London Biggin Hill Airport (Booth U126) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year at EBACE, and recently received a major boost by being permitted to significantly extend its opening hours as of May 1. The airport believes this will bring even more interest from those seeking a well-located but uncongested business aviation airport for London.
In addition, spurred by the extension of its operating hours, it recently secured a £15 million ($18.776 million) financing package from HSBC to fund a major infrastructure-improvement program. Site clearing has already begun for a new 60,000-sq-ft hangar capable of storing up to six ultra-long-range business jets; a three-story office complex of 10,000 sq ft; and an additional 1.6 acres of ramp space. Construction of an on-site four-star, 50-bed hotel has also begun.
“Completing the deal with HSBC enables us to fulfill the next stage of our development strategy for further enhancing Biggin Hill’s reputation as the gateway to London, and the city for business aviation,” said Will Curtis, the airport’s managing director. “Building on the success of the HSBC deal, Biggin Hill is introducing extended operating hours in the coming weeks that will provide our customers and users with unrivaled flexibility and capacity.”
Biggin Hill had already reported increased traffic over the past year, which it also puts down in part to the popularity of the always-available Heli Shuttle, operated by Castle Air, to London’s Battersea Heliport.
The new airport operating hours are 06:30 to 23:00 Monday to Friday, adding one hour in the evenings, but the main increase is on weekends, increasing from the present 09:00-to-20:00 to 08:00-22:00.
Other recent developments include Bombardier and Signature last year taking over the former Rizon hangar, to run respective maintenance and FBO businesses there. The airport is also close to approval for new GPS approaches to Runway 03, which does not have an ILS. At present, the only ILS approach is to Runway 21.
Business development director Robert Walters told AIN last month that there are “five key things” happening at Biggin Hill Airport this year: 1. A new apron is being constructed, big enough for six G650s alongside a new hangar and offices (construction of which has started); 2. A 40-room hotel next to Bombardier/Signature (the aim is to start construction in Q4); 3. the extended opening hours; 4. the Runway 03 GPS approaches, with 300-foot decision height; and 5. a new college plan will be signed off.
With some 10 MRO companies at the airport now, Walters said there was plenty of room for more. He noted that “the new opening hours were key for Bombardier, which is due to receive its base maintenance approval imminently."
Last year, Biggin Hill experienced growth in the number of aircraft movements of between 14percent, but the number was 40percent for aircraft over 10 metric tons, said Walters. Traffic is still well below its 125,000 annual movement cap imposed by the Council. The number of turbine helicopters based and using the airport is growing fast as well, Walters told AIN.
Walters said that the extended hours would allow Biggin Hill to accept “earlier transatlantic flights, getting people off and out into Europe for the working day,” andevening flights to the Middle East would be able to leave on track to arrive in the early morning. “We’ve never been able to [accommodate] that before.” Later arrivals on Sunday nights will also help leading into the working week the UKand the rest of Europe for flights from the U.S., he said. Meanwhile there is “two hours’ more leeway” for weekend visitors to get away.
Walters believes that the combination of no slot restrictions and the longer operating hours gives Biggin Hill a major advantage over airports such as London Stansted and Luton.