Bristol airport sets sights on becoming major UK business aviation hub

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Bristol airport has set its sights on becoming a leading UK hub for business traffic having removed a couple of operational hurdles which have stifled growth at the facility - home to the only fixed-base operation in the southwest.

The FBO - Bristol Flying Centre - clinched government approval at the end of July to handle all charter flights directly. Previously, all charter flights above 10t - except privately owned or derogated flights - had to be cleared through the main airport.

"This approval opens up the potential for significant growth in movements for the business," says Phil Brockwell, chief executive of the BFC Group, which also includes Bristol-based Cessna Citation CJ2 charter operator Centreline Air and maintenance company BFC Engineering in its portfolio.

"Clearing flights through the airport's commercial terminal was inconvenient for passengers. This takes away some of the benefits of flying by business aircraft in the first place," adds Brockwell.

BFC has also renegotiated its fuel contract with BP, drastically reducing the cost of refuelling for its customers.

Bristol Flying Centre, which is about 86nm (160km) from London, underwent a huge redevelopment earlier this year, and can now handle private and charter flights of all sizes via its two lounges.

Brockwell says he is aiming to turn the facility into a leading business aircraft hub: "We hope to attract long-haul flights that need to make a fuel or tech stop in the UK. This is a lucrative market."

BFC also hopes to increase its tally of based aircraft. "We are promoting ourselves as a cheaper and more accessible alternative to the London-area airports," Brockwell adds.

Bristol airport had about 3,000 business aircraft movements in 2012 and expects this tally to climb to 4,500 by the end of 2013. The closure in late 2012 of nearby Filton airport has boosted the movements tally significantly, Brockwell says. "About 98% of the traffic has come to us. New handling business includes Airbus's daily Embraer 145 corporate shuttle from Bristol to Toulouse on behalf of British Midland and the thrice-weekly Beechcraft King Air shuttle to Barrow [in northern England] for BAE Systems."