An upbeat assessment of investment plans and continued expansion of new aviation services has been provided by London Ashford Airport at Lydd in Kent.
Addressing members of the Lydd Airport Consultative Committee this week, Executive Manager Hani Mutlaq outlined the encouraging progress being made on investments and business growth at the airport.
At a time when Brexit continues to cast shadows of uncertainty over business, Hani underlined the long-term commitment of the owners to delivering on promises to create a successful, modern regional airport supporting a substantial number of new jobs and acting as a catalyst for economic growth in the region.
Central to Lydd’s ambitious development plans is the construction of a runway extension and the building of a new terminal licensed to handle up to 500,000 passengers a year. Planning consent for both has already been granted.
Hani reported that the airport’s legal team are in the final stages of negotiations to buy an area of agricultural land to enable the existing 1,500m runway to be extended. The work will involve lengthening the runway by 294m plus a 150m starter area.
Acknowledging that delays in securing the land had proved frustrating, Hani said that a purchase and compensation package is still under negotiation with the land owners. Once resolved, tenders for the project will then be prepared and issued and he predicted that work would start on the runway “by summer 2018 with work completed by early 2019”.
Meanwhile, rising demand for more business and general aviation facilities has led to the addition of two new hangars at a cost of more than £850,000. “Such is the demand that both new hangars are virtually full and we have a waiting list, so we will be taking a decision soon on investing in even more hangar space at Lydd,” said Hani.
Bristow, which has operated Search and Rescue helicopter services from Lydd for the past 18 months from a temporary hangar, has recently committed its future to the airport. The company will invest millions of pounds in building a permanent base, with construction work expected to start this spring. The operation employs around 30 staff and more jobs are likely to be created as part of Bristow’s investment.
Flight training specialist Go Fly London set up a base at Lydd in 2016 and has installed a £100,000 flight simulator on site. A range of courses are provided that are enabling students from the UK and overseas to use the facility to learn to fly and gain a full light aircraft pilot’s licence (LAPL).
Hani told the meeting: “The airport is heading in the right direction. Our expansion plans are progressing and the support of the owner is strong. Indeed we are even considering bringing forward our plans to build the new terminal, in addition to the runway extension. That is a sure sign of our confidence in Lydd Airport.”
During a Q&A session with the committee, Hani reiterated the airport’s ‘Kent First’ policy of using local suppliers and staff wherever possible, discussed how road and rail links to the airport could be enhanced, and repeated LAA’s determination to minimise the environmental impact of its operations.
The Lydd Airport Consultative Committee was established to boost links with community on Romney Marsh. Chaired by highly respected former county councillor Fred Wood-Brignall, it’s members include representatives of airport users, local businesses, residents, Shepway District Council, parish councils plus Dungeness power station and the Lydd firing ranges.
The airport has spent £35 million upgrading facilities over the past decade, including the installation of an instrument landing system, a new executive terminal with VIP facilities, improved passenger check-in, and a new departure lounge. The airport caters for a range of aircraft operations and provides extensive services, including air traffic control and navigational aids, an FBO with 24-hour operating capability, full terminal services and engineering and cargo facilities.
Once completed, the runway extension will enable Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft types to fly with a full payload of passengers, maximising the availability of routes and aircraft choice to operators and providing much-needed additional airport capacity in the South East.