EBACE Convention News

Ashford offers relief from traffic delays at London

 - November 29, 2006, 10:13 AM

FAL Aviation UK is here at EBACE to promote its recently opened executive facility at the former Lydd Airport on the southeast coast of England. Both the private airport–which has rebranded itself London Ashford Airport–and the business aircraft operation are subsidiaries of Saudi Arabian-based FAL Holdings (Riyadh). Being outside the London TMA, the airport avoids air traffic control delays at airports closer to the city.

For corporate travelers needing to reach London’s business district, however, the airport is 70 miles away, with most of the drive being via motorway. Ground transportation options could be improved if authorities were to reopen a nearby link to the UK national railway network and to high-speed European continental services from nearby Ashford station.

FAL Aviation’s FBO was built as part of a plan to develop the entire airport. The airport operator, London Ashford Airport Ltd., has invested £15 million in improvements, including ILS equipment, new runway lights, a resurfaced and strengthened 4,937-foot runway, and more than 565,000 sq ft of apron.

The operator expects to complete an environmental impact assessment in two or three months before applying to make further improvements, including a runway extension to 5,900 feet, new terminal building and a hotel. The airport is holding public meetings to inform local residents of its proposals. Officials argue that aircraft arriving and leaving London Ashford over the English Channel provide “a sound environmental reason” why the airport should be developed over the next decade.

The recent investment also covers terminal upgrade, refurbishing the main maintenance hangar, creating and refurbishing the VIP terminal, building new departure and arrival facilities for commercial traffic and offices for customs and immigration, as well as purchasing ground support equipment. Plans aim to accommodate Boeing 737 operations as investment more than doubles to around $60 million by 2014, when London Ashford could be handling as many as two million airline passengers a year, as well as business traffic.

Last July, airport officials said they hoped that by next year 187,000 passengers would be using London Ashford annually, traveling in 30- and 40-seat aircraft. The authority would break even at an annual traffic level of 250,000 passengers.

Airport hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but movements are permitted at other times with prior permission. Facilities include conference rooms, a flight planning room and crew rest areas.