London Oxford Airport capitalises on its core role for the UK’s Motorsport Valley and Formula 1
The Ramp at London Oxford Airport
As the nearest airport to the Silverstone race track, Oxford sees an armada of jets converge on the airport each year for the British Grand Prix. Teams, drivers, sponsors and those in the corporate hospitality industry use the airport as their primary hub. Aside from the fixed-wing traffic, there is also a significant flow of helicopters making the eight minute dash back and forth to the track. Several years ago, the helicopter traffic reached a peak where the airport saw 800 movement in just two hours and 1300 movements in a single day, what at the time constituted the busiest airspace in Europe.
It’s not just the F1 industry that lies on Oxford’s doorstep, but many of the other motorsports and automotive industry players, with Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover at Gaydon, just up the M40 motorway, BMW Mini in Oxford itself and key high-tech companies like Prodrive at Banbury. Oxford Brookes University has its unique auto sport academy too.
Whilst once in a decade or indeed once in a lifetime events bring increased private, business aviation traffic to the region like the recent UEFA cup final at Wembley or the Olympics, the British Grand Prix is regular as clockwork and brings with it a party atmosphere in the frantic Oxfordjet executive VIP terminal.
After the race has finished, there is the inevitable rush back to the airport for the teams and the drivers to go home and often that entails a bit of a bun-fight for slots. No names, but it has been known for some slick overtaking on the taxiways for first in line for the runway.
It’s not just the key teams that reside within the airport’s catchment area, but the vast majority of all the industry’s suppliers, component manufacturers and support companies. Eight of the eleven F1 teams are on the doorstep, but so are almost 3,500 companies associated with motorsport employing around 40,000 people. That represents around 80% of the world’s high performance engineers. The UK Government recognises this fact and continues to supply funding and incentives to encourage businesses to push the boundaries of innovation in an area similar to Silicon Valley in terms of development. This ‘Motorsport Valley’ continues to grow with an estimated turnover of £6bn, of which £3.6bn is exported. Teams spend up to 30% of their turnover on R&D compared with the norms of 4% in engineering, 6% in automotive and 15% in pharmaceutical industries. The track-record of these UK teams is significant 17 of the 20 races in F1 last year were won by British built cars and British-based constructors have won 38 constructors championships since F1 began in 1950, well ahead of Italy (16) and France (1). The bigger F1 teams employ typically 600-700 people, while the smaller teams might have just 150.
Every year, London Oxford Airport clears its main apron of all the usual resident aircraft, including the Oxford Aviation Academy pilot training fleet, to make way for up to 40 jets and numerous ‘rotors-running’ helicopter shuttles, in a carefully coordinated ballet of air traffic. However, throughout the Grand Prix season, the airport remains a key hub for those local teams to get the teams and the drivers around the world in what in one of the most travel-intense and time-critical industries there is.
London Oxford Airport remains the core hub for the motorsport industry which has always relied upon private aviation to achieve the near-impossible travel demands it generates.
The Local F1 Teams:
Red Bull Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
McLaren Woking, Surrey
Mercedes Brackley, Northamptonshire
Lotus Enstone, Oxfordshire
Williams - Grove, Oxfordshire
Force India - Silverstone, Northamptonshire
Marussia Banbury, Oxfordshire
Caterham Langley, Oxfordshire
For further information:
London Oxford Airport