London Biggin Hill Airport, to the southeast of the UK capital, will be in the thick of the action in late July and August as it deals with hundreds of additional movements arising from corporate- and executive-aircraft operators flying to the UK for the summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. By early May, the airport had obtained permission for some incoming traffic to fly through prohibited airspace surrounding the city and more than 350 runway slots had been requested under mandatory procedures to control movements.
For security reasons, aircraft are prohibited from flying over London during the designated Olympics period spanning July 14 to August 15. Business aircraft operators have been advised to make early requests for mandatory landing and takeoff slots under a booking system set up to formally coordinate movements of aircraft wanting to land at many airfields across southern England.
670 Slots Assigned
With nearly 670 assigned slots, Biggin Hill heads a list of 14 airports that, in anticipation of heavy demand, have been allocated specific numbers of Olympic-related movements (beyond usual traffic levels) and which together are expected to handle more than 3,000 general aviation (GA) arrivals and departures. Including normal levels of traffic, the 14 airports may accommodate 110,000 movements or more during the 31-day Olympics peak period.
By the end of last month, Biggin Hill had received applications covering 360 landing and takeoff slots (including normal traffic movements). Between July 21 and August 15 the airport has been approved to operate up to 21 flights per hour, with a maximum of 12 per hour inbound or outbound.
In late April, the privately owned airport’s business development manager, Robert Walters, said he is encouraged by the volume of bookings, which began with a flurry, settled down, and subsequently picked up, because “normally in late April we would have no bookings for that summer period, so it has been a good start.”
Walters said that two thirds of the slot applications, which included some from official Olympic sponsors, involved business jets: 25 percent of them Dassault Falcons, 16 percent Hawker Beechcraft types, 14 percent Gulfstream, and 12 percent Bombardier Canadair Challenger and Global Express models. “The remainder is made up of [mixed] smaller types and larger charter aircraft, such as ATR 42s and 72s and BAe 146s.”
About one in seven Olympics-related movements will involve transatlantic flights; a tenth comprise operators new to Biggin Hill, and there have been “multiple bookings from Australia,” according to Walters. In late April, the busiest day during the Olympic period showed 27 slot bookings connected to Games flights.
Since the airport lies inside the Olympic prohibited airspace, it had to obtain UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) exemption for aircraft transiting the zone. Otherwise, during that period, the airspace may be used only by aircraft inbound to or outbound from London’s Heathrow and City airports or RAF Northolt, under air traffic control. “Aircraft inbound to Biggin Hill using the instrument approach procedure to Runway 21 may transit the prohibited zone provided that they are in contact with [UK National Air Traffic Services] Terminal Control or Thames Radar and meet all the requirements to enter the restricted zone,” indicated the CAA.
The exemption is subject to air traffic control (ATC) capacity and flights must conform to certain regulations, including adherence to a flight plan filed two to 24 hours before takeoff, receipt of flight-plan acceptance and approval, maintenance of two-way radio contact, transmission of assigned transponder code (including circuit flying) and receipt of and compliance with ATC instructions. The CAA was expected to provide further details this month on how the Olympic temporary controlled airspace will be managed.
One challenge facing Biggin Hill, which has about 60 resident business jets, is determining whether it can accommodate all the aircraft that might want to use its parking space. Late last month, Walters conceded that this was unknown and he could not say at what level of traffic handling the number of arriving flights would become a challenge. He acknowledged that if all available slots were released, more parking space would be required “depending upon how long [the aircraft] stay.”
Nevertheless, many airport resident companies are offering to rent parking capacity and there also are empty hangars available; helicopters could alight in grass areas, if the ground were dry. Biggin Hill (Stand 372) recently opened a new hangar adjoining the main terminal building.
Overall, the greatest number of additional movements in the region (largely driven by general aviation and heads-of-state requirements) has been forecast to occur on July 26, the day before the Olympics opening ceremony, with July 27 seeing the greatest demand for aircraft parking.) Walters confirmed that early slot applications showed that July 25 to 29 and August 10 to 14 were, initially, the most popular periods.
Business aircraft visitors to Biggin Hill during the Olympic Games period stand “a high chance” of being able to use their FBO of choice, but they have to be prepared for the unknown, said Walters, who claims the airport could provide “the most comprehensive maintenance cover for visiting aircraft during the Olympics.” In addition to Biggin Hill’s own executive terminal, ground handling also is available through the Jet Aviation and Rizon Jet FBOs.
Base and line maintenance is available for all Gulfstream models; Dassault Falcon 200s, 900s and 7Xs; and Bombardier Challengers and Global Expresses. Line checks could be provided for Airbus Corporate Jets, BAe 146s, Boeing Business Jets and many [Biggin Hill] companies cover Cessna Citations (from the CJ1 to the Citation 560XL) and Hawker Beechcraft 750 to 900 variants. Maintenance is not available. For Embraer models.
Biggin Hill Sees Traffic Growth In 2012
Biggin Hill Airport in the UK has been seeing very positive growth, despite the continuing recession. Early 2012 has seen aircraft movements continuing to increase at the 12-percent rate enjoyed last year over that for 2010. Although badly hit by severe winter weather in February, the airport saw movements in January and March up on 2011 by 14.3 percent and 12.7 percent, respectively,
Business development manager Robert Walters has welcomed four new aircraft charter companies to the airport in the past 12 months, which also saw about 12,000 business aircraft movements involving twin turboprop or jet aircraft against an overall maximum total of 125,000 permitted arrivals and departures.
New Leadership At Jet Aviation Biggin Hill
Jet Aviation has appointed industry veteran Judith Moreton as the new vice president and general manager of its Biggin Hill FBO. The former managing director of Bombardier’s Skyjet International charter operation has prior experience with Shell Aircraft, as well as having run her own consultancy. Acting general manager Chris Webb is now operations manager.
The Jet Aviation facility is gearing up to support operators during the London Olympics and, as of last month, had 50 early slot bookings–about 10 percent of which are new clients. The company is refurbishing its facility for the event, with a view to a more extensive expansion project later this year.
In addition to ground handling, Jet Aviation also has an EASA Part 145/FAR 145-approved maintenance operation in its 27,000-sq-ft hangar. The Biggin Hill site is an authorized service center for Dassault’s Falcon 900 jets. It also provides support for other Falcons, as well as older Hawker jets, Cessna’s Citation 550 and 560 series and Bombardier’s Challengers.
Rizon Jet Thinks Big With Plans For Global FBO Chain
Rizon Jet reputedly spent as much as $28 million to develop its lavish FBO at London Biggin Hill Airport, with the intention of signaling its serious intent to become a global business aviation service group.
The Qatari company has a similarly well-appointed facility at its Doha International Airport headquarters, but now harbors plans to establish FBOs in leading locations such as Paris Le Bourget, Singapore and Dubai.
In addition to a beautifully decorated terminal building, Rizon’s Biggin Hill facility also encompasses a large hangar to accommodate its growing maintenance operation.