Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Belfast City Airport – could be sold off before they get the runway lengthened

When Belfast City Airport was bought over by a Spanish firm from Bombardier for £35m a few of years ago, Ferrovial was hardly a household name. But since then, they’ve picked a couple of other well-known airports by buying over BAA (who control Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Southampton).

And having splashed out the cash for BAA, Ferrovial are now looking to bring some cash to lessen their debts of over €30bn. BAA and Ferrovial have already disposed of some Australian, European and UK assets over the last two years. Local (and now national) papers are reporting that Ferrovial are “understood to be in discussions with London-based investment bank JP Morgan regarding a possible sale”.

“Sources have told the News Letter that up to eight interested parties have expressed interest in buying the facility and that Ferrovial was aiming to sell the airport for between £100m and £150m.

Brian Ambrose, BCA chief executive yesterday refused to confirm that negotiations were taking place but said that a sale may be possible.”

Ryanair logo

This at the same time as Belfast City Airport are expanding their departures hall, and also expected to lodge proposals for a 600m runway extension that would allow Ryanair’s modern Boeing 737-800 aircraft to take off with a full load of 189 passengers as well as a full load of fuel. Currently, due to the length of the runway, they’re restricted to 140 passengers, and cannot load enough fuel to fly direct far into Europe.

Might make the bmi landings a bit less nerve-wracking as the pilots plump the planes down at the start of the runway and throw on the handbrake!

Local residents have long been unhappy with increasing operations at the East Belfast airport, late takeoffs and landings, voicing noise and safety fears as planes pass over heavily residential areas.

Ryanair’s The airport’s Ground and Flight Operations Director, David O’Brien, countered:

“The airport tells us that 80% of our flights use flight paths over Belfast Lough, which minimises noise in residential areas,” he said.

“Far from being alarmed, residents should be delighted that the airline with the most modern and environmentally efficient fleet is coming to Belfast City.”

Though these figures - the 80% - are not reflected in the latest statistics (Nov-Jan) for takeoffs and landings on the Belfast City Airport's website. There's a follow-up post.

Belfast City Airport website arrivals

Having enquired after the last few foggy days when flights and particularly landings were disrupted at the City Airport, the airport confirmed that until the runway length is sorted, the airport’s plans to deploy CAT-III instrument landing equipment will also remain on hold, as there’d be no point installing it only to have to dig it all up and move it within 12 months.


Anonymous said...

Ryanair's statement that 80% of their flights over Befast Lough is a laugh - only just over 50% of flights now go over the Lough (see
and nearly every Ryanair take-off is over my house and I live in the city - 3 miles from the airport!
Ryanair and statistics - they never seem to get them right!

Alan in Belfast said...

Thanks for pointing this out.

A bit inconsistent - though the airport figures are only Nov-Jan and Ryanair may have had more luck in the last two months.

I'll ask - and put up a follow-up article.

Anonymous said...

Funny you should mention the airport figures only going as far as Jan. I emailed the airport last Sunday 13 April and today is 16 April and still no reply. Perhaps there is something they don't want us to know. How long does it take to post these figures anyway. They're now 2 1/2 months overdue.

Alan in Belfast said...

Resent the email this morning.

That wasn't you on the radio this morning talking about flightpaths and longer opening hours?

Anonymous said...

No - it wasn't me. Perhaps Fiona McKinley? Anyway, I got an email from Chris. Lundy , Environment Manager, Belfast City Airport.
Here it is:

I must apologise for the interruption to the service.
Our aim is to update the environmental statistics each month but, due to some recent difficulties with our website, we have not being able to have the updates done with this degree of regluarity. We are however working with our website hosts to address the matter and expect to have it resolved in time to display the April figures.

I have two things to say:

1. If they can't do a simple task like regularly posting statistics how can we expect them to keep their planes in the air.

2. Could their be something about the stats they don't want the public to see? Just a thought.


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