Paris Le Bourget Airport invests heavily in its future

 - December 19, 2007, 1:51 PM

Aéroports de Paris (AdP) is seeking to expand the commercial horizons of the French capital’s dedicated business aviation gateway, after several years in which its ambitions to attract new based operators and service companies have been dented by an adverse economy. At the same time, the airport has made progress both on controlling aircraft noise and on implementing more effective security controls.

Last November, AdP, the company that owns and operates the main Paris-area airports, approved a 12-year refurbishment plan for Le Bourget. “One of AdP’s priorities is to implement a master plan to increase business aviation traffic and make Le Bourget even more competitive than it is now as Europe’s leading dedicated business airport. We are reinvigorating the site to attract more private aircraft companies and associated industries here,” Le Bourget Airport director Michel de Ronne told AIN.

Historically, Le Bourget has been Europe’s preeminent business aviation airport. However, AdP’s management is now acutely conscious of the challenge posed by rival facilities such as the London-area Farnborough Airport, which TAG Aviation has extensively upgraded through a private development.

AdP aims to raise the annual number of aircraft movements toward its current capacity of 80,000. Over the last few years annual aircraft movements have been stable at 56,000, but the tally is actually down from the peak of around 70,000 a decade ago. Around 130,000 passengers currently pass through its various FBOs each year. “Despite the aviation downturn, in 2003 Le Bourget reported a 1-percent traffic increase and this was followed by significant traffic growth in the first quarter,” said de Ronne.

Plans to create a new business aviation terminal to house a pair of FBOs, including the existing Unijet operation, should be complete before the end of the year. According to de Ronne, aircraft maintenance company SECA will go ahead with its location at the airport’s new 123-acre northwest sector.

Meanwhile, the extension to FlightSafety International’s pilot-training center and Dassault Falcon Service’s new administrative building and refurbished FBO are expected to be ready in time for next June’s Paris Air Show. Work to strengthen the main runway to receive the Airbus A380 mega-airliner and add parking ramps will also be completed by the start of the show, which Le Bourget hosts every two years.

AdP is also working with the airport’s noise-protection consultative committee to produce a noise-pollution monitoring plan. The committee, which discusses environmental problems with representatives of operators, professional bodies and local city councils, hopes to complete the plan and obtain ISO 14001 environmental certification by next year.

The Le Bourget management is also continuing to work with operators on an enhanced security program adapted to the special circumstances of business aviation. This consists of strengthened access controls throughout the airport, including the premises of private companies. A high-level security manager has been appointed to oversee security improvements.

Having recently opened a new UK satellite operation at Farnborough Airport, Dassault Falcon Service is also completing a new three-story building adjoining its
Le Bourget FBO and offices. The new complex, construction of which began in March, will house all the general administration offices, meeting rooms and a restaurant for almost 500 employees, including those working for Dassault’s factory service center at the site.

Once the new building is complete, DFS’s existing Le Bourget facility will be refurbished for dedicated handling of business aircraft operations. DFS president Christian Sasso confirmed that when the updated FBO comes into operation next spring, it will feature improved security. For example, access to the apron will be strictly restricted to security-cleared people coming from inside the building. The number of large business aircraft able to park simultaneously outside the FBO will rise from 10 to 14.

London-area FBO chain Harrods Aviation has confirmed its intention to open a new base at Le Bourget before year-end. AdP will allow the UK-based group to occupy part of the former maintenance center of former French airline UTA. This is situated next to one of Le Bourget’s most convenient access gates and is adjacent to the existing Aero Services FBO.

One Le Bourget FBO that is definitely set to relocate from its current, somewhat isolated, site to AdP’s new building near the airport entrance is Unijet. According to president and CEO Dannys Famin, the company expects to move to the site, which
is to be shared with another undisclosed Le Bourget operator, after AdP refurbishes the building.

According to Signature Flight Support general manager Louis Demarque, the Le Bourget FBO is still awaiting planning permission to extend its ramp by shifting an existing parking lot to a new space granted by AdP. It also wants to enlarge its terminal building and hangars.