Barry Sargeant, ground operations manager at London Biggin Hill Airport, tells BAI about the hub’s expansion, the £12m (US$15.7m) investment in on-site training and its planned terminal refurbishment.
Aviation and London Biggin Hill Airport have always been the backdrop to my life. I grew up in the village of Biggin Hill and went to Charles Darwin School, which is just behind the hangars at the end of the runway. I spent a lot of time during weekends and evenings at the airport to help out in the hangars and when I left school in 1977 I came straight to London Biggin Hill to find a job.
Today, I am the ground operations manager, which is a varied role as it blends into so many areas of the airport’s daily operations.
In a nutshell, I’m responsible for ensuring that there is a safe environment for all aircraft operations at the airport. This means being in constant contact with the ATC tower and airport operational and maintenance personnel around the airport, coordinating anything that needs to be done during or in between aircraft movements. I also manage the fuel department, help with customer-facing issues and manage passenger and crew security screening.
An ever-growing part of my job is implementing and monitoring regulations and airfield safety procedures and making sure we are compliant with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
Over the past 10 years, the airport has undergone tremendous growth and is today the fastest growing business aviation airport in Europe. More than £60m (US$79m) of private investment in new infrastructure has attracted global business to the airport, and there are now over 70 companies employing more than 1,250 people.
We have what feels like a continuous pipeline of development projects on the go at present, including a new aviation training college on-site and a 56-room, four-star hotel. These two projects will further strengthen our position as one of London’s leading business aviation hubs and will inspire the next generation of aerospace professionals.
There has been a real upsurge in the business aviation industry over the last few years, and not just in the USA but in Europe too. At London Biggin Hill, we’ve experienced first-hand this growth in bizav movements, as more and more people realize the benefits of flying privately for both business and pleasure.
However, well known issues, such as a shortage in aviation engineers, rising operational costs and a declining talent pool for airports and flight departments, are now more relevant than ever before. That is why we are investing in on-site training through our new £12m (US$15.7m) Aerospace and Technology College, in partnership with London South East Colleges and supported by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
By training aerospace professionals on-site, we’re creating a pool of home-grown talent for the growing businesses based here, not to mention a wealth of opportunities for local youth to build a career in aerospace.
Over the next year, we will continue to develop our infrastructure as we welcome more OEMs to base themselves at London Biggin Hill. Textron Aviation, for example, recently opened a new line maintenance station at the airport to provide support to customers for Citation, King Air and Hawker aircraft.
Within the next few years we’ve planned a complete refurbishment of the terminal building and a third-generation hangar large enough to house six Gulfstream G650s or six Bombardier Global 7500s. Fairly soon we’ll also be getting a GPS instrument approach to Runway 03 for the first time.