01 September 2007 – Uk Construction
The Oxford Airport site was first used as an aerodrome in the late 1930s. From the mid-sixties, the airfield was best known as the home of CSE Aviation and the Oxford Air Training School (now Oxford Aviation Training)- one of the world’s most successful professional pilot training establishments having trained well over 20,000 airline pilots for more than 80 airlines over the last 40 years.
Oxford Airport is owned and operated by Oxford Aviation Services Limited (OASL). Since July 2007, OASL has been owned by Oxford Airport Acquisitions Limited, a subsidiary of Oxford Airport Holdings Ltd, which ultimately is owned by Aldersgate Investments. Aldersgate Investment Limited is part of the Reuben Brothers Holdings and is the principle investment vehicle for both private equity and real estate transactions. The parent company has a varied portfolio of interests in property and several other diverse businesses.
Oxford has historically been the UK’s most active general aviation (GA) airport having had nearly 230,000 movements ( a takeoff or landing) a year, indeed second only to London’s Heathrow. In the late 1960s, the runway was in fact the busiest in the world. Today the airport has a fraction of that activity but still thrives as one of the UK’s most popular GA destinations.Although annual movements have dropped almost 50% from an average of around 150,000 a year in the late 1990s, we can still see more than 600 movements a day on occasions. The airport occupies 375 acres of freehold land with over 335,000 sq ft of buildings of which 170,000sq ft is hangarage. There are over 700 people employed on the airfield in all areas of aerospace and engineering support. With an additional resident population of student pilots on the airfields they host over 1,000 workers and visitors a day.
Established for 70 years, the Airport continues to evolve to adapt to changes in the aviation world at large and to comply with ever-changing and sometimes burdensome legislation. The Airport remains primarily the home to one of the world’s best-recognised and respected professional pilot training schools, namely Oxford Aviation Training. However, the Airport also host operations involved in scientific and environmental research, geophysical surveys, military training, air ambulance and organ transplant services. Companies at the leading edge of aerospace design, technology, aviation management, training and support continue to grow their businesses such that new, high quality accommodation is now being provided at Oxford Airport to facilitate such growth. The airport has attracted subsidiaries of world class corporations such as Raytheon (Hawker Beechcraft), Hunting (Babcock) and EADS’s Eurocopter and routinely provides a logistical hub for business leaders, WIPs and dignitaries along with local businesses and many players in the field of motor racing and manufacture.
The Airport has recently seen the completion of a couple of key projects. The first of two new hangers being built at Oxford Airport was completed in April 2006 prior to the Easter weekend after a wait of over 30 yeas. The facility, built by Ably Shelters, is a design unique in the UK. Using an aluminium-framed polygon design, the facility was procured with just a two month lead-time and erected in only a week, ready to accommodate a de Havilland Dash 7 aircraft being supported by CSE Aviation under a contract with British Antarctic Survey. With a 14,000sq ft footprint, the new facility was designed from the outset to accommodate most regional turboprop types along with Global Express and Gulfstream V sized business jets.
Oxford, for the first time, now has a facility with the requisite hangar door height to accommodate larger aircraft types now commonly operating into the airport.
The second hangar built during 2006 has a footprint of 21,000 sq ft and will likewise be able to take the larger business jet and regional turboprop types.
Ably Shelters, more commonly used to priding fast-erect facilities for the MOD and military markets worldwide, see this new design as opening up opportunities for the company supplying both maintenance organisations, general and business aviation airports with a quick solution to their needs at roughly a third of the cost of conventional, steel clad permanent designs.
In Oxford’s case, their particular facility will have varied uses from maintenance support of the British Antarctic Survey fleet during the summer months, to general aircraft storage in the winter.
After 33 years since the last strip was laid, Oxford has a brand new main runway, fit for the future evolution of the airport following the steep reduction in the historically dominant pilot training activity. Oxford has now laid around 50,000 tonnes of asphalt on both the taxiways and the runway, which at 1,553m (5,095ft) is just a football pitch width short of a mile in length and now 30m wide. Essentially the same size as London City Airport, albeit without their obstacle and noise constraints, Oxford can readily accept regional turboprops and certain commuter jets, along with the largest business jet types.
BBA Aviation plc, Oxford’s parent company, had formally mandated the investment for the runway widening and strengthening, along with the installation of a Cat 1 Instrument Landing System and associated approach lights to the North of the airfield.
The Airport is now suitably equipped for year round, all weather operations; arguably with a far safer environment for all aircraft that wish to use what is the only civil airport in Oxfordshire, indeed the only airport between Birmingham and Heathrow. Somewhat surprisingly of the 66 cities in the United Kingdom, only three are more isolated than Oxford city in terms of access to commercial air services and civil airports.
These improvements will have a direct benefit for businesses aviation operations in particular, both private and public transport, but will now allow for the operation of smaller regional turboprop types, either on scheduled or on ad-hoc chartered routes. The ILS will also permit much safer approaches whilst being of great benefit to Oxford’s multi-million pound infrastructure project on the airfield since the Second World War.
Steve Jones, Managing Director of Oxford Airport noted: “the Airport hasn’t seen this level of investment since the 1940s. We’re in a great location and have unique advantages in terms of flexibility and ease of access, and with very few constraints on capacity or hours of operation, we’re making the most of what this airport can offer to the business and regional aviation community.”
Oxford has the flexibility to allow access between 6am and midnight, seven days a week, whilst being used to handling several hundred movements a day having once been the busiest single runway operation in the UK.
Having invested over £7.5m in the Airport’s infrastructure over the last 18 months in both the ground surfaces and larger hangars, the airport is now ready to meet the needs of both the growing business aviation market and regional airline community.
Within an hour’s drive of the west end of London or the southern side of Birmingham, Oxford’s core catchment population exceeds five million. For foreign travellers, Oxford is the third most visited city in England outside of London, a statistic not lost on the minds of regional operators. With no alternative commercial airports closer than 52 miles away, Oxford is an uniquely positioned airport offering an easy access, fast transit alternative to the stress and hassle of using Heathrow, the nearest alternative and used by 60% of the local Oxfordshire population. With the M40 motorway being one of the less congested of London’s arterial routes, indeed significantly so compared with the M1 to Luton or the M3 to Farnborough, business aircraft operators will appreciate a newly enhanced choice, whilst commercial passengers will likewise enjoy the ease of access. A North Kidlington ‘Airport’ rail station has been long approved for development, just minutes away from the terminal, with central London potentially accessible in under the hour.
Once the busiest single runway in the world, dominated by over 90% pilot training, movements have now dropped by over 100,000 in the last 10 years. This environmental advantage, along with the fact that Oxford lies just outside the London TMA, Europe’s most congested airspace, offers operators unconstrained, direct access with no slot issues and minimal airspace-related delays.
Prospects for future evolution of the airport are further enhanced when the region is predicted as having the fastest economic growth in Europe, having already seen the greatest growth in high technology, biopharma and science research industries in the UK.