‘Brand’ new plan for French bizav airports

EBACE Convention News » 2009
May 7, 2009, 11:29 AM

Under the banner “French business airports,” seven French business aviation airports are working to change their current common charter to a more formalized “branding.” Paris Le Bourget, Lyon Bron, Cannes, Le Castellet, Avignon and Ancenis airports are exhibiting here at EBACE in Booths Nos. 1302 to 1306 and 1326 (Le Touquet is part of the group but is not an exhibitor).

According to EBAA France’s Serge Chevillard, the group’s new name will be created by a consulting firm. “The label will prove our product meets quality criteria,” he told EBACE Convention News. For example, each airport would have to meet 18 out of 21 criteria, which could include features such as car-park security and a 24/7 hotline, among others.

This quality label is supposed to provide an added value for the airports and is expected to be in place by April 2010. Its scope could be extended to airports in other European countries if they want to participate.

The existing charter is based on three goals: the first is to develop suitable infrastructure for business aircraft; the second is to provide quality service at affordable pricing; and the third is to promote the image of business aviation with local companies, politicians and authorities, Chevillard said.

Some French airports, such as Chambéry Savoie, do have significant business or VIP aviation activity; however, not all of them qualify to enter the French business airports group. For example, the business aviation terminal at Chambéry is open only in winter and scheduled flights there take priority during busy periods.

According to Chevillard, the business aviation airports group logs 90,000 movements per year. Nice-Cote d’Azur Airport, on the French Riviera, is not a business aviation airport but accounts for another 30,000 movements. Chevillard estimated the overall number of business aircraft movements in France at 150,000, with “80 percent of them being international flights.”

Lyon Bron Airport
Lyon Bron Airport, the business aviation field in France’s second largest city, is still betting on mid-term growth and is preparing to break ground on three major construction projects this year, airport officials said recently. It plans to house an 80-seat restaurant, conference room and two boutique shops in a €1.7 million ($2.2 million) building. In addition, a €3.5 million ($4.6 million), 10,000-sq-ft hangar for business jets and a new €530,000 ($694,000) facility for emergency medical helicopters will be part of the complex. All building projects are funded by third-party investors, which apparently are sticking to their plans despite the severe global economic downturn.

Meanwhile, airport subsidiary Lyon Executive Handling is planning to increase its market share for business aircraft handling to 50 percent this year, up from 41 percent in 2008. That share is calculated over two airports: Lyon Bron and the city’s main field at Lyon Saint Exupéry.

Cannes-Mandelieu Airport
At Cannes-Mandelieu there will be no more slot coordination this year, said Umberto Vallino, the airport’s marketing director. The French civil aviation authority, the DGAC, has confirmed that the experimental project carried out in 2008 will not be repeated this summer. “Airport users are very happy they will not have to cope with prior permission requests any more,” Vallino said.

The air traffic management service provider was offering only four IFR arrival slots per hour, which was too few as the airport typically can deal with five or six arrivals per hour, Vallino said. In peak periods, he added, up to 11 arrivals can be accommodated in one hour. He also told EBACE Convention News that traffic decreased by 20 percent last year during the slot-coordinated period simply because pilots and passengers found the new policy impractical.

The airport has not stopped investing, however. By the end of this year, a new hangar will be available in Cannes, he said. Meanwhile, lounges, pilot rooms and the reception area have been refurbished, and the operations office is being renovated.

Paris Le Bourget
At Paris Le Bourget, airport manager Michel de Ronne said investment plans have not been questioned in principle, just moved to the right by a few months. “We believe business aviation will enjoy strong growth in a couple of years,” he said. Therefore, Aéroports de Paris is maintaining an average €8 million ($10 million) annual investment, which includes recent expansion of the apron, but not major buildings.

Aircraft manufacturer Dassault and operator Unijet are soon to start using a new 100,000-sq-ft hangar and accompanying offices at Le Bourget. Both companies are designing their own premises, de Ronne said, explaining that Dassault will have a showroom and an area where customers can choose cabin completion options. The building, modified and renovated for €5.5 million ($7.2 million), was inaugurated last year. It bears the name Jacqueline Auriol, for the famous female pilot who held several world records.

Business aircraft operator Flying Group is engaged in two building projects at Paris Le Bourget. One is a simple hangar, the construction of which is to start in September. The other is a hangar with accompanying offices, lounges and operation rooms. Le Bourget Airport directly generates an estimated 4,000 jobs.

Le Castellet Airport
Le Castellet Airport, in southeast France, is planning to have a 60,000-sq-ft solar array on the roof of a new hangar operational this spring. It is expected to generate peak power of 150 kilowatts, which translates into an average 185,000 kWh per year, about 40 percent of the airport’s electrical power needs.

The photovoltaic panels do not feed the airport directly, rather are connected to the grid. The airport did not get any subsidy or tax break to install its solar cells, an airport spokeswoman said. Nevertheless, plans call for return on investment to be close to 10 years, thanks to an agreement signed with local electricity provider EDF, which buys the airport’s electric power at a relatively high price, which the French state does subsidize.

Specialist SolarQuest is supplying a flexible photovoltaic membrane using amorphous silicon. A secondary role is that it provides another layer of waterproofing to the roof. Moreover, this technology uses no glass and is thus lighter. The absence of glass also suppresses most light reflection when seen from above. This made approval by local aviation authorities easier.

The solar roof on hangar No. 5 is the first in a series, the airport spokeswoman announced. For example, parking lots could be covered with similar solar roofs. She also claimed that, simultaneously with investing in the solar roof, Le Castellet airport has taken action to reduce its own power use.

The airport claims to be committed to “environmental excellence” since its refurbishing started in 2002. The contract with SolarQuest was signed in November last year.

Separately, Le Castellet airport is offering additional parking space “at competitive pricing,” according to airport manager Didier Pianelli. There are 40 aircraft positions on outdoor parkings. Moreover, new hangars can accommodate two BBJs, two Global Expresses and three Gulfstream IV-sized aircraft.    

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