London Biggin Hill Aims To Increase Traffic
In a recent re-branding, London Biggin Hill Airport hopes “business,” “travel” and “community” will become perceived values of its operations, according to business-development director Robert Walters. A new logo, adorning EBACE Booth 5146, depicts an executive jet silhouette against the background of a Royal Air Force roundel “as a nod” to the airfield’s fame as a Battle of Britain aerodrome in 1940.
Today, more than 60 businesses are housed at Biggin Hill, which claims an unrivaled choice of transport modes–road, rail, or air–for business customers flying into the UK capital city (with London Heliport approximately six minutes away).
The airfield competes for traffic with Farnborough, Luton and Stansted airports–all four are marketed with the “London” prefix (as indeed are the much further afield Oxford and Southend Airports), although only Biggin Hill is inside the city’s M25 orbital motorway.
The rebranding is accompanied by back-office development of business plans to make Biggin “the business airport for London,” said managing director Will Curtis, who was appointed last year after a career in business-aircraft management and charter in the UK, Switzerland and the Gulf with operators such as Goldair, Rizon Jet and Perfect Aviation.
The airport also has introduced customer-service management to integrate executive-handling activity with related passenger and terminal operations. Courtesy and service are seen as key ways to attract regular London business-aircraft operators from competing airports.
“Good” and “not so good” monthly performances in the first quarter of the year have yielded a 3-percent increase in Biggin Hill aircraft movements over 2013’s first three months, according to Walters, who reports a much larger 10-percent growth in heavier aircraft weighing more than 20,000 kg (44,100 pounds). “The mid-size [sector] is not performing as well [and there are also] inconsistent traffic flows that are very hard to predict,” he said.
Nevertheless, the airport is seeing “strong” demand for hangar space, with five contracts signed in a recent six-week period. Walters suggests that the arrival of long-range Gulfstream GVIs (G650s) at Biggin Hill has helped to expand the range of available destinations.
Among airport tenants, global network Signature Flight Support recently acquired the Biggin Hill fixed-base operation assets of Jets, which continues to provide aircraft maintenance services and is about to launch an AOG (aircraft-on-ground) engineering team. There are two other FBOs at Biggin Hill: the in-house BQH handling unit, which handles almost 60 percent of flights, and Rizon Jet.
Additional companies include helicopter operator Castle Air, which this month became an AgustaWestland AW139 authorized service center, and RAS Completions, which is approved for Gulfstream painting and refurbishment work. Walters said he hopes resident MRO companies can attract maintenance-approval authorization from Embraer and Gulfstream. Base maintenance is already available for certain Dassault Falcon and Bombardier Global Express and Challenger models.
Continued investment in facilities includes planned installation of an all-weather GPS precision approach to Runway 3, which the airport hopes to see in place by year-end. Officials believe the enhanced accessibility could increase traffic by as much as 10 percent. “We need to lay the foundation for future investment to make the airport as safe and accessible as possible,” said Walters.
As part of Biggin Hill’s strategic development plan, the airport this month launched a customer-relationship management program to enable crew and passengers to comment on facilities and services, while a new Wi-Fi system accessible in the terminal and on the ramp is to be extended later this year to cover the whole airport and capture feedback from all customers and tenants.
Biggin Hill believes it is the first UK business aviation airport to integrate safety- and quality-management systems alongside customer services introduced to comply with European Aviation Safety Agency requirements.
Work also has recommenced on plans to erect a 76-room airport hotel, for which planning permission was obtained five years ago. The airport is looking for hotel operator and funding partners. Finally, with Oxford and another unspecified airport, Biggin Hill has successfully petitioned for judicial review of UK government plans to permit expanded business-aircraft operations at RAF Northolt, a military airfield near London that is not subject to civil-aviation safety requirements.