Business jet centre opens second hangar and eyes a third

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 September, 2007, 12:00am

The city's only facility for business and private aircraft is looking at the possibility of a third hangar at Chek Lap Kok to capitalise on the rapid growth in executive jet travel and the availability of a greater number of smaller airfields on the mainland, a director of the aviation centre said.

'We see the expansion of this Hangar 2 as interim rather than as something which is permanent. We are already looking at the possibility of a third hangar,' Sir Michael Kadoorie said yesterday as the Hong Kong Business Aviation Centre unveiled its new HK$100 million hangar.

Hangar 2 covers more than 38,000 square feet and can accommodate either an Airbus or a Boeing corporate jet. The Airbus corporate jet seats up to 39 passengers and is used as the main presidential aircraft in Brazil, Venezuela and the Czech Republic.

A third hangar will be even bigger to meet growing demand, Sir Michael said, without elaborating.

The Airport Authority awarded the centre a 15-year operating franchise in 1998. It opened with six partners: Sun Hung Kai Properties, China Southern Airlines, AMR Combs (now Signature Flight Support), and businessmen Sir Michael, Christopher Cheng Wai-chee and Henry Tang Ying-yen, who is now chief secretary.

The operation turned a profit only a few years ago as business aviation became increasingly popular. The number of aircraft movements at the centre rose from 981 in 2000 to 2,853 last year.

'A classic example was Disney, which came to me. You would be amazed at how many private jets came in with the management of that company before the agreement was cemented with the government,' Sir Michael said.

Speaking at yesterday's Hangar 2 inauguration, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said executive jet traffic was expected to grow rapidly given the continued strength of the local and mainland economies.

The airport has already earmarked HK$80 million to increase the centre's apron area to about 56,000 sq metres from the current 27,000 sq metres.

However, Sir Michael said helicopter travel was more suitable and 'far superior' to corporate jets for shorter distances of less than one hour. He is a member of the Hong Kong Regional Heliport Working Group. The group represents the local helicopter industry and is pushing for a permanent heliport in Wan Chai.