1st June 2014 – Sunday Times
Billionaire property moguls David and Simon Reuben have launched a legal challenge to halt the soaring number of civilian flights at RAF Northolt, the airport used by the Queen and prime minister.
Oxford airport, owned by the brothers, together with Biggin Hill airport in Kent, want rules that apply to civilian airports imposed on Northolt, which operates to military standards.
The cap on civil aircraft flights at the airport in northwest London was lifted by 5,000 to 12,000 by the Ministry of Defence under plans to raise more money, and the airfield has become a favourite with business people who want to land close to the centre of London. Warren Buffett’s NetJets aviation business is a big operator at Northolt, where at least 70% of flights are now civilian.
However, Oxford and Biggin Hill argue that the airport does not meet civil aviation standards and have won the right to a judicial review over refusal by the government and Civil Aviation Authority to consider imposing tougher standards. The case is due to be heard at the High Court in the autumn.
Forcing the CAA to send in inspectors could lead to the imposition of stringent conditions on the airport, including reclassifying and downgrading its runway so larger planes are not allowed to land, and even banning civilian flights until standards are met. The airport is bordered by the London to Oxford A40 road.
Barrister John Steel QC, who is representing the claimants, said: “Oxford and Biggin Hill airports consider that the standards of safety for civil aviation use of RAF Northolt should be same as those required at all other UK civil airports.”
Northolt opened in 1915 and played a key role in the Battle of Britain, when it was home to the 303 Polish squadron. During the 2012 Olympics, it was a base for Typhoon fighter jets.
The MoD said: “RAF Northolt has an excellent safety record and complies with the Military Aviation Authority. It is the responsibility of civilian commercial aircraft operators to ensure the safety of their aircraft. As legal proceedings are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
The CAA did not comment.