French Riviera airport sets sights on business aviation

 - September 23, 2008, 7:29 AM

Le Castellet International Airport, the first private business aviation facility on
the Côte d’Azur, has hung another lure on its line to attract business jet operators by opening its fifth hangar. “H5” can accommodate two BBJs, four Falcon 7Xs or four G550s. In addition, the airport has equipped hangars three and four with Wi-Fi. Located on the French Riviera, the country’s favorite playground for the super- rich, the airport competes with the larger Mediterranean gateways of Marseilles and Nice, as well as Cannes and smaller airports such as Toulon and Avignon.

The airport is the favored business aviation gateway for two of the most prestigious events of the French Riviera: the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix and the Cannes Film Festival. Since 1999 it has been owned by Excelis. Major modernization work began in 2001, and since that time the airport has constructed four other hangars with parking ramps large enough to handle ACJs. Its full-service FBO terminal has a boarding area, customs and a business center. Le Castellet airport also has top-class restaurants and three- and four-star hotels.

In May the airport opened for business a hermetic 59,200-sq-ft hangar in which two BBJs can be parked and shielded from the damaging salt pollution of the Provence region. According to the airport, it is the only facility of its sort in the South of France. Owners of aircraft using H5 also have access to two secured “connecting offices” and a meeting room that is attached to the hangar with round-the-clock handling and catering provided by the airport’s staff. H5 also has 172,230 sq ft of parking space and rapid access to the runway for immediate takeoff.

Traffic Growth

The airport logged 4,486 movements in 2003, and that number has been steadily increasing, from 5,421 in 2005 to 5,546 in 2006 and 7,267 last year. An estimated 8,100 movements are expected this year. But airport manager Didier Pianelli said that spiraling fuel prices and the trend of clients to use larger aircraft will likely stabilize traffic movements thereafter.

Pianelli attributes the increase in traffic to improvements the airport has made. “The updated hangars and parking, first-class services and facilities and immediate chartered helicopter operations where a passenger can step off his airplane and straight onto an Ecureuil or Dauphin are providing a real challenge to the larger airports,” he said.

The airport has also benefited from the increase in business aviation traffic in the region as a whole and the limited business aviation facilities at nearby Marseilles.
Le Castellet competes with Nice and Cannes-Mandelieu. The former is open 24 hours a day and the latter is restricted to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m.

to sundown in the summer. Le Castellet is open 24 hours a day on request. However, its location leaves it susceptible to the strong Mistral southeast winds.
According to Pianelli, the airport was already valued as a dedicated business facility, but it has “replied to a need expressed by our most demanding clients and aircraft can now land from anywhere in the world as the site has a customs area.”