London Oxford Airport continues to expand as the airfield cements its position in the UK’s top five business aviation locations, despite a 7.5 percent drop in business aviation movements in the overall London region. In the year through April 2019, 84,644 movements were recorded, of which Luton and Farnborough accounted for 55 percent, while Biggin Hill and Stansted shared another 25 percent. The remaining 20 percent was distributed among Oxford (Booth A67), Northolt, Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, London City, Cambridge, Denham, Fairoaks, and Blackbushe. Luton and Stansted saw the biggest reductions, where business aviation is increasingly being squeezed by the low-cost commercial carriers, especially at night during the summer months.
Oxford’s figure of 5,500 movements in the same period places it just behind the UK’s “big four,” and the airport has seen large-cabin jet traffic rise by 2 percent, light jet and midsize traffic remain stable, and turboprop traffic increase by 34 percent, largely due to the operations of JetFly’s fractional ownership fleet of Pilatus PC-12s. JetFly PC-24 operations are expected to further swell traffic numbers.
The OxfordJet FBO has seen passenger numbers increase by 20 percent to 10,000 per annum. Light general aviation movements are on the rise, too, through the activities of the existing CAE and Airways flight schools, which have been joined recently by two more in the form of Leading Edge Aviation and Go Fly Oxford.
Helicopter activity is steady at 6,000 movements annually, many of which are 20-/25-minute interlining missions serving the London Battersea heliport, which is owned by London Oxford's owners, the Reuben Brothers. Interlining with the helicopter service is being promoted by a 50 percent reduction in landing fees for arriving jets if passengers then travel on to Battersea. Airbus Helicopters is a major tenant at Oxford, with its main UK MRO activity located there. A specialty is the outfitting and support of aircraft for police and air ambulance services.
In terms of airfield infrastructure, the principal recent development is the completion of Hangar 14 Bay 4, into which MRO start-up JMI has moved. Resident Volare Aviation has also added Gulfstream and Leonardo helicopter models to the list of types it provides MRO support, while Austria’s GlobeAir has established a Part 145 facility to provide in-house line and base maintenance for its 20-strong fleet of Citation Mustangs, which were previously supported at the airport by Gama Aviation until it moved out in 2018. Over the next one to three years Oxford plans to add a number of new hangars, along with possible student hostel and training facilities.
Oxford expects to gain a new fuel farm as a result of a recent change of fuel provider. The airport’s policy is to review and re-compete its fuel supplies every few years and, following six years of Air BP providing the service, World Fuel Services has been awarded a five-year contract for both Oxford and Battersea, including maintenance, support, and access to World Fuel's training platform. World Fuel began the service on February 1 and is designing and implementing a new fuel farm for the airport. Although the plan has yet to receive final approval, the fuel farm will be built in a new site, allowing the clearance of the old installation to make way for the planned hangar expansion.
At the Oxford Technology Park, adjacent to the airport, construction work has begun on a 101-room hotel and 150-cover restaurant, due for completion in late summer. This will provide affordable accommodation for flight crews and technicians during stopovers and short-duration deployments.
However, Oxford has had to return to the drawing board regarding its Airspace Change Proposal that was initiated in 2015 to provide global navigation satellite system (GNSS) approaches. The airport is now looking at combined radio and transponder mandatory zones with nearby RAF Brize Norton. The UK’s National Air Traffic Service is designing new GNSS approaches, and a new proposal will be submitted with the aim of gaining approval by 2020. The initial ambition is to have an LPV200 RNAV approach to runway 01.
In another move, the airport—which already enjoys operating hours from 6 a.m. to midnight—is exploring with local authorities the ability to offer a number of slots outside of those hours to capitalize on the inability of Luton and Stansted, in particular, to offer any nighttime landing slots to business aviation while Northolt is closed to all fixed-wing traffic until October due to runway work. Out-of-hours operations would most likely be restricted by nightly, weekly, monthly, and annual caps.