller London Airports

Over the past two years, London Biggin Hill Airport has resurfaced its main runway and has become the UK’s only general aviation airport permitted to accept traveling pets under agriculture department rules. The privately owned airport group, which also includes Southend Airport (35 miles east of London) and a handling operation at Northolt air force base, is now advancing more ambitious plans to build new hangars as well as a hotel and restaurant.

Northolt itself, situated 14 miles west of downtown, has always had great potential as a business aviation gateway for London but this has always been severely compromised by the government’s traffic restriction of 7,000 civil movements per year (compared with the 28,000 permitted at Farnborough).

According to sources close to the Ministry of Defence-owned airfield, the government may soon accept the case for further development of the existing civil enclave. Several business aviation service groups are known to be evaluating such a project but are not likely to proceed unless the government grants a significant increase in the volume of traffic permitted to use the facility.

Meanwhile, at Manchester in northwest England Northern Executive Aviation is making plans to extend its passenger lounge. The company, which can also provide extensive maintenance support, is the only FBO on the airport.