Wycombe Air Park (Booker), located in Buckinghamshire on the outskirts of London’s TMA, has been closed to all but resident aircraft since the coronavirus lockdown commenced in late March. Sean Brown, CEO of British European Aviation, the leaseholders of the airfield, has now confirmed exclusively to FTN that it will reopen fully from the beginning of August.
FTN understands that one reason for the delay in reopening has been due to a lack of Air Traffic Service provision at the airfield following the departure of Safeskys Ltd, which had previously run the airfield’s ATC. Located adjacent to some of the UK’s busiest controlled airspace, the Civil Aviation Authority has required the airfield to have full ATC for the last 20-odd years. With ATC now gone, the challenge has been to change the airfield to a basic Air/Ground radio service, which the CAA has now approved. According to Sean Brown this has meant that there has had to be a compromise and this has resulted in the number of movements at the airfield being limited in future, although at the time of writing, FTN has not been able to confirm what the overall limit will be.
Commenting on the impact of the lockdown and future plans for the airfield, Sean Brown told FTN: “For all of you who have been awaiting news on what is happening at Wycombe Airpark, thank you for being so patient as my fellow Directors and myself felt it was better to wait until we had a clear picture than giving out partial updates in a rapidly changing situation.
“Like many other business owners, we were forced to shut down our business on 23 March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with no clear view of what the future would hold.
“What do we do next? When would we be able to re-open? Would anyone we know catch the lurgy?
“The strategy we adopted was to review all our businesses and use this time to think of all the improvements we could make but had never had time to actually make the said changes on the basis that if the lockdown was prolonged we should work on worst case business activity.
“The result is that for the first time in over 20 years Wycombe Air Park will re-open fully on 01 August as an Air/Ground operation without full ATC. This will mean a reduction in movements and will match the predicted reduction in demand for University student Pilots.
“Between now and 01 August we will continue to be closed and only be able allow our private owners to operate out of hours as has been the case since the CAA allowed maintenance flights.”
Work on the infrastructure at Booker has been ongoing, advises Sean, including a new entrance road to the airfield, improved security and revamped café. Other changes, says Sean, include:
- Easier access to the airfield using the new slot booking system
- Half price landing fees when you pick up our price-matched fuel
- Hertz car rental on site – for easy access to London
- New restaurant – (due to open spring 2021)
- On site Radio Control Model shop
Looking forward, Sean says that the London Elite Show is still scheduled to take place during October 2020, and the UK’s largest GA show, Aero Expo, which was cancelled this year, will be returning in 2021.
Sean says that the airfield will continue to provide fixed-wing and rotary flight training, at both PPL and commercial level. Piper aircraft and Robinson helicopter dealerships are also continuing at Booker, as are charter and air tour services.
Concerning current operations, Sean says: “Between now and the 01 August we will continue to be closed and only be able allow our private owners to operate out of hours as has been the case since the CAA allowed maintenance flights.
“During this period we are training up staff and practicing procedures so please avoid the airspace and overflight as the gliders will be taking part in the practice by being operational on the south side from the 09 July and will be flying in the evenings from the 23 July.”