Biggin Hill airport is boosting passenger confidence by opening up a testing centre for staff, passengers and the local community.

After months of restrictions and lockdowns, there’s pent up demand from business owners, entrepreneurs and key personnel keen to get both themselves – and the economy – moving again. FINN took a trip to Biggin Hill Airport, just outside of London, to find out more about their on-site testing facility, which can turn around COVID-19 tests in under 15 minutes.

Fast testing – a “win-win” for passengers

Captain Daniel Gilson of Castle Air said safety checks performed at the airport were convenient and a precursor to growing passenger confidence. “Having us tested is of max convenience to our customers – they pay good money for private travel. It gives them the confidence that we are okay. We as a company are safe. And also because you can come to the aircraft to test, it makes it less of an inconvenience.

“They [passengers] want swift travel, you they want to get to where they’re going without hanging about too much. That’s a win-win for us,” he added.

Andy Patsalides, head of marketing at Biggin Hill, said the new facility reflected the time constraints of the business travellers with the whole sector driven by control over time and time saving. He said: “What people are fully understanding now is that in a very tough commercial aviation environment, there’s nothing better than knowing that you can come to Biggin Hill to be tested aircraft side. You do not need to come to the centre. Within 15 minutes, you know you’re good to go. So it does give the pilots and the passengers is a lot of confidence that they are fit to travel.

Mansi Suite named in honour of heroic GP

Ben Spiers, head of safety and compliance at the airport, identified the need for a testing centre as a service that could get people back into the skies and reduce COVID-19 risk.

He explained: “We used our own initiative to use some empty space we had open here at the airport to look to set up a testing suite to benefit not only people operating in and out of the airport, but also local businesses and members of the local community.”

He added: “The test centre is open seven days a week, between Monday and Friday from eight o’clock till four o’clock and on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 and more. So if a business aircraft is coming in out of hours, the business operator or business aircraft operator can look to make a booking with us beforehand.”

The testing centre is named the Mansi Suite in honour of the efforts of heroic local GP Joe Mansi. Dr Mansi was at Biggin Hill when it came under intense bombing as a World War II airfield during the Battle of Britain. Dr Mansi attended the scene when 40 airmen were buried in a trench following a blast in August 1940. That night, he managed to save six of the casualties.

Centre carries out four types of test

Four different types of COVID tests are currently being carried out and even the one most in demand for international travel – the PCR test – can have same day results. Others, like the test being carried out on Capt Gilson, can receive results in less than 15 minutes.

Adam Kemp, managing director of testing service provider G16 explained: “We offer four different types of tests, we offer the PCR fit to travel test, this goes off to our laboratory. We’re quite pleased to be able to offer a same day Testing Service for this, so that you can get your certificate within 24 hours. Normally, it’s 24 to 36 hours. We also offer an antigen test, so this will give you the results in 10 minutes, this tells you if you’ve got the virus.”

Kemp said the company also offered a Lamp test – loop mediated isothermal amplification. “This basically amplifies the virus by billions of times, he said. “We can give a result for this particular test in under an hour and some countries are accepting this as a test for travel.”

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