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Business Air News Bulletin
Business Air News Bulletin
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Tenants, SAF and R&D are 2024 focus for London Oxford
London Oxford airport introduces sustainable aviation fuel and welcomes new tenants as it progresses with the on-site R&D technology park.
The airport is offering customers flexibility with its SAF purchasing with options for 30 per cent or less costly 10 per cent blends.

London Oxford airport, the UK's fifth largest in terms of business aviation movements (58,549 in 2023), is enjoying a significant year.

This month it introduced sustainable aviation fuel through fuel provider World Fuel Services. New tenant OXCCU, a spin-out from Oxford University, is readying its synthetic aviation fuel facility to open in August, anticipating an anticipated 50 per cent lower capital cost versus other e-fuel production methods. Its OxeFuel takes atmospheric carbon dioxide and combines it with hydrogen. Using its bespoke and unique catalysts and reactors, OXCCU plans to turn H2 and CO2 into long chain hydrocarbons, in one simple step.

In September, coinciding with Airbus Helicopters' 50th anniversary in the UK, the OEM is due to open a brand-new UK HQ comprising 66,000sq ft of hangarage and 59,000sq ft of office/stores/workshops. Built at a cost of $64 million (£50m), the HQ will feature seven dedicated helipads sized to support its largest models.

Meantime, building work commences this June on the all-new R&D Science Park at the entrance to the airport, a $62m (£48m) green campus environment offering 17 business units with over 200,000sq ft. The first occupants should be in by the second quarter of 2025.

The airport is offering customers flexibility with its SAF purchasing with options for 30 per cent or less costly 10 per cent blends. Sourced from Neste in Ghent, Belgium the arriving SAF is simply added to existing Jet A1 static tanks on its fuel farm, reducing the cost and complexity. Each 34,000 litre delivery is a blend of biofuel with conventional jet fuel, but the precise percentage will differ each time, depending on what feedstock was used, what chemicals were added and in what proportions. A number of Formula One motorsport teams have wanted SAF for some time.

Adding to the airport's future technology drive is Qdot Technology, another spin-out from Oxford University. It specialises in hybrid powerplants for future eVTOL and UAV aircraft, drawing on its expertise in heat transfer technology with hydrogen fuel cells.

The London Heliport, sister business to London Oxford airport, is also talking about introducing SAF according to heliport manager Matthew Rice. The Heliport marked its 65th anniversary in April, having undergone numerous changes, as well as owners. The heliport was regularly close to its 12,000 annual movement limit pre-COVID. Since then, it has typically seen 3,000 less. "But business is really picking up," says Rice. "It's already at maximum capacity of the British Grand Prix in July; 150 movements or 80 helicopters in and out per day, while Glastonbury slots are booked out already for June."

Currently the heliport's priorities are to prepare space for a new fuel installation, with overground tanks and new safety netting. The VIP terminal, furnished with a piano, features the red branding of Edmiston, which has been a sponsor since 2019.

Two premier players in helicopter charter at the airport are long term helicopter resident Capital Air Services, whose managing director Michael Hampton marks 30 years at the business (and even longer at Oxford airport with his origins working with former owner CSE Aviation), and SaxonAir, new to Oxford. Likewise, Volare Aviation reported its helicopter charter business is buoyant. It recently added a third Leonardo AW109 to its UK AOC and bolstered its Oxford MRO facilities with the opening of a paint shop for helicopters.

SaxonAir CEO Alex Durand comments: "I learned to fly at Oxford. We own an Airbus helicopter and the Airbus HQ is there. There's a gap in the market to the west of England, but principally Oxford is doing brilliantly with its sustainability efforts, which we admire. It is taking the lead as a hub for green transportation, just as we are pursuing at Norwich. Its latest initiative is a move into electric aircraft flying training. We want to be part of it as a forward-thinking progressive partner."

SaxonAir and Capital Air Services both report strong demand with helicopter charter. Capital recently added three new ACH145 D3 five-bladed helicopters to its managed fleet, which are now flying all over the UK, Ireland and northern Europe. The expanded executive twin fleet has brought it more work from charter brokers, with its much larger cabin and excellent performance characteristics. Training pilots is an issue, however, with simulator training only available in Finland or Germany.

Volare Aviation is also expanding its aircraft management activity and getting closer to charter brokers according to head of commercial operations Christian Cliff Lee-Fatt. Its eVolare business, centred on the Lilium Jet eVTOL, places Volare in first mover position introducing the aircraft to service ahead of the airlines.

"We're busy securing sites, engaging with infrastructure partners and have a firm plan regarding the power issue," he says. The company is also in close discussion with the UK CAA as launch UK customer for the aircraft. Volare expects to take 10 aircraft between Q4 2025 and Q1 2026, which will be London Oxford airport-based, plus 10 more options. "It's a single-pilot operation so we've had quite a few meetings about that," he adds. Volare is committed to the Lilium and Lee-Fatt doesn't have a weekend off until September because he's travelling with the full-scale Lilium mock up; next stop EBACE.

Other News
 
Volare adopts ForeFlight Dispatch for growing operation
June 3, 2024
Embraer increases SAF adoption in Florida
May 24, 2024
Signature LAX ensures all fuel is blended SAF
May 15, 2024
Every gallon of fuel now supplied to Signature's guests at its Los Angeles International airport location is blended SAF. To date throughout its network, it has delivered more than 30m gallons of the fuel.
World Fuel gains endorsements from industry bodies
April 8, 2024
World Fuel is now ISCC and RSB accredited in the United States, Singapore and across all locations in Europe where renewable fuel is sold, meaning it can provide customers with the documentation for compliance.