EBACE Convention News

French airports join forces to attract bizav

 - May 11, 2007, 10:39 AM

A group of French airports is exhibiting here at EBACE’07 to bolster their collective appeal to the business aviation community. According to Olivier de l’Estoile, honorary president of EBAA France, the French chapter of the European Business Aviation Association has continued its restructuring efforts, and its airports group is now almost an “organization within an organization.” And he insisted that there is no rivalry among airports providing business aviation services. “We are a group that makes decisions together and we want [each other] to flourish,” he told EBACE Convention News.

The six founding members of EBAA France Business Aviation Airports comprise Paris Le Bourget (Booth No. 211), Cannes Mandelieu, Lyon Bron, Avignon, Le Touquet and Ancenis. They have since been joined by the southern France gateway airports of Nice-Côte d’Azur and Le Castellet.

De l’Estoile emphasized that the door is open for other general aviation airports with business aviation facilities to sign EBAA France’s Airports Charter, unveiled as a code of good practice last year at EBACE’06. The charter, which is claimed to be unique in Europe, gives business aviation a specific identity. It is particularly aimed at airports developing infrastructures dedicated to business aviation, such as purpose-built FBOs, while also being in harmony with the local environment.

Cannes-Mandelieu (Booth No. 311), the country’s second-ranking business and private aviation airport, opened in 1967 with the expressed intention of becoming the “Le Bourget of the south.” It is closely allied to Nice-Côte d’Azur, just 13 nm to the west, both airports being owned and operated by the Nice-Côte d’Azur Chamber of Commerce and sharing the same airspace. The owner’s strategy is for Nice to give priority to quick turnaround flights and heavy aircraft, while Cannes’ priority is to accommodate business aviation operators.

While Nice benefits from around-the-clock operations, Cannes is restricted to operating hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the winter and 8 a.m. to sundown-plus-30 minutes in the summer (until 9:45 p.m. in mid-June). The longest runway at Nice is 9,711 feet and has no limit in terms of aircraft weight. Cannes’ longest runway is 5,280 feet and aircraft are restricted to a max takeoff weight of 22 tons (48,500 pounds– accommodating, for example, a Dassault Falcon 900EX). Cannes has 13 hangars with parking capacity for up to 190 aircraft.

According to Umberto Vallino, head of marketing and statistics for the two French Riviera airports, traffic at Nice increased by 17 percent to 24,464 movements last year, while at the same time, Cannes traffic increased steadily from 8,169 movements in 2000 to 11,772 in 2006–an annual boost of 7 percent. He confirmed that Nice expects to open a dedicated business aviation terminal in October 2008 and an aircraft marshaling service to assist parking.

In fact, the Cannes facility will not expand indefinitely since it is limited to four takeoffs and four landings each hour because of noise restrictions. Cannes’ environmental charter pledges to reduce noise, air and water pollution, and it includes limits on night flights and prohibits lengthening the runway. Vallino said traffic movements are expected to remain steady, but the airport is concentrating on enhancing the quality of its FBO services.

Privately owned Le Castellet (Booth No. 445), located 34 miles from France’s second-largest city Marseilles, trades on the proximity of the Paul Ricard car racing circuit (both of which are owned by British Formula I racing tycoon Bernie Ecclestone) and the underdevelopment of Marseilles Airport’s business aviation activity. Le Castellet was refurbished in 1999 and opened to traffic, mostly business aviation, in January 2002 with round-the-clock operations.

The facility includes a full-service FBO with a business center. Its 5,741-foot runway can accommodate aircraft up to the size of an Airbus 319. Parking is available in four hangars. Prior notice of arrivals is no longer required for night flights since the airport’s runway lights are now fully approved. Traffic has risen steadily, logging 6,302 movements in 2005, the most recent figure available from the airport.

Last year, Lyon Bron (Booth No. 213), which serves the major city of Lyon and the industrial Rhone-Alpes region, reported a 15.8-percent hike in business aviation activity to 6,285 movements, following an 8-percent increase the previous year. Airport manager Eric Dumas attributed the steady rise in business aircraft activity to the recent upgrading of its terminal building. The FBO is open all year from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with extensions on request. Dumas said it takes one minute for a passenger alighting from an aircraft to reach the terminal and another minute to get into a taxi to downtown Lyon, just eight miles away.

The southern inland city of Avignon (Booth No. 210) attracts plenty of local clientele and also takes traffic from Cannes and Nice when they are busy. The airport has experienced mixed fortunes after the introduction in June 2001 of TGV high-speed train services between Paris and nearby Marseilles. However, air traffic recovered in 2004, helped by upgrades to its FBO and dedicated business aviation hangars. Business aircraft movements increased again, albeit to a relatively modest 2,343 in 2005.

Ancenis, jointly owned by 29 small towns in western France, lies 22 miles east of the major port and industrial city of Nantes and 31 miles west of the tourist city of Angers. Airport director Serge Chevillard said the airport’s main aim is to be the region’s business aviation center.

The Ancenis runway has been extended to 3,937 feet, and the airport authority awaits a decision on approval for installation of IFR all-weather approach aids and a further lengthening of the 82-foot-wide runway to 4,920 feet. Business aviation activity remains marginal, rising from 136 movements in 2000 to just 243 in 2005.

Le Touquet Côte d’Opale (Booth No. 314), which last year notched 70 years of operation, lies a few hundred yards from the fashionable beach resort of Le Touquet, one of northern France’s prime vacation and conference centers. The 6,068-foot DME-equipped runway is open all year, normally from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter and an hour later in summer, and it can receive all types of aircraft up to the size of a Boeing 737.

Airport director Jean-Jacques Fromentin said business aviation traffic during the last three years has increased by about 10 percent per annum, reaching 1,380 movements last year. He added that Le Touquet is considering the addition of a dedicated business aviation facility. Meanwhile, he said, the airport expects to update the existing terminal by 2012.