BUSINESS is booming at Biggin Hill airport, where more than 100 new jobs have been added since the airport began operating extended opening hours in May.
The airport won the rights to a modest expansion - including an extra hour on weeknights and six extra hours at the weekend - after permission was granted by landlord Bromley council.
Since May 1, 107 new posts have been generated, and there are plans for an extra 2,300 jobs by 2030. There are currently vacancies for air traffic controllers, electrical engineers, handling agents and hangar coordinators.
“The changes aren’t just about using the extra hours, it’s the perception that the airport is available for aircraft users,” explained Will Curtis, managing director of the airport and Biggin Hill resident.
“Before we were so limited and some customers were not planning to come here. Now, if a businessman is dining in London and he overruns by 30 minutes, he can still use Biggin Hill. After all, we compete with 24-hour airports such as Luton and Stansted.
“The airport manufacturing and service companies take the same view - they aren’t going to set up somewhere that’s closed more than it is open.”
Mr Curtis revealed he has been approached by scheduled airlines since his arrival at Biggin Hill airport, adding that their approaches have always been knocked back.
“With all the runway limitations in the London area, this airport is never going to be closed,” he said. “But the deal we have with the community is that we would stay focussed on business and general aviation. We don’t want scheduled airline or holiday charter airlines here.
“The extra hours have allowed us to confirm our strategy, and that’s the best possible balance. The community will now start to reap the benefits. The only change people will see now is construction, of new hangars, for example, but we are staying within our boundary.”
Plans for a long-awaited airport hotel have been revived, and there are hopes to open a 54-bed property by 2019.
Over 1,000 people are already employed on the airport but Will Curtis seems to hold a wider ambition than simply filling vacancies. “We can help to make a difference by delivering jobs with a proper wage, jobs that enable people to settle down in the local area.
“You can only do that when you learn a trade, or have a skill - and these are the opportunities we want to give.”
To that end, closer ties are being forged with students at London South East Colleges.
Reflecting on the airport’s role in the community, Mr Curtis concluded: “The people who fought in World War II would be very pleased to think that we are giving opportunities to youngsters today. That is the dividend they gave us.
“The fact that this aerodrome is still open and playing an important role in society is something we are very proud of.”
To view current opportunities at Biggin Hill airport, visit https://www.bigginhillairport.com/about/vacancies/