EBACE Convention News

Airports near London attract the bizjet crowd

 - November 28, 2006, 11:56 AM

Expansion plans for both Biggin Hill and Southend Airports promise important benefits for business aircraft operators making for the UK capital. Both airports are prefixed “London,” but unlike some others that make similar claims they are in fact physically closer than many.

Consequently, an increasing number of corporate aircraft operators are choosing to schedule flights to and from the UK capital via these gateways owned by Regional Airports Limited (Booth No. 875). Last year, Southend recorded a 40-percent growth in business aviation activity, largely reflecting the increasing number of fractionals regularly using the airport.

However, London Southend is also experiencing an increased number of business aviation movements owing to its 24/7 access. To enhance its competitiveness, some $45.75 million is being invested in a new passenger terminal and train station. This expansion is being given a high priority to service the major developments now taking shape in East London. The new terminal will open in 2009 and it is anticipated that by 2015 some 40 scheduled services plus a strong element of business aviation movements will be recorded each day.

As London Southend Airport is ideally located for the 2012 Olympic Games, its railway connection to the main Olympic Park will certainly further boost air traffic. However, the group’s other airports can be confident of gaining a good share of Olympic-related business.

London Biggin Hill boasts two new hangars that are already fully occupied and the owner is close to agreement on providing a further 44,000 sq ft capacity, some of which will be available to individual aircraft owners. Commenting on these developments, the airport’s director, Peter Lonergan, recently declared, “Space to keep the growing fleets of business aircraft is in short supply–especially in the UK–and we are very keen to attract both hangar operators and individual aircraft owners.”

To facilitate this, Regional Airports is offering a range of short- or long-term options including the provision of hangarage on an individual aircraft basis, or renting land so that operators can build their own hangar. Recently announced plans for Biggin Hill will make for better use of its existing runways, while to accommodate local environmental concerns, a range of measures would strictly limit the scale of operations for years to come.

Nevertheless, although existing weekday operating hours (0630 to 2200 hours) will be retained, restrictions in the first and last hours of the day should be modified so that companies do not lose their customers to operators at other airports. Meanwhile the airport intends to extend weekend operations by 3.5 hours, and its master plan includes provision for a hotel.

While work on hangar development is under way at Biggin Hill, improved facilities include grooving the runway for its entire 5,930 feet length, relieving operators of any performance penalties in wet conditions. The installation of precision approach path indicators on Runway 03 marks a further improvement to the airport’s lighting.

A report recently commissioned by the traffic master suggests that peak hour travel time by road from Biggin Hill to London’s Canary Wharf business center (for example) supports the contention that at 60 minutes, the airport can compete with London’s major gateways. A similar journey from Luton Airport was calculated to take 84 minutes, or 107.5 minutes from Farnborough, while Stansted comes closest at 67 minutes, but from Northolt the transfer would take 96 minutes.