A Middle East specialist in executive jets is taking space at Cambridge Airport in a move that could have much wider significance for the regional hub.
The company, which cannot be named at present, is expert at attracting new corporate customers to the business jet market. That will help airport owner, the Marshall Group, which is keen to build corporate jet capacity in Cambridge, UK.
In a parallel move to increase activity, Marshall is talking with a number of smaller airlines specialising in city hop flights about possible scheduled services from Cambridge to popular destinations such as Edinburgh, Amsterdam and Northern Ireland.
A Marshall Group spokesman told Business Weekly that a number of opportunities for new business had opened up at the EBACE (European Business Aviation Congress and Exhibition) in Geneva – including the tie-up with the new Middle East partner.
The spokesman said: “We see this as the start of something really exciting. While just a handful of jobs will be created by the Middle East company taking hangar space in Cambridge, they are extremely influential in the sector.
“Our strategic review identifies major growth and revenue generating opportunities for the airport in the executive jet market and they will help us in this objective while we handle maintenance for their two aircraft.”
Cambridge Airport is already well established in the executive jets market and has been patronised by two of the world’s richest men – Bill Gates, who founded Microsoft Corporation, and Warren Buffet whose parent group owns NetJets. Gates has used the airport with his private jet while Marshall is contracted to handle the European maintenance of NetJets aircraft this year.
As a declaration of intent about its growth ambitions, the airport has recruited former Gatwick and Stansted stalwart, Sheila Kissane, as infrastructure director. She will support the ongoing commercial strategy of increasing business, regional and general aviation activity at the airfield.
That will include using her contacts within the industry to attract scheduled routes to Cambridge. Kissane will also run feasibility studies on planned infrastructure developments.
Injecting new life into the runway, modifying the ’60’s style terminal buildings and boosting the airport’s green credentials through projects like the installation of new fuel tanker storage areas are all on Kissane’s agenda.
She will also mastermind a major element of the executive jets push: At present, the small aircraft activity on-site, including the flying clubs, is fairly disparate. Marshall wants this clustered on the other side of the airport in a new general aviation centre – freeing up vital space for new executive jet hangars.
Over the years Marshall has developed one million square feet of hangar space but the last was in 1982 for the Tristar conversion contract.
Kissane spearheaded significant infrastructure projects at both Gatwick and Stansted Airports. At Gatwick she oversaw the upgrade of expired assets and project managed the creation of a potential £20 million tender aimed to improve run-off capacity of the runways. At Stansted she project managed capital investment plans for airside and landside developments.
This followed a two-year stint at Dublin Airport as a senior project manager on a variety of major programmes including the delivery of the Terminal Two Pier E Apron.
The Marshall spokesman said a planning application for the new general aviation centre for smaller aircraft will be submitted in due course. The move represents a potential £1m investment and Marshall would like to bring it on board in 2012.
The group is also vetting its options for raising the multi-million investment that will be required to expand the executive jets facilities over the next few years.
“As a company we grow our own cash,” the spokesman said. “We feel the best approach is to build new hangar space to meet fresh demand but we need to be speculative to a certain degree – we have to ensure we are ready to respond as opportunities present themselves.”
• Photograph shows: Cambridge Airport infrastructure director, Sheila Kissane