London’s Oxford Airport seeks to lure more bizav

 - February 4, 2008, 10:51 AM

Oxford Airport is being redeveloped and marketed as a business aviation gateway for central England and the London area. The move is an attempt to fill the capacity left by a halving in the amount of flight-training activity at the airfield.

Since the beginning of the year the airport is being run as a new independent division of the BBA Group’s Oxford Aviation Services subsidiary. This is expressly intended to remove it from the direct control of the Oxford Aviation Training pilot academy (also a BBA company), which has dominated operations there and made it hard for other applications to be developed.

An existing building is now being renovated for use by general aviation operators, and the work will largely be completed by the end of this month. Visiting crews already have access to touchscreen satellite weather displays and flight-planning services. If non-flight-school traffic grows as hoped, Oxford Airport’s new management plans eventually to build a dedicated executive aircraft terminal.

The published length of Oxford’s main runway is just 4,000 feet, but with displaced thresholds at either end 5,000 feet is available. According to business development manager James Dillon-Godfray, based corporate aircraft such as the Dassault Falcon 900 operated by the Williams Formula 1 auto racing team have routinely used the full length of the runway for transatlantic trips. The airport is now doing a cost-benefit analysis of extending the runway to allow its length to be published as 5,000 feet.

According to Dillon-Godfray, ample apron parking space already exists and there is generally room in its hangars for two or three transient business aircraft. The airport is willing to increase both apron and hangar accommodations as necessary, and it is already installing a new fuel farm.

Oxford’s standard midweek operating hours are 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (or from sunrise to sunset, if this is longer). On weekends the airport is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. By special arrangement it can be kept open around the clock.

For arriving flights carrying European Union (EU) citizens from EU destinations, four hours’ notice is required for customs and immigration services. For flights carrying non-EU citizens or arriving from outside the EU, 12 hours’ notice is needed.
The airfield is equipped with PAPI, NDB and DME landing aids. There are no immediate plans to install ILS.

Dillon-Godfray said that Oxford’s new management is determined to end the airport’s reputation as a “beehive,” with third-party aircraft seemingly trapped in the endless circuits being flown by the flight-school students. “There will be a much better slot and airspace environment,” he explained. The current requirement for prior permission to land via telephone is being scrapped so that pilots can use their onboard radios.

The airport is currently restructuring its landing, parking, hangarage and fuel costs to make them more straightforward and attractive to GA users. It expects to offer rates for based operators that are less than half the equivalent rates at London-area airports.

Oxford is approximately 60 miles northwest of the center of the UK capital. The airport is located close to the M40 freeway, with access to other major highways, including London’s M25 beltway.

A new single landing/handling fee is now being offered for ad hoc visitors to Oxford Airport. For example, aircraft in the Hawker 800 weight category are charged approximately £150 ($240), and King Air are charged approximately £70 ($112).
Since 9/11 Oxford Airport has been completely encircled with security fences. Security cameras have also been installed, and the site now has 24-hour manned security–a level of protection that is by no means common at all GA airfields in Britain.

Oxford Aviation Training’s relocation of all single-engine VFR flight-training traffic at a new facility in Tyler, Texas, and the increased use of advanced simulators are the main reasons for the steep reduction in airfield movements at Oxford Airport, from 160,000 in 1998 to an anticipated total of just 80,000 this year. Oxford was once the fourth-busiest airport in Britain, with 250,000 movements annually. Historically, no more than around 20 percent of traffic has been corporate or private aircraft, but the airport’s new business plan calls for this proportion to be radically increased.

In addition to the Williams flight department, other existing based operators at Oxford include the rival Jordan Formula 1 racing team, as well as Reynard, TWR and executive charter operator Gregg Air (formerly Oxaero).