London Oxford Airport’s new development phase takes off

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As part of a new strategic plan, London Oxford Airport has begun construction work on a new development phase.

Central to the work is a 63,000 sq. ft. 140m long hangar with two bays including rear offices, stores and workshops, capable of accommodating up to six Bombardier Global, Gulfstream or Dassault Falcon Jet models, simultaneously. The hangar will be the airport’s 15th such facility and the first in a new zone of the airport to the north of the original site. Work is expected to be complete this autumn.

This latest development is part of the airport’s plan to progressively replace 80-year-old hangars with new, bespoke facilities, providing turnkey solutions for clients. Hangar 15 will be used predominantly by established tenants, many of whom currently reside in some of the airport’s older WWII facilities, along with a number of larger business aircraft for which there has been limited capacity at Oxford.

With demand for space consistently outpacing supply within the London region, the airport is committed to invest in infrastructure to accommodate more business and allow companies such as Airbus Helicopters, Volare Aviation and Jet Maintenance International (JMI) to expand. The airport is home to a number of aviation support businesses (MRO) offering maintenance, engineering, modification, design and operational support services. The new environmentally-efficient facilities will support existing aircraft and future next-gen aircraft, including eVTOL and hybrid/ electric models.

Additional infrastructural projects at the airport include a large area of new aircraft parking apron, as well as seven new ICAO/ EASA/ CAA-compliant helipads supporting Airbus Helicopters and the growing number of commercial AOC helicopter businesses at London Oxford, such as MyHeli. These complement operations with the co-owned Edmiston London Heliport, which supports up to 12,000 movements per year and the capital’s essential police and air ambulance flights.

The airport is also due to start work on a new fire station to be established in a central position on the airport to house its recently ordered three Angloco Scania 26 tonne fire tenders.

A new fuel farm will enable a quadrupling of the capacity of the original facility, while also providing valuable space for additional future static tankage for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

“In a post-pandemic economic environment, it’s critical that the UK ramps up its capabilities and capacity to provide growth and further employement, espeically in high-value, high-skilled and knowledge-based industrial sectors,” said Will Curtis, Managing Director. “Aerospace and aviation are set to rebound and business aviation is leading the charge, so timing  is crucial. Now we have put in the infrastructure for growth, we can build further facilities with relative ease and speed and further bolster employment opportunities – adding to the near on  1,000 employees based on site.”

Head of Business Development, James Dillon-Godfray, added: “We have long-established maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) businesses that need to expand. These new developments allow us to move people around the airport to facilitate that. We are also in dialogue with several new entitities about joining us in the next few years, for which this capacity is essential.”

Effective 17 May, the airport will be opening up to non-essential travel in accordance with the UK Government’s easing of COVID-related constraints. However, despite the constraints the airport saw a five-fold increase in business flights in April compared with 2020.

“Further announcements on additional developments will be made as the year progresses, marking a new stage in the airport’s evolution,” concluded Dillon-Godfray.

Redline sees increased demand from airports for its security solutions

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Redline, a provider of global security solutions and an Air Partner company, has secured six business wins with customers located around the world and totalling in excess of £1 million in revenues. The wins include agreements with airports, as well as public transport operators, regulatory bodies and government support agencies.

Edinburgh Airport has awarded Redline a three-year contract renewal for its x-ray threat image recognition training (TIRT) system. And Teesside International Airport has become a new customer having agreed a two-year contract with Redline for its digital Security Management System (SeMS).

Commenting on the new partnership, Phil Forster, Managing Director at Teeside International Airport said: “The airport is on an exciting journey of transformation and growth, with Redline playing a key part in our future success. Digital SeMS is a welcome enhancement that will help us to manage and improve our security performance.”

Meanwhile, Mark Briffa, CEO of Air Partners, added, “We are pleased to see a strong rebound in demand for Redline’s services in anticipation of lockdown measures and travel restrictions lifting. It is testament to our first-class product offering and customer service that both new and existing customers, from international airports to government departments, continue to place their trust in us.”

Redline is noting an increased demand for its security solutions as airports begin to scale up operations, including for its user-friendly and technically advanced TIRT system, which has been designed to fine-tune x-ray image screeners’ ability to detect even the smallest components of viable threats. Meanwhile, its proprietary SeMS, which allows managers to effectively assess and manage risk in an ever-changing threat environment, is also gaining good traction with customers.

To hope businesses across the aviation industry as they plan for the return of international travel, Air Partner has also recently launched its newly branded National Safety & Security Academy (NSSA) in Doncaster, which was previously the National Security Training Centre (NSTC).

UK PCR rate double the European rate

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With the UK Government releasing its Global Travel Taskforce framework for easing travel restrictions, research by ABTA – The Travel Association and the Airport Operators Association (AOA) reveals that the cost of PCR testing for international travel in the UK is double that of testing in other European countries. With a PCR test now required on Day 2 after returning to the UK from even the lowest-risk countries, the research also highlights the disproportionate cost of PCR testing for travellers.

On average a UK pre-departure PCR test costs £128 per person, while across eight key destinations the test costs less than half that at just under £62 per person. Those travelling from the UK to a European destination would pay an average of £306 for testing as they will need a UK pre-departure test, a pre-departure test in their destination country at the end of their holiday and a post-arrival test in the UK if they have flown to a green country under the new traffic light system announced on Friday 9 April.

Both ABTA and AOA are calling on the Government to look at whether passengers who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing when travelling to green list countries.

“The restart of international travel needs to be affordable and accessible for everyone – so that people can take their much-needed overseas holidays and visit the family and friends abroad whom they’ve not been able to see for such a long time,” said Mark Tanzer Chief Executive of ABTA. “Travel to the lower risk, green categorised countries should be as unrestricted as possible. The requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact that the Government commits to engaging with industry on this issue. Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus. The Government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.”

Karen Dee, Chief Executive, AOA added that the cost of testing could act as a significant barrier to restarting aviation. “With UK pre-departure and post-arrival tests costing around double the average in countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, UK travellers are penalised for wanting to travel from the UK.”

She also highlighted that, “with the Government offering free rapid tests domestically, it is vital that business travellers and holidaymakers can make use of these for green-listed countries upon their return. The Government should also work to reduce, if not eliminate, the cost for pre-departure tests in the UK.”

Echoing these sentiments, Henry Smith MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Future of Aviation said that “the sky-high cost of PCR tests run the risk of being a major disincentive to travel for many and the Government must ensure that these costs are kept as low as possible, we simply cannot afford to have a framework that burdens people in the UK with double the testing costs of other European nations.

“We should be looking to less expensive and burdensome tests which are now the standard and accepted test in every other part of society rather than having Europe’s most expensive tests which will only make travel unaffordable for many.”

Header image: PCR tests being conducted at the CENTOGENE test centre at Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

Southampton Airport runway extension gets green light

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Controversial plans to extend the runway at Southampton Airport in the UK have been approved.

The plan is to extend the northern end of the runway by 164m, within existing airport boundaries. Although the plans had previously been rejected by the local area committee Eastleigh Borough Council approved the plans  on 10 April.

Responding to the positive decision from the council, Operations Director, Steve Szalay said, “This is the news we have been hoping for and working so hard to achieve. By listening to the overwhelming public and business support, as well as the planning officer’s recommendation to approve, the councillors have safeguarded the future of the airport. The decision also ensures we are well placed to provide employment and support the region as we seek to recover post pandemic.”

The runway extension will enable longer-haul aircraft to take-off and land at the airport and subsequently is expected to generate around 1,000 more jobs.

“We are excited about our future,” added Szalay. “This positive decision allows us to further develop our plans, play a full part in the Solent Freeport and deliver on our commitments set out within the planning application, which will further enrich our neighbouring communities.”

Acknowledging that some of those living locally have concerns regarding the impact of the runway extension, Szalay added, “We appreciate that some of our neighbours have concerns regarding the noise and the environment. Please be assured that we want to work with residents to mitigate these issues going forward.”

AOA responds to Boris Johnson’s statement on international travel

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The Airport Operators Association (AOA) Chief Executive, Karen Dee, has spoken out following the UK Prime Minister’s update on the Global Travel Taskforce on Monday 5 April.

Boris Johnson’s announcement threw summer holiday plans into disarray by delaying for another month the decision on when international travel can resume following the latest coronavirus lockdown. The uncertainty over travel restrictions also means that tens of thousands of jobs within the aviation and travel industry remain at risk.

“It is disappointed that the initial update from the Prime Minister continues to suggest significant barriers to international travel and may push back the date of restart beyond 17 May,” said Dee.

“While a new green category with no isolation requirement on return to the UK is very welcome, potentially costly and onerous testing requirements would limit the possibilities for many people to travel to countries in the green category.”

Adding that she looked forward to further details on the Global Travel Taskforce’s report on 12 April, Dee urged the Government “to scrutinise the evidence provided by industry, health experts and others that set out how a risk-based, proportionate system could open up aviation without quarantine and with affordable, rapid testing.

“Any prolonged closure of UK airports’ key destinations in Europe in particular will have major financial impacts that the Government will need to mitigate.”

Review of domestic APD one of key levers for UK Goverment to boost connectivity recovery

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As one of a handful of countries in Europe to charge Air Passenger Duty (APD), UK airports have welcomed the domestic APD review as part of Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review, which was initiated to explore ways to improve connectivity between the UK’s four nations. However they have also underlined that it must be part of a wider Aviation Recovery Package.

The UK’s APD is the highest such tax in the developed world, double that of the next highest in the EU, which is charged in Germany.

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “The recognition of the detrimental impact of Air Passenger Duty and a commitment to review domestic APD to reduce its impact is very welcome. Domestic aviation suffered a double-hit in the last year, with the collapse of Flybe and the COVID-19 pandemic, and this offers a glimmer of hope for the future.”

She also noted that Sir Peter’s review recognised that many of Flybe’s routes were unprofitable prior to the pandemic. “With aviation’s recovery expected to stretch beyond 2025, this will put further routes at risk of not returning quickly or at all, not just domestically but also from regional airports to international destinations.

“That is why the Government’s long-promised Aviation Recovery Package must set out an ambitious strategy to return international and domestic connectivity to the UK nations and regions. APD is one of the key levers that the Government has to boost connectivity recovery but APD reform must be part of an holistic approach. This could include measures such as a regional connectivity start-up fund, Public Service Obligation routes, or waiving of airport charges for key routes as is happening in the Republic of Ireland.”

 

 

London Biggin Hill welcomes two new arrivals

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This week has seen London Biggin Hill welcome two new arrivals.

Air Charter Scotland

Headquartered in Glasgow and with a base at London Luton Airport, private jet operator and aircraft management company, Air Charter Scotland, is now expanding its London presence by adding a Cessna Citation M525 (G-KSOH) on to its UK AOC, based out of London Biggin Hill Airport.

The management of the six-passenger light jet will be overseen by Jet Agent, the Biggin-based aircraft sales, management and acquisitions specialist and the intention is to place more aircraft with Air Charter Scotland under charter this year.

“Thanks to this strategic new partnership, we are pleased to add a second London home at Biggin Hill Airport and base aircraft, complementing our established London Luton (Signature Aviation) base,” said Derek Thomson, COO of Air Charter Scotland. “London Biggin Hill is well located for London and is increasingly popular as a dedicated business aviation airport,” he added.

Meanwhile, Robert Walters, Commercial Director at London Biggin Hill Airport said, “Air Charter Scotland’s choice of London Biggin Hill to strengthen its connection to the capital reflects the calibre of our service and the importance of our location to growing businesses.”

Echelon Air

This week has also seen the London business aviation airport airport welcome flight training, aircraft sales and management company, Echelon Air.

A recently registered Declared Training Organization (DTO), Echelon Air provides extensive flight training courses in Cirrus Aircraft, along with on-site use of its certified Cirrus G6 Flight1 Tech Simulator. Commenting on the training organisation’s new home Philippe Polman, Founder of Echelon Air, said: “Having a base at London Biggin Hill Airport is a great step in the development and growth of our business. We now look forward to beginning work in earnest.”

UK government extends airport slot waiver

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The UK government has introduced legislation to extend the airports slot allocation waiver over the summer 2021 season, in support of the aviation industry through the  summer season.

Pre-COVID, airlines had to operate flights at least 80% of the time in order to retain their slots. But the extended slot allocation waiver will help protect future connectivity and prevent airlines from operating high-cost carbon-inefficient ‘ghost flights’ in order to retain historic rights to slots. The waiver had to been due to expire in spring.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “I want to restart international travel as soon as it is safe and the slots waiver is a critical part of making that happen.” With airlines flying a smaller proportion of their usual schedules, he added “the waiver means carriers can reserve their finances, reduce the need for environmentally damaging ‘ghost flights’ and allow normal services to immediately restart when the pandemic allows.”

News on the extended slot allocation waivers also comes as the UK Prime Minister announced that the relaunched Global Travel Taskforce will deliver a report on 12 April outlining a framework to restart international travel, as wider restrictions are lifted over the coming months.

London Luton Airport welcomes increased connectivity with UK capital

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London Luton Airport (LLA) has welcomed a new rail service to central London with East Midlands Railway introducing a half hourly nonstop service between the UK capital and Luton Airport Parkway.

The new service, which will be part of the May timetable change, is the first significant step towards a separately-branded Luton Airport Express service. It will operate using electric trains that will run every 30 minutes between 6am and 10pm daily. Additional late night and early morning services will accommodate departures outside those peak hours.

LLA has long campaigned for an express rail service, supported by a range of national and local businesses including easyJet, in recognition that improved links bring to the local community and the national economy. With a reduction of up to 70,000 car journeys per year, the express rail link will also bring environmental benefits.

With ongoing travel restrictions, there are far fewer passengers using the airport than there would normally be. However, Alberto Martin, CEO of LlA pointed out that the airport needs “to take the opportunity to prepare for a return to air travel, and these changes do just that. It will be even easier for passengers to reach the airport as soon as it is safe to do so again, and I look forward to welcoming them back.”

Meanwhile, Will Rogers, Managing Director at East Midlands Railway revealed that a key part of the railway company’s enhancement of its services and timetable is the step change in service for Luton Airport.  “We look forward to continuing to work closely with the airport to further develop the service,” he said.

The additional connectivity from Luton Airport Parkway will be significantly enhanced by the construction of the Direct Air-Rail Transit (DART) service, which is nearing completion. The £225m investment sees the creation of a fixed link between the airport and the station, replacing the current bus service.

UK Government must include crisis support for aviation in pathway to easing lockdown

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With aviation the worst-hit sector in 2020 according to ONS economic growth figures released on Friday 12 February, the Airport Operators Association (AOA) is calling for the UK budget to include support for the sector.

AOA’s Chief Executive, Karen Dee, said: “UK aviation has been decimated by COVID-19, as ONS data confirms that aviation was the worst-hit sector in the economy with tourism a close second. Our businesses were the first to be impacted, have been at a near-total shutdown for 12 months and will be the last to recover.”

She added that ONS figures “show the clear-cut case for significant, sector-specific support for aviation and tourism, just like the UK’s main competitors such as Germany, France and the US have provided.

“The Prime Minister should include a road-map out of travel restrictions along with his pathway to easing the UK’s domestic lockdown on 22 February. The Chancellor must urgently set out crisis support for aviation to see through the government-ordered shutdown of international travel and announce an Aviation Recovery Package to boost the recovery once it is safe to restart flights.”

Dee added that failure to support airports now and set out a clear pathway towards restart of the industry will have major impacts on UK jobs and economic growth, not just in the short term but also up to 2025 and beyond. “Not acting now will hamper the UK economic recovery, particularly outside London and the South East, and leave the Government’s global Britain and levelling-up agendas in tatters.”