article

The Olympics and beyond

Posted: 7 February 2012 | David Surley, Senior Business Development Manager, Cambridge Airport | No comments yet

Situated in the East of England and close to London, Cambridge Airport has always been close to a wide range of advancing technology. Marshall Aerospace, the United Kingdom’s leading independent Aerospace Company has been based at the Airport since the 1940s.

The Airport is owned by the Marshall of Cambridge Group of Companies, which com – prises the Marshall Motor Group, Marshall Land Systems and Marshall Aerospace. The Group of Companies has been involved in aviation since 1929 and owns the airport which until recently had been regarded as the essential gateway to the Marshall Aerospace hangars. It had been relatively underutilised by various sectors of the aviation community. This was partly due to reluctance to expand the Airport, but also because for the last 10 years the local Cambridge Councils have eyed the 475 acres of airport land as a potential housing estate for 12,000 homes. Those aspirations were dashed in 2010, when following exhaustive studies into a possible relocation, Marshall of Cambridge declared it was staying put and would develop the Airport facilities as a Regional Airport. Not that much investment was needed. A new state-of-the-art Air Traffic Control Tower was opened in 2000; an enhanced ILS system and Area Radar were installed in 2001 and in 2009 a £4.5 million investment created a stylish FBO featuring a boardroom, meeting rooms and crew rest area.

Situated in the East of England and close to London, Cambridge Airport has always been close to a wide range of advancing technology. Marshall Aerospace, the United Kingdom’s leading independent Aerospace Company has been based at the Airport since the 1940s.

The Airport is owned by the Marshall of Cambridge Group of Companies, which com – prises the Marshall Motor Group, Marshall Land Systems and Marshall Aerospace. The Group of Companies has been involved in aviation since 1929 and owns the airport which until recently had been regarded as the essential gateway to the Marshall Aerospace hangars. It had been relatively underutilised by various sectors of the aviation community. This was partly due to reluctance to expand the Airport, but also because for the last 10 years the local Cambridge Councils have eyed the 475 acres of airport land as a potential housing estate for 12,000 homes. Those aspirations were dashed in 2010, when following exhaustive studies into a possible relocation, Marshall of Cambridge declared it was staying put and would develop the Airport facilities as a Regional Airport. Not that much investment was needed. A new state-of-the-art Air Traffic Control Tower was opened in 2000; an enhanced ILS system and Area Radar were installed in 2001 and in 2009 a £4.5 million investment created a stylish FBO featuring a boardroom, meeting rooms and crew rest area.

Heralding the new strategic direction, January 2011 saw the appointment of a dedicated Airport Director, Archie Garden, and the name officially became ‘Cambridge Airport’. There are no runway slot restrictions which enable a wide operating scope and with the airport holding full Fire Category 7 status as required, and 24/7 opening hours, Cambridge was well and truly open for business. “Cambridge Airport offered a wealth of possibilities that we wanted to enhance and develop,” says Garden commenting on the internal business separation from other Group companies. “We can accommodate a complete range of aircraft from light jets to BBJs which supports our on-going strategy to develop all revenue stream areas of the Airport. Our continued vision is to develop the principal sectors of executive aviation, regular niche scheduled airline services, tour operator holiday flights and aviation training.”

To do this Garden has built an impressive team: Richard Knight was appointed in May as the Airport Manager responsible for overseeing all facets of the airport’s operational infra – structure. Bringing a wealth of experience from time spent in the Royal Air Force, and the UK’s Ministry of Defence, Knight also has responsibility for managing the complex logistical preparations necessary to support the anticipated traffic increase expected from the London 2012 Olympics. July saw the addition of Sheila Kissane as Infrastructure Manager whose experience at Gatwick and Stansted positioned her well to run the planning and management of major infrastructure developments including modifications to passenger terminal facilities in anticipation of growing commercial passenger numbers.

The strategy saw business aviation movements grow year-on-year by 18 per cent, fuel sales rose 41 per cent and parking fee revenue jumped by 50 per cent. Growth came from brokers, operators and private owners. Cambridge also welcomed a significant number of flights from the horse racing fraternity. “Newmarket Race Course continues to bring us business as owners use the airport to fly their horses in and out on race days as well as using executive jets for their own travel, we are now quite specialised in handling equine movements,” says Garden.

The airport also fulfilled one of its key goals when training organisation The Pilot Training College (PTC), which already had bases in Melbourne (Florida) and Waterford, selected Cambridge Airport to establish a firm foothold in Europe, its largest market. “We were delighted to welcome a professional flight training provider to the airport,” said Garden. PTC has now installed a Boeing 737 simulator and an FNPTII procedures trainer in hangar one and will base a fleet of Piper Seminole aircraft at the airfield. With CAA approval granted in late November, PTC will be training commercial pilots traditionally placed with airlines such as Aer Lingus, Air Astana, easyJet, Emirates, Flybe, Qatar Airways, Ryanair and Nasair. The professional training college will sit alongside a number of leisure pilot training colleges based at the airport including the 60 year old Cambridge Aeroclub which recently took responsibility for the Airport’s GA activities. A refurbished GA centre now welcomes pilots and ensures this aviation community has a significant voice as part of its overall development. Cambridge remains passionately supportive of the lighter aircraft user and General Aviation overall.

Resident air charter company Marshall Executive Aviation operates a Cessna Citation Bravo and Citation XLS as well as a Bombardier Challenger 300 out of the airport and Lanthwaite Executive Helicopters are also long term tenants providing helicopter transfers for local business executives to London and further afield. The East Anglian Ambulance Service (EAAA) which sits at the heart of all EAAA operations in the west of the Anglian region is based at Cambridge. Air Ambulance flights with patients heading to renowned local hospitals Addenbrookes – which recently opened a new trauma unit – and Papworth are on the increase.

Continuing its innovative tradition Cambridge Airport announced in late 2011 that it is one of the first UK airports to introduce the new GPS enabled (APV Baro RNAV Instrument Approach) procedure to supplement its existing SRA/ILS/NDB and modifiable PAPI facilities. Furthering its flight training goals Cambridge is now one of the few airports in the UK that can offer the complete spectrum of commercial pilot training capabilities away from major London airports, such as steep approaches required of airline operators at London City. The “GPS Approach” is a pilot interpreted navigation aid which provides an extremely accurate airfield approach in all weather conditions. “We are extremely pleased to have had this system validated,” says Garden. “Safety and customer service is at the forefront of everything we do, and this new facility provides easier access in all weather conditions, this is just another milestone in our on-going strategy of infrastructure development.”

2012 will be a significant year for the airport with another raft of changes anticipated to support continued development. In October 2011, the airport announced that it had appointed ExecuJet Europe to manage the airport’s FBO business with the arrangement taking effect from 1 of January 2012. The appointment ratifies the airport’s strategy to be a key UK gateway during the Olympics. It is one of only five airports that have been given full 24/7 slot capability for the games’ duration and sitting just outside the restricted airspace gives further flexibility for aircraft operators. “We have planned to take an additional 100 aircraft and will be targeting the upper end charter providers such as diplomatic flights. US originating flights can maximise the fact that the airport location lies directly on the flight path that avoids London’s busy airspace,” says Garden.

Cambridge provides an excellent access point to the principal venues situated in east London less than an hour’s drive away. Extensive parking facilities, generous hangar space and the launch of the Major Events Service are all designed to attract business aviation. The package, which applies to an individual aircraft’s tail-number, incorporates a deposit paid upfront and is designed to support operators planning activity. “To help operators plan we’ve tried to simplify the process and present an uncomplicated pricing structure that will attract business aviation to the airport,” says Garden about the initiative. It is also expected that commercial aircraft may well use the airport during the busy times of the games.

Garden isn’t expecting commercial development to stop there. The team are already in advanced discussions with a number of regional carriers about the opportunities for niche European schedules. Targeted routes include Dublin, Amsterdam, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Scandinavian and German destinations feature highly too but as yet are not defined. To establish viable destinations the Airport has initiated local surveys of business, academic institutions, industry and residents to define requirements. Socio-economically and demographically Cambridge stands out from the crowd: 46 per cent of Cambridge’s population are degree educated. As well as an expanding population base within the Cambridge region, more than 6 per cent of all UK venture-backed companies are Cambridge based. The city’s residents travel up to 11 times annually on average. Combined the figures suggest a potential 2.6 million passengers in the Airport’s primary catchment area. “The immediate opportunity for scheduled services creation is very apparent, plus we are targeting the premium leisure market and creating exciting new travel products they want,” said Garden. “For example, summer 2012 will see new charter flight options to the Italian Lakes and Austrian Tyrol.”

Other new destinations are planned within a short timeframe and local travel businesses have shown demand for destinations including Malta, Madeira, Mallorca, the Canaries and Channel Islands and specialist tour operators have expressed heightened interest in the airport’s new route potential. With its runway length of 1,965m, the A319/A320/B737/MD83 aircraft types will be the natural target aircraft but Garden is at pains to clarify that Cambridge Airport is not expecting to replace nearby Stansted, it intends to add small niche operators with aircraft seating up to 50 people travelling to defined destinations. A recent poll indicated that 82 per cent of local respondents would like to fly from Cambridge Airport to a number of destinations for both business and leisure. Cambridge also holds enormous appeal as an incoming destination, ranking highly as one of the UK’s most visited cities from overseas. It is rich with attractions, hotel infrastructure, visitor appeal serving to make Cambridge an excellent city-break destination and base for touring travellers.

The challenge now is to help and enable airlines and tour operators understand the benefits of Cambridge. Garden believes the airport serves an established travelling community. “Customer experience is definitely driving purchasing decisions with many passengers wishing to avoid motorway travel to congested larger airports. Cambridge Airport offers a great, user-friendly and uncomplicated customer experience. From landing to baggage reclaim is just minutes, and then a further couple of minutes to the passenger car park. When travelling outbound, the check-in and departure experience is friendly, quick and enjoyable.” Improvements to the passenger terminal are also planned. The team believe its innovative charging and incentives structures based on risk/reward models will encourage healthy revenue and longevity of business for airlines.

There is no doubt that Cambridge Airport has come a long way in a year. Business aviation is developing, airlines are seriously beginning to consider it as a viable option and the training side of the airport goes from strength-to-strength. Garden’s biggest challenge will be to maintain momentum but as he says, “we have a fantastic aviation offering here, we are well positioned for the Olympics and have formed excellent new partnerships, the only way for us is up!”

 

About the author

David Surley joined the Cambridge management team in November 2011 and is responsible for develop – ing Cambridge Airport’s relations with niche premier and business short haul airline operations. At London Oxford Airport he was Head of Customer Services and Route Development responsible for the airport’s handling proposition and commercial aviation strategy. His experience as Sales and Marketing Manager at Air Mauritius, combined with highly relevant management positions at major airline corporations including Star Alliance, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Helios Airways and STA Travel makes him well positioned to advance Cambridge’s ambitions.