London Oxford Airport has started construction work on a new development phase, which include a new hangar complex, seven new helipads, SAF fuel farm and new fire station.
Last week, FINN editor-in-chief Alan Peaford explored how saving the UK’s airfields and smaller airports from housing development would be key for the emerging regional air mobility sector.
The development at London Oxford is set for completion this autumn and would be its most significant step forward to date. Central to the work is a 63,000 sq ft (6,000 sq m) 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 new hangar, the airport’s 15th, is the first facility in a new zone of the airport to the north of the original site.
The hangar will be used predominantly by established tenants, many of whom reside facilities dating back to WWII facilities, along with a number of larger business aircraft for which there has been limited capacity at Oxford. The airport will progressively replace 80-year-old hangars with new, facilities, providing turnkey solutions for clients.
Demand for space outpaces supply
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 established 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) that cover 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 power has been brought into the site.
The projects have been overseen these past 12 months by Will Curtis, who joined London Oxford Airport as Managing Director in 2020. Curtis said: “In a new post-pandemic economic environment, it’s critical that the UK ramps-up its capabilities and capacity to provide growth and further employment, especially in high value, high-skilled and knowledge-based industrial sectors. 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 entities about joining us in the next few years, for which this capacity is essential.”
Seven new helipads
A large area of new aircraft parking apron has been created but also seven new ICAO/EASA/CAA-compliant helipads supporting Airbus Helicopters and the growing number of commercial AOC helicopter businesses at the airport like MyHeli. These complement operations with the co-owned Edmiston London Heliport, London’s only CAA-licensed heliport, which supports up to 12,000 movements year and the capital’s essential police and air ambulance flights.
London Oxford Airport will also commence work on a new fire station to be established in a central position on the airport. This will allow for fulfilling the need for the highest fire categories at all times having also just ordered three new Angloco Scania 26 tonne fire tenders.
New SAF fuel farm
A new fuel farm will enable a quadrupling of the capacity of the original facility, whilst also providing valuable space for additional future static tankage for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). The industry is progressively introducing SAF with up to 80 per cent reduction in lifecycle CO2 emissions.
London Oxford Airport hosts a varied mix of general and business aviation users with a strong pilot training base. It is home to Airbus Helicopters UK’s headquarters and a steadily growing business aviation sector, supporting around 10,000 passengers a year both private and charter, mainly for business trips. Recently the airport welcomed its largest regional airliner type, the 145-seat Embraer EMB-195, supporting charters for the motorsports community, proving the usefulness of the airport in supporting one of the UK’s most dynamic industry sectors.
With several peer UK airports and airfields known to be closing in the years to come, Oxford will strive to contribute to the Government’s stated objective of becoming ‘The best country in the world for general aviation’ ensuring there is the capacity to support this aspiration. Last year saw the establishment of a new 100-room hotel at at the Oxford Technology Park, at the entrance to the airport creating more jobs and a new amenity.
The airport has opened up to non-essential travel in accordance with the UK Government’s easing of Covid-related constraints and, despite restrictions, has seen a five-fold increase in business flights in April compared with 2020. Further announcements on additional developments will be made as the year progresses.