Cranfield airport is stepping up its marketing effort in a bid to attract more business aviation traffic to the southern UK site.

The historic aerodrome and former RAF base - around 80km (50 miles) north of Central London - is owned by Cranfield University, which specialises in postgraduate aeronautical studies and is next to the airport.

"Cranfield is ideally placed to serve London and the business aviation community," says Cranfield airport director Jason Ivey. "We have spent around £3.5 million on hangar refurbishment and upgrading the taxiway. We have an 1,800m runway, which can accommodate all traditional business jets, an instrument landing system and a 24h operating licence. However, the airport is underused because many operators don't know about us."

Ivey says there is an abundance of dormant land on the site that could be used to expand the facility, which also houses a fixed base operation and pilot lounge and maintenance facilities for Hawker and Cessna types along with BAe 146 airliners. "Trying to argue for investment in a troubled economic climate is not easy, however," Ivey says.

Cranfield has around 50,000 movements a year, although the overwhelming majority are light general aviation training aircraft. "Business aircraft only account for around 400 movements a year but we would like to see a fourfold increase in this number of the next 12 months," Ivey says.

"We need to promote the Cranfield brand globally and we will do this by exhibiting at key shows and using social media.

"We are also considering renaming the airport London Cranfield. This would not only emphasise its proximity to the UK capital but also raise awareness of the brand with international customers. It has been done before with London Luton and London Oxford for example.

"While many people raised their eyebrows at the time, the move has paid off for these airports. There is no reason why it wouldn't work for us."

Source: Flight International