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It might come as a surprise to some locals to learn that as Oxfordshire’s only licensed civil airport, Oxford (Kidlington) Airport was once the second busiest in the UK. Only Heathrow saw more than the 230,000 movements Oxford once accommodated. Even as recently as 2000, Oxford saw more movements than Gatwick airport and today we still see over 500 movements a day on occasions.

The vast majority of that flying, some 80%, was down to the pilot flight training activity of Oxford Aviation Training. However, in the last few years that activity has more than halved with initial, ‘fair weather’ training having been relocated overseas and with the introduction of a greater use of flight simulators on the ground.

It is perhaps worth highlighting that Oxford has in the recent past seen over 900 movements in just a 2 hour period for one Silverstone Grand Prix weekend, over 1,100 movements in one day and over 4,500 movements in a week.  Even by international standards, that is an exceptional level of activity.

The focus therefore of the airfield has changed from that of effectively a private airfield, albeit open to general use but focused primarily on its own pilot training needs, to one that is a ‘public’ airfield enticing greater use by third party operators and traffic. In 2003 the management of the airfield was separated from that of the pilot training school and the operating mandate is to encourage greater use by private flyers and business aircraft owners and operators. Typically those business flyers operate twin piston or twin-turbine engined aircraft with capacities from five to fifteen seats.

One of the airport’s aims is to enlighten the local population and businesses about the benefits of the use of private air charter and commuter shuttles that can be hired from the airport. Further details on those companies hiring aircraft can be seen in the Charter & Air Taxi section.

When it requires an Oxford resident to get out of bed at 4:30am to realistically catch a 7:30am international flight from Heathrow, one can see the merit in turning up at Oxford Airport with next to no check-in time to undertake a similar exercise.

A flight to Cambridge may seem a little over the top, but when it could take less than 20 minutes by air to the centre of Cambridge at costs similar to that of a standard train fare, one wonders about the sense in taking 10 times longer to go by train (with a minimum two changes) or bus between the two cities - and yet hundreds of people do this trip every day.

Similarly, a commuter shuttle could take city workers from Oxford to London City Airport in just 20 minutes, either to ‘commute’ to the financial capital or to catch connecting flights from London City Airport to other European destinations. A 20-seat helicopter could shuttle passengers from Oxford to Heathrow airside in just 15 minutes.

A local business used a ten seat aircraft to send staff once a week to their sister office in continental Europe for the day, saving 35 man hours in wasted time had the same team travelled via commercial airlines. That’s almost one man-week of time saved. And not only did the passengers achieve a whole working day overseas, they were all back at home for supper with their families the same day having wasted nothing on overnight hotel costs.

The whole crux of ‘business’, ‘executive’ or ‘corporate’ aviation is the saving of valuable time and the maximisation of productivity. With Oxford’s recent decline in pilot training activity, the airfield is now considered underutilised for the benefit of local business and Oxfordshire residents.

On May 1, the EU expanded, now encompassing 25 countries and almost half a billion people. With the increase in the potential market size and the geographical distances now potentially involved while staying within the EU, business aviation is more relevant and necessary in Europe than ever.

To realise this potential, UK business people and industry need to be convinced of the key benefits of business aviation. Using private aircraft is not solely a luxury - though it is undeniably a more pleasurable travel experience, but a proven tool to increase productivity immeasurably over the use of heavily-constrained scheduled services.

Principle benefits of flying privately from Oxford Airport include:

• Saving Employee Time - Business aircraft have the ability to fly non-stop between airports close to where people want to go, without the delays of main terminal hubs.

• Increasing Productivity En Route - Rather than write off traveling time as ‘lost,’ studies have shown productivity on business aircraft is actually higher than in the office.

• Efficient, Reliable Scheduling - The near-total flexibility inherent in business aircraft is a powerful asset. Business determines the schedule, not the airlines.

• Reduce Hours Away From Home - Both businesses and the individual benefit when family time is not lost to non-productive travel.

• Ensuring Industrial Security - Use of business aircraft reduces travel visibility and eliminates unwanted and unnecessary conversations and interruptions.

• High Personal Safety - Turbine-powered business aircraft flown by professional crews have a safety record comparable to that of the largest scheduled airlines.

• Increasing Enterprise - Business aircraft allow opportunities, especially those in remote regions, to be more readily considered and acted upon. Studies have put access to business aviation in the top three drivers for business relocation decisions.

• Projecting A Positive Corporate Image - Using a business aircraft shows that company to be progressive, with a keen interest in efficient time-management and high levels of productivity.

In the US, these matters are increasingly understood; within Europe we still have to convince some of their validity. Statistics can help – such as the fact that a US study found that organisations which operate business aircraft, earned 146 per cent more in cumulative returns than non-business aircraft operators.

Furthermore, on a return to shareholder basis, business aircraft operators returned 343 per cent to their shareholders between 1996 and 1999 versus 177 per cent for non-operators.

Local Dialogue

Beyond the current airport activity supporting the general and business aviation markets, there is scope for limited scheduled activity with smaller turboprop and jet aircraft with typically 19 to 50 seats – such types being quite capable of using Oxford today, the same length in fact as London City Airport.

The local transport infrastructure includes talk of a Kidlington rail station and a guided bus system following the same train line with quick links to Oxford City, all of which are initiatives we would actively encourage. Airports put cities on the map and encourage considerable inward investment and growth amongst a diverse number of local businesses.

We very much want the local community to consider Oxford Airport as their airport, indeed as it was originally conceived seventy years ago, as a ‘Municipal Airport’.

We are considering a number of innovative services and enterprises to better utilise the airport. Should anyone identify opportunities on our own doorstep to move packages, freight, individuals or groups of people on a regular or occasional basis from here to any one of over 1000 airfields we can use in Europe, we have access to on-site and third party expertise on finding appropriate air transport solutions.

Local residents and businesses are encouraged to talk to us where we welcome any views and comments on the airport’s current and future direction. Please e-mail info@londonoxfordairport.com or write to:

The Business Development Manager
London Oxford Airport
Langford Lane
Kidlington, Oxford

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