Plan to save Plymouth City Airport is revealed
THE group aiming to revive Plymouth's airport has revealed a rival masterplan which sees the city connected to the world within a decade.
The Viable company, which last week told Plymouth City Council it wants to buy the freehold of the site, says it has the financial backing and intends to have flights to Britain and western Europe within two years, and a plan to create a hub with worldwide reach in five to 10 years.
Its plan comes just a week after site leaseholder Sutton Harbour Holdings (SHH), which closed the airport last year, revealed its own "masterplan" to build on the site.
But Viable's plan revolves around it buying the Derriford site and another package of land adjoining it, so the runway can be extended.
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Council leader Tudor Evans last week replied to Viable chief executive David Keegan's offer to buy the site by telling Viable to first talk to SHH. But Viable today said it is still in talks with the council about both the airport and extension land; and the Una Group company, which also owns land the extended runway would need.
Viable, which now has 400 members, envisages modern 100-seater jets and turboprops using the airport, with flights initially to Stansted, Manchester and Dublin, and then connecting to hundreds of international destinations.
Raoul Witherall, Viable's chairman, said the organisation has "excellent direct relations with a number of investors and is confident of the project's funding."
This means an initial "vision", released last December, which envisaged a new terminal built and land turned over for lucrative commercial use to fund airport development, is no longer a requisite.
"Viable has revised its plans in favour of securing the external investment needed to acquire the airport," Mr Witherall said. "Profitable operations at Plymouth are possible assuming a fair market price is paid for the airport.
"The group has put together the business team and operational management that it is confident can deliver and operate a profitable aviation business for the city."
He added: "One benefit for Plymouth of private investment is projects which will allow revenue to grow more quickly – such as the runway extension – become higher priority and are more likely to occur sooner after the airport's reopening. Viable's plans include maximisation of space and facilities for aviation together with the extension of the runway to 1,199 metres, the maximum the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) will approve on the width of airfield available."
He said Viable still plans to develop "modern terminal facilities" and create a "well-connected modern gateway".
HOW VIABLE PLANS TO SAVE THE AIRPORT
VIABLE'S new masterplan for the airport sees it using larger aircraft to fly to key European destinations – and then the world.
The group says it has used a technical assessments by aircraft manufacturers to show the currently closed site could host a range of propeller-driven aircraft and jets.
And if Viable can buy the site's freehold, and the land needed to extend the runway, it claims it can connect Plymouth to important British and European destinations within two years.
And, once the runway is extended, it says it would be able to reach other European airports and then connect worldwide in five to 10 years.
Raoul Witherall, Viable's chairman said the 113-acre site may be restricted by surrounding development, but that doesn't mean a "perfectly serviceable airport that is fit for purpose and can more than deliver Plymouth's needs" can't be accommodated.
"Viable's plans include the maximisation of space and facilities for aviation together with the extension of the runway to 1,199 metres, the maximum that the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) will approve on the width of airfield available," he said.
"Viable also plans to develop modern terminal facilities," he added, and stressed Viable wants to create "a well-connected modern gateway".
He said: "While the extended runway at Plymouth will never be able to handle all aircraft types, it will be perfect for a range of modern 100-seater jets and turboprops that are common in current airline fleets.
"These aircraft are very quiet and capable of connecting directly with most European destinations at high speed."
He said "technical assessments by aircraft manufacturers" showed Plymouth will be able to handle ATR42 and ATR72 turboprops and Bombardier Dash-8 and Q400 aircraft, and smaller jets too.
Although Heathrow's capacity constraints probably rule out a Plymouth link, he said, other airports would provide "significant onward connectivity".
"For example, London, Stansted, Manchester and Dublin are all possible destinations from Plymouth," he said.
"Taken together, these airports provide onward connections to 294 destinations in 63 countries that include Europe, Africa, Singapore, India, Canada and the USA.
"In time it will be possible to fly direct to European hubs such as Frankfurt and Amsterdam with all the onward destinations that these offer.
"Very importantly this means investors and business people from India, China, Brazil and other emerging economies will be able to travel to Plymouth with an hour or so onward flight from mainland Europe, Ireland or Manchester.
"This is exactly the type of connectivity Plymouth needs for vital growth over the next 50 years."
Viable director Terry Linge, who was airport director at Plymouth City Airport from 2004 until its closure, said: "As well as regional travel we would be looking at air services into Europe.
"Of course there will be challenges as we move forward to develop these, but what a great opportunity we have to develop an airport that provides our great city with air links not only within the UK but overseas, which in turn would create and encourage business growth and provide employment."