The UK regional airport at Coventry is confident in its ability to transform itself into a business aviation centre as its new fixed-base operation nears completion.

Last year, airport owner Howard Holdings failed to get the green light to develop a new 2 million passenger terminal and lost scheduled services from low-cost airlines Thomsonfly and Wizz Air as a result.

That triggered a switch in focus that will see the airport now developed as a UK cargo, ad hoc charter and executive jet hub.

The airport has also been put up for sale, three years after the owner acquired it from TUI Group, which invested more than £6 million ($9 million) in infrastructure - including ground lighting, runway, taxiway and air traffic control improvements

Airport director Brian Cox reports a good level of enquiries regarding the sale - some from within the aviation industry - since adviser KPMG published the sale prospectus.

Cox, who has operational experience at Cork and Shannon with Aer Lingus, adds that Coventry has moved the FBO from its previous southern apron location to the west, where it has additionally refurbished the former departure lounge into a space comfortably catering for 50 people.

Cox says he would like to see a return to the level of executive aviation activity before TUI owned and operated the airport and that the new centre - scheduled to be opened officially on 23 July - will be marketed internationally for its ease of site access and good road and rail links with London in addition to its helipad services.

"We may not be in a position to challenge Birmingham, but will certainly be able to offer a highly efficient and comfortable experience," says Cox, who says the wider economic crisis will remain one of the principal factors determining the success of the new centre. "The challenge will be to manage when things are not going so well, but I believe the market will bottom out quite soon."

Coventry had another boost last month when Marshall Aerospace said it was taking over all air traffic control and engineering.

Source: Flight International