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If you could buy an airport, how would you set it up?

Imagine it already existed and you had plenty of money.

What services would you provide and what sort of based aircraft, and traffic, would you want to attract?

What sort of landing fee structure would you go for? Would it be progressive all the way down e.g. €5 for ultralights?

What instrument approaches would you provide, and why?

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I already know the one I want. I did want two but the other is now an industrial estate. Just got to find a million quid.

What services would you provide and what sort of based aircraft, and traffic, would you want to attract?

Air Ground and I would make all aircraft types welcome. The runway is only 800 meters and the crosswind 400 meters. So that would be a bit limiting. But SEP, MEP, turbine, glider, microlight, paramotor everything. They all buy food and sticky buns.

I’ll get the income from the huge number of T-Hangers everywhere.

PCL lighting, 24 hour operation.

What sort of landing fee structure would you go for? Would it be progressive all the way down e.g. €5 for ultralights?

Free to private and training aircraft. All others free if fuel is uplifted

What instrument approaches would you provide, and why?

None. To expensive and too much paperwork. Plus the majority of GA in the UK stops when its anywhere near VFR minimum.

I would turn the ADF back on mind, post all the old approach plates all over the internet for training purposes.

Last Edited by Bathman at 16 Apr 08:24

Peter wrote:

Imagine it already existed and you had plenty of money.

Which would most probably make it a former military field, which is ideal for any sort of application. They usually have concrete runways of decent lenght and existing infrastructure. If it was not anything like that, I would definitly want to go for a field with concrete runways and tarmac.

Peter wrote:

What services would you provide and what sort of based aircraft, and traffic, would you want to attract?

All traffic which wants to operate from there. Fuel (Avgas100/91UL, Mogas, Jet A1), full airport of entry. Night lighting if possible pilot controlled. 24 hrs ops if possible legally. I would try to attract businesses such as maintenance, gastronomy and also make sure there is ample space and attractions for spectators. FBO services for those who wish to use it. Car rental base. Agreement with nearby hotels for crew discounts and pick up. Public transport stop at the airport.

I would make it a policy that PPR of any kind does not exist at this airport unless for very compelling reasons and if so that it has to be exercised as easily as possible.

Peter wrote:

What sort of landing fee structure would you go for? Would it be progressive all the way down e.g. €5 for ultralights?

Yes, progressive from <1000 kg upwards. Total cost for a GA plane up to 2 tons should not exceed 50 Euros but starting at around 5 Euros for <1000 kgs. I could imagine a lower rate for based vs visiting airplanes. Competitive taxes for airplanes above 2 tons.

Peter wrote:

What instrument approaches would you provide, and why?

RNAV-LPV approaches to all runways plus any existing approaches for a period of time until LPV becomes more generally available.

Any privately operated airport needs to diversify in order to make ends meet without falling into the trap of trying to recover all costs via landing fees, which inevitably leeds to high fees and low traffic. I would see to it that I get people at the airport who have prior experience at high traffic airports and find that a challenge, not something to interrupt their beauty sleep. Anyone working or running a business at the airport should be pro-aviation and pro-GA.

If there was spare infrastructure I would possibly investigate the possibility of attaching an airpark to the airport, eg at a former airbase which has dispersal pads with connection to the taxiway system e.t.c. Every sort of infrastructure (hard shelters, stands, hangars, e.t.c.) would be put to use and rented out to based and non-based operators.

LSZH, Switzerland

Unfortunately the chinese already bought LJMB ;)
I‘d go with:
Modest landing/handling fees. Cheap hangarage. 24 hour ops with lights. Instrument approach is a must to attract higher value turbine ops and ifr training flights. Lease out some land longterm and allow homebuilders to have a house directly attached to the field – taxi from your own garage directly to the runway.
Set up a nice viewing terrace for visitors and kids and attract a good restaurant to the field.
Get some good mechanics on the field.

LOWG Graz Austria

Interesting question.

From what I can see, airports make their income from rents & fuel sales mainly. Landing fees seem to be a small element.

First thing I’d say is that I’d want as minimal staff numbers as possible. GA airfields are too dependent on weather for activity levels, so you don’t want to be paying for lots of staff for days when nobody is flying.

Likewise pilots don’t want to be restricted to opening hours.

So I’d try to automate as much as possible. PPR should be avoided, if but if required (eg by the regulator) then it should be an online automated process (read the briefing and confirm that you’ve ready it by leaving your contact details, or calling an automated telephone briefing and confirming you’ve received it by leaving your voice mail). Pilot controlled lighting to avoid being closed at night.

Fuel should be from a self service credit card fuel pump.

Exit from airside via an electronic gate with the code for getting in again, visible only from airside. You get the code on the way out.

Likewise I think I’d try a zero landing fee. Not sure if it would work, but hopefully it would attract pilots to the field. This give more ‘footfall’ making any retail business on the premises more viable. Rents should be better from the restaurant, fuel sales higher etc. I might consider charging for circuits to avoid the field getting very busy from aircraft based elsewhere coming to do free circuits and upsetting the neighbours.

Hangars/parking space is important as it’s the main income. But also I’d consider having some mixed use buildings such as small industrial units or office space to give some fixed income.

There should be a viewing gallery for the public. They shouldn’t be required to go to the cafe to view (often public feel like outsiders going to an airport, so let them feel comfortable going to the airport rather than trying to force them into the cafe). Viewing area & Cafe should be elevated to get a good view of the airfield activities.

The cafe/restaurant should be promoted locally, not just to the aviation community but to the local community in general. This can be done via advertisements but also by hosting local events.

The airport itself should try to host lots of local community events so that it’s valued by its neighbours, and they are familiar with it.

Security should be good. Pilots need to feel that their aircraft is safe when they leave it. Lots of CCTV around the airfield including inside the hangars to avoid hangar rash.

There should be a maintenance base on the field, and at least one school.

I’d consider if things could be done to generate an income by hosting events such as concerts, or motor racing at night (when the airport is little used), provided the noise wouldn’t upset the neighbours.

EIWT Weston

If said airfield existed:

  • a couple of rows of T-hangars (premium price option)
  • some shared hangars (lower price option)
  • maintenance allowed in any hangar by anyone, with the proviso that in shared hangars, the aircraft must not block others
  • self-service fuel
  • no handling charges
  • no landing fees for any aircraft buying fuel
  • no PPR requirement
  • pilot controlled lighting
  • out of hours operation allowed by default

Basically similar to Houston Gulf where I started out, which was a privately owned airport (taking NO state money, and indeed paying its property taxes) funded by hangar fees, fuel sales, overnight tiedowns. Sadly it’s probably not economically possible to do in the UK due to the very high business council tax rates :-( However, Houston Gulf seemed to manage just fine with just two full time staff and two or three part time workers – the part timers were the line guys who were typically students looking to make a bit to help fund learning to fly or university (many UK airfields seem to be grossly overstaffed which has to hugely pile on the costs).

Last Edited by alioth at 16 Apr 14:54
Andreas IOM

And add a great restaurant with a viewing deck. It’s amazing how well that works – here in SoCal there’s a field called Camarillo that’s very GA busy. Used to have the usual crappy airport cafe. Then a long term pilot and multimillionaire owner of a big fast food chain (Baja Fresh) sells his empire and decides to buy the cafe and revamp it into a great restaurant/airport diner. Today, people come from all over to eat there, watch airplanes and you have to wait an hour for a table. It’s amazing what just a little bit of quality and good service can do.

Bathman that is quite reasonable real estate if only £1MM for what is typically quite a lot of acres (100?), perhaps not in the UK?

My ideal would not have as much infrastructure and be neighbour friendly. No fuel, no runway lighting, no air/ground, but with good hangarage for half a dozen aircraft where you don’t try and play origami fitting them in. Ideally the hangar would have some internal balcony rooms and space for tooling. A decent pub/village in walking distance. An airport with GNSS RNAV and fuel nearby would allow for out of hours or IFR ops.

Runway could be grass of at least 600 metres.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

RobertL18C wrote:


I think “tetris” was the word you were seeking :-)

(Unfortunately, I’m a regular player of hangar tetris)

Andreas IOM

What @Mooney_Driver and @dublinpilot said.

ESMK, Sweden
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