EBACE Convention News

Oxford Airport steps up investment in London-area bizav gateway

 - May 10, 2009, 5:30 AM

Oxford Airport is continuing to develop as a business aviation gateway for central and southern England, with the completion this month of a new 21,000-sq-ft hangar and the arrival of new based operators. The new Hangar 11 will be large enough for aircraft such as the Boeing Business Jet.

Later this year, the privately owned airport plans to start redeveloping the south side of the site into a general aviation park that will accommodate increasing numbers of light aircraft and entry-level jets. This will feature new long, thin, bay-style hangars modeled on similar airports in the U.S., allowing operators to easily take out light aircraft without having to move others. There will be a total of 17 bays arranged in two rows and these should be in place during 2010.

The airport is also planning to further extend the main apron. The goal is to have space for two rows of aircraft, including those up to the size of an Airbus Corporate Jetliner.

“We have seen a 33-percent growth in traffic since the last EBACE show,” said managing director Steve Jones. “We have almost reached our initial goal of 5,000 business aviation movements a year, but there has been a slowdown in the last six months. However, we have still grown by 10 percent at a time when the rest of the UK market is about 25 percent down, and the rest of Europe is about 20 percent.”

Last year, the airport spent approximately $3.2 million to open a new business aviation terminal which operates under the name OxfordJet (Booth No. 1463), and meets all the latest security requirements. Later this summer the airport expects to  receive approval to allow private transportation of pets, making it the only other London-area airport apart from Biggin Hill to be able to offer this service.

The airport recently upgraded fire-and-rescue cover to Category 5, which required it to increase the number of full-time emergency staff from 11 to 23. The upgrade has allowed it to welcome executive charter and corporate shuttle operations by aircraft in the 50- to 70-seat categories, such as the Avions de Transport Regional ATR 72, BAE Systems Avro RJ70, Saab 2000, Fokker 50 and Bombardier Dash 8 Series 300.

Oxford’s management is encouraging operators to explore the case for providing pay-per-seat scheduled business shuttle services to locations where locally based large companies have operations. The airport is open all week from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. However, that can be extended to 6 a.m. to midnight, providing greater flexibility than is available at other business aviation airports around the UK capital.

Among the business jets covered by the new fire-and-rescue service is the Embraer Legacy.  The first of its type to be based at Oxford, the aircraft is to arrive this month and will be offered for charter. The airport is set to be one of the first in Europe to be home to Embraer’s new Phenom 100 very light jet, with based operators Hangar 8 and FlairJet both introducing the aircraft this year. The first of three Hangar 8 Phenom 100s is due to arrive in July.

Another new arrival at Oxford is a pair of Dornier 328Jets operated by Icejet (see box), one of which features a 14-seat VIP configuration and the other a 19-seat cabin. The Iceland-based operator has positioned the aircraft in the UK in the hope of developing its business beyond its home market, which remains in the grips of a serious financial crisis.

Passengers arriving at Oxford can use helicopter shuttle services provided by Capital Air Services (formerly Oxford Air Services). According to airport  managing director, Michael Hampton, landing and parking fees are so much lower at Oxford than at some London airports that customers effectively have their helicopter ride for free in terms of overall cost. Separately, new air taxi operator Oasis Flight has just been granted an air operator’s certificate and is about to begin flights with a pair of leased, five-passenger Cessna 303 piston twins.